Adaptation to Carbonic Fertiliser
Posted on July 10th, 2021

By Dr Tilak S.Fernando

There is much controversy over President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s determination to ban the toxic chemical-based fertiliser and adapt carbonic fertiliser. Critics who are analytical comment that the President’s action was untimely when the pandemic and foreign exchange crises are under the weight of COVID-19. 

Farmers continue to protest, seen today on TV, saying that there is not enough fertiliser available  (carbonic or conventional). Meanwhile, many experts’ advice is that Carbonic fertiliser needs to be gradually stopped but cannot stop like a shot at the back! Experts further advise that a gradual implementation of proportional basis( both carbonic and conventional) is better than stopping the imports at once (of toxic fertiliser). They further advise that it is dangerous to import carbonic fertiliser if  such manure is not correctly processed. Should that happen, the Government will have to face another battle with the farmers as there is more danger in using imported sub-standard carbonic fertiliser produced from foreign sewage and the country will not have adequate stocks of rice  required by the people.

In favour of Carbonic fertiliser, experts feel that carbonic fertilisers collected in heaps develop temperature between 60 -70 degrees Fahrenheit, which will automatically kill the micro-organisms that are harmful to the crop. In Carbonic fertiliser, experts also advise that a particular type of bacteria is produced at the roots of each plant, which will kill any intruding and harmful bacteria. So, their final advice is to manufacture carbonic fertiliser with the experts advice according to a scientific formula but not to import carbonic fertiliser, because these multimillion companies are interested only increasing their profit margins rather than considering the health aspect of the public.

Farmers’ attitude

Many farmers in Sri Lanka do not use carbonic fertiliser as they have been quite accustomed to use toxic fertiliser for ages. At present, hospitals are full of patients affecting government coffers in allocating a significant portion towards the country’s health sector budget. This expenditure is in addition to the heavy expenses incurred with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government needs to find extra funds to import millions of vaccinations against COVID-19, along with the payment of  Rs.5000 given to the deserving public affected by the country’s shutdown for nearly a month, and also as a relief to the country’s recent flood victims. There are thousands of CKD (chronic kidney disease) patients in rural areas (Anuradhapura district itself records 150,000 CKD patients). The Government needs to find extra funds towards the importation of medicines required to treat CKD patients. Due to toxic fertiliser in the soil, mixed with water, may seep through to waterways and rivers and get contaminated with drinking water.

The prime aim

The main idea of the President is to maintain a healthy society by introducing Carbonic fertiliser and replacing chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Nevertheless, the expert advice is that unless it is manufactured locally in a scientific manner, it will not bring about the required levels of safety to the of peoples’ health.

Carbonic fertiliser

The carbonic fertilisers are made from peat, animal and plant wastes from agriculture and treated sewage sludge. Critics maintain that doing so could cause damage to the farmer and the country as a whole. Farmers reiterate that experts’ recommendations are to systematically execute President’s plan rather than on a complete switch over straightway; they maintain that partly mixed conventional-toxic with Carbonic fertiliser will increase paddy yields.

What is carbonic fertiliser? It contains peat, animal wastes, plant wastes from agriculture, and treated sewage sludge.  It also includes minerals out of the remains of plant preserved in petrified form. Turf consists of plant material (partially decomposed) that becomes a source of organic matter.  

Adding  carbonic manure to crops makes vegetation healthy with nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, sulphur, magnesium, and calcium. It also increases soil stability and water infiltration into the earth. 

With organic fertiliser, chicken litter is considered superior to toxic synthetic fertiliser for soil conditioning for the harvest. It contains traces of minerals such as copper, zinc, magnesium, boron, and chloride. 

Human, as well as animal urine, is a fertiliser.  Urea in urine is a nitrogen compound and contains phosphorus and potassium.

The slaughtered animal meat content becomes market products. The remaining portions, such as blood, bone, feathers, hoofs, and inedible parts are classified as by-products and refined into agricultural fertilisers. Treated sewage sludge is blended, composted, and, most of the time, dried until deemed biologically safe. Non-agricultural crops use this type of fertiliser. 

Advantages of Carbonic Compost 

Farmers prefer to use the conventional poisonous chemical-based fertiliser because they are not familiar with carbonic material, and it was freely available all this time. Usually, human beings are uneasy about changing to new methods but prefer to use the same old procedures rather than willing to move with the times.  That is what is happening with some farmers who protest about using carbonic fertiliser today.

In Britain, the Imperial System or the traditional system of weights and measures used from 1824 until the adoption of the metric system began in 1965. On Monday, 15 February 1971, Britain went decimal; after 40 years; it was time for rejuvenation. Nevertheless to date, some tradesmen and merchants use the imperial system. Nevertheless, people have become familiar with decimal currency now, which is much easier than dealing with Pounds, Shillings, and old pence.

Akin to vitamins required for the human body, plants need various elements such as Phosphorous, potassium, urea, wasted foliage, and decayed animal carcases akin to vitamins needed for the human body. 

Carbonic fertiliser is suitable for hand seeding and machine seeding, and  used it for Tea, rubber, coconut, vegetables, fruits, and paddy. It contains up to  15% of the primary nutrients needed in plants’ early and middle stages, with medium elements such as calcium, magnesium, and sulphur during plants’ early and middle stages. Plants also need trace elements such as Zinc, Tellurium and manganese for the rapid germination and growth of plants to improve plant stress resistance. By using toxic fertiliser, the soil degradation will occur gradually, especially with tea plantations, which are compelled to for leaves to turn yellowish in colour. Theowners of tea plantations believe that the plantation needs more and more toxic fertiliser forgetting the fact that100%  toxic fertiliser is doing eternal damage to the soil.

Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium

Many farmers claim that the Nitrogen content found in carbonic fertiliser is slow and limited and does not often keep up with the nitrogen demand during peak crop growth periods. However, the Sri Lankan Government is preparing to import liquid nitrogen to distribute among farmers who adapt themselves to Carbonic fertilisers. 

Cow manure contains about 3 per cent nitrogen, 2 per cent phosphorus, and 1 per cent potassium. Cow dung indeed has high levels of ammonia, which are potentially dangerous pathogens. For this reason, it recommends that cow manure be allowed to age before its use as cow fertiliser.

Carbonic fertilisers tend to bring quality and colour to the plant as against the chemical-based manure.  Toxic fertiliser tends to bind the soil like gum, and as a result, the earth cannot breathe the air or the required oxygen where the roots become inhabited. Carbonic fertiliser also helps towards irrigation of water, and the temperature of the soil, especially after rainfall due to soil erosion and under drought conditions.

The only disadvantage of using carbonic fertiliser is the outbreaks in the absence of chemical pesticides. Weed killer in toxic farming does stop weeds from competing with desired flora and fauna and prevent non-native species from competing with native species. Therefore, pesticide weed control is vital to agriculture because weeding out the pesticide gets rid of unwanted plants. The only disadvantage in organic farming is that having to weed through a manual operation, which is extensive and expensive. According to experts on the subject, no country goes 100% on Carbonic fertiliser alone on a mass scale.

Sri Lankans were consuming for decades all contaminated food.  President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s choice of banning chemical-based fertiliser and switching over to organic farming is a step in the right direction to save the people and  save the future generation from  becoming a sick society.

On TV  these days, in many parts in the country are seen how enthusiastically some farmers are using Carbonic fertiliser made out of 

‘ Japanjabara’. Moreover, as much as it is easily said and done, it is vitally important to listen to the experts advice, who are proficient in the area, and to follow their recommendation before banning the  use of carbonic fertiliseraltogether. 

By adopting to the middle path by using carbonic and toxic type (on a gradually decreasing  basis) will be the correct method according to the experts,because at the end of the day,  it is better not making a boo-boo by completely banning toxic fertiliser.

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