In talks with Mr. Vinay Gupta, CEO, Gencrest

Gencrest, which is part of the Samta group of companies. Gencrest is a fully integrated research and innovation-driven biotech company. The company’s main focus is to create agro-value chain by upcycling agricultural waste and creating economic value for the farming community. Sustainability is the need of the hour in agriculture industry. Let’s dive into conversation with Mr. Vinay Gupta to understand Biofertilizers and how it is changing agriculture sector with sustainable alternatives.

Q. Why are bio fertilizers the need of the hour and how are they better for environment?

A. Biofertilizers are required to restore the fertility of the soil. Prolonged use of chemical fertilizers degrades the soil and affects crop yield. Biofertilizers, on the other hand, enhance the water holding capacity of the soil and add essential nutrients such as nitrogen, vitamins and proteins to the soil.

Biofertilizers consist of plant remains, organic matter and some special class of micro-organisms.

Biofertilizers help to increase quality of the soil by providing nutrients and natural environment in the rhizosphere. The micro-organisms present in biofertilizers are important because they produce nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other nutrients required for benefit of the plants. Most biofertilizers also secrete hormones like auxins, cytokinins, biotins and vitamins which are essential for plant growth.

Q. How does bio fertilizer and pesticide make more sense for a farmer from productivity point of view?

A. Biofertilizers help in enhancing nutrient availability and uptake by aiding nutrient solubilization. They also help in producing plant hormones such as cytokines, help in stimulating proper root architecture and improving photosynthesis. This aids the plants to become more resistant to stress and pathogen attacks by producing metabolites. Thus, the use of biofertilizers has a twofold effect: enhancing soil health while promoting plant growth.

Pesticides are important. They help farmers grow more food on less land by protecting crops from pests, diseases and weeds as well as raising productivity per hectare. Without the use of pesticides, more than half of our crops would be lost to pests and diseases. Pesticides can prolong the life of crops and prevent post-harvest losses.

Q. In recent years how has the demand for bio fertilizers shaped up?

A. The global biofertilizers market size was valued at USD 2.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 4.5 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 11.9% in terms of value during the forecast period.

Factors such as adoption of precision farming and protected agriculture along with increase in the environmental concerns are some of the factors driving the growth of the biofertilizers market.

Q. What kind of a scope is there for a “mixed fertilizer” – organic and synthetic?

A. There is scope for farmers to use a combination of organic and synthetic fertilizers. The reasons are as follows:

Building Stronger Rhizospheres

For years, there’s been a focus on protecting plant health. However, the not-so-secret solution to healthy plants happens below the surface. This soil area, commonly called the rhizosphere, is a complex biome of microorganisms and chemical exchanges along the root systems. It’s here that critical ecosystem services like carbon and water cycling occur. And without a healthy, productive rhizosphere, above-ground growth is nearly impossible.
Using both organic and synthetic fertilizers is a critical piece of the puzzle. Synthetics can deliver the exact, fast-acting nutrients plant soils need, while organics provide the long-term fuel for those microorganisms. When applied correctly, you have a mostly self-sustaining ecosystem that can result in higher crop yields, improved physiological stress resistance, improved water uptake, and better protection against disease and drought conditions.

Tailoring Fertilizer to Your Soil

Since no soil or field is the same, it’s incredibly important that what goes into the ground is designed for specific environmental demands. Hybrid fertilization programs are game-changers in that regard, enabling growers to practice precision agriculture more than ever before.

Some soils are more nutrient-deficient than others, others lack the acidity for productive growth, while others have obstacles like heavy compaction getting in the way. No matter the challenge, approaching your solution with a hybrid program lets you address more deficiencies at once than using organic or synthetic fertilizers alone.

Decreasing Inputs, Increasing Profit

This reason is all about the bottom line and profitability. Whenever you build stronger rhizospheres with healthy microbial activity, root systems become more sustainable, especially when combined with slow-release synthetic nutrients. After all, the more sustainable and healthier your soil is, there’s a far greater chance for profitable yields that can last generations.

Q. What kind of government policies / measures are currently there or proposed that will promote bio fertilizers?

A. National Food Security Mission
• Financial assistance is provided for promotion of bio-fertilizer (Rhizobium/PSB) at 50% of cost limited to Rs 300 per hectare

Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, Atmanirbhar Bharat
• Loans for setting up of post-harvest infrastructure for value addition to organic produce under INR 1 Lakh Cr.

Soil Health Management Scheme
• 100% assistance to state govt, govt. agencies for setting up compost production units up to maximum limit of Rs. 1.9Cr per unit

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
• Promotes cluster based organic farming with PGS certification
• Assistance of 50,000 per ha/3 years is provided, 31,000 of which is given as incentive

Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North-East
• Farmers are given assistance of 25,000 per ha/3 years
• Support for FPO formation, capacity building, post-harvest infrastructure up to INR 2 Cr are also provided