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'Non-use of potash in one season won't hit farm yields'

Amid fears of a shortage of potash in the coming months, farm scientists and industry experts have said that agriculture production will not be affected if farmers do not apply potash in one season.

They based their observation on the past experience of potash consumption in India, especially the 1992-94 and 2010-11 periods, when the country's foodgrains production had risen substantially despite low consumption of potash.

Government research body Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) is of the view that farmers can avoid usage of potash for one season and it will not affect yields.

"We can avoid using potash (MoP) in the soil easily for one season and especially for crops like wheat and paddy as the soil also retains the nutrient," IARI Head of Soil Science Division Anand Swarup told.

Expressing similar views, the Fertiliser Association of India (FAI) said that the availability of potash is limited in the country and will be facing tight supply in the coming months. However, non-use of this nutrient for one season may not have big impact on farm productivity, it noted.

"Potash is an important nutrient for the soil, but if we consider the past statistics of MoP consumption and foodgrain production, a different story emerges," an FAI official said.

India imports its entire requirement of six-seven million tonnes of potash from the global market.

Tight supply of potash is expected as Indian fertiliser companies have not able to buy potash in the global market at lower prices. India is demanding a 10 per cent discount, a senior Fertiliser Ministry official explained.

Fertiliser cooperative major IFFCO and private firm Coromandel International have echoed similar views about potash usage.

"The country can tweak its farm practices and take advantage of 'sufficient potash' in its soil to avoid imports for years," IFFCO Managing Director U S Awasthi said.

According to FAI data, India's potash consumption declined for three consecutive years from 1992 after the government decontrolled complex fertilisers.

Though potash use was low at 13.60 lakh tonnes in 1992 and its consumption further fell to 9.08 lakh tonnes in 1994, agri-output showed a sharp rise in the same period.

Foodgrains production rose from 168.38 million tonnes in 1992 to 184.26 million tonnes in 1994. A similar trend was seen in 2010-11.

In 2010-11, the country's foodgrains production is estimated to touch a record 235.88 million tonnes, while use of potash was slightly lower vis-a-vis the last year at 34.9 lakh tonnes.

On the contrary, foodgrains output improved by just 2 per cent when potash consumption had gone up by 26 per cent in the 2007-09 period.

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