Plants get their food or nourishment from the soil. When the soil is rich in nutrients they flourish. They thrive still better with added nutrients that enrich the soil. These nutrients are fertilisers.

On 25 September 1985 the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Department of Agriculture and Cooperation) issued The Fertiliser (Control) Order 1985.

Organic and Bio-Fertilisers

All Indian farmers (even those who use chemical fertilisers and sprays) before sowing, put traditional manure in their fields. They test their soil for micronutrient deficiencies only when their crop yields fall, after which they rejuvenate it by using large quantities of organic fertilisers.

Traditional or farmyard fertiliser is organic manure and comprises of dung or faeces of livestock such as cows, goats and pigs. Organic fertiliser can also contain slaughter waste in the form of bones, blood, tendons, organs, feathers, egg shells, fish thrash, and skin of animals and poultry poop.


Interestingly, the agro-sector watch-dog, Crop Care Federation of India has said that organic foods are not all that safe as they have been made out to be, citing bean sprouts from an organic farm in Germany that had killed 31 people and infected a thousand more between May and June 2011, caused by an E. coli outbreak from pig manure. Moreover, CCFI say that as per studies undertaken by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute 33% products claimed to be organic in India have higher pesticide residues than the foods grown conventionally using pesticides!


In rural areas slaughter-house waste, blood and rumen digesta are collected and used as an organic fertiliser. Elsewhere after waste-processing, it is marketed as blood meal, dried blood or animal plasma.


Cattle manure is known to farmers, but not all are familiar with poultry waste which consists of head, feet, feathers, viscera, offal, blood, egg-shells, etc. India produces almost 8 million tonnes of poultry manure annually. It is used for most plantation crops (except legumes) since crops absorb the nitrogen in poultry manure – similar to urea which is produced from ammonia and carbon dioxide. Mushroom cultivators use wheat and paddy straw as base materials for composting, but add poultry manure to it. Although it can be made and marketed as pellets, it is usually applied directly (composting is not needed), particularly in farms close to poultry units.

Chicken litter used as fertiliser can contain bacteria, viruses and other pathogens and its direct land application could very well be harming animal, human and environmental health.

Dry fish waste manure is another product related to killing, and is added to poultry diets. In fact, fish and beer waste are now considered food for cattle and poultry in some parts of India.

Compost consists of all types of decomposed organic matter, be it of plant or animal origin, suitable as a fertiliser. Whereas, green leaf manure (mulching), is when branches of plants or trees, are added to a field prior to ploughing. Manure from dry leaves is also good, more so since it avoids heaps of fallen leaves being illegally burnt in a clean up job off roads.

Bio-fertilisers contain living micro-organisms like bacteria, algae and fungi. They also contain organic wastes and claim to be eco-friendly, posing no threat to the environment. Eco-friendly does not make it
free of animal derived substances. Interestingly, in April 2019 the Savitribai Phule Pune University and Shivaji University stated that research had been conducted to turn agri-waste to bio-fuel using bacteria extracted from pests – the giant snail and cotton bollworm.

We have heard of how earthworms eat decaying organic matter from the soil and let off castings. Worm castings or worm manure is commonly called vermin-compost (a British invention) and is a bio-fertiliser. It consists of undigested material, soil and bacteria, deposited by worms. (Vermi-culture is the same, but its purpose is to simply increase the number of worms that produce manure, whereas, garbage enzyme is a Chinese concept.) Latest research in India involves insects that eat polystyrene (thermocol), secrete manure, kill pests or are terminated by nematodes.

Jeevamrut and Beejamrut are natural farming fertilisers and are considered superior to organic farming practices. The basic formula is: 50 kgs desi cow dung, 40 litres desi cow urine, 10 kgs gram flour, 10 kgs jaggery, and 4 kgs mud taken from under a banyan tree.

Phosphatic Fertilisers

Green or fresh bones (those that are not brittle) derived from young, healthy, slaughtered animals, mainly cattle, are sold to companies who crush and sell them as raw or steamed bone meal which is used as an ingredient in some phosphatic fertilisers.

Bone ash is also used as a fertilizer for plants, or it could be treated with sulphuric acid to permeate the soil better.

NPK Fertilisers

N stands for nitrogen which enhances green foliage. They are made from ammonia; for example, urea which contains 46% nitrogen.


P is for phosphorus which ensures strong roots. They are extracted from the chemical treatment of phosphate minerals. Added content can be of animal origin as stated above under phosphatic fertilisers.

K is for kalium, the Latin name for potash or potassium which promotes healthy plant growth. Potash is a mixture of potassium minerals.

Compound or complex fertilisers are those that contain two or more of the above nutrients.

Helpful organisms can be killed by these synthetic fertilisers that sterilise the soil – thus requiring more and more of the same chemical fertiliser. In addition, concentrated forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, if not absorbed by plants, seep into nearby water bodies resulting in excess algae growth which kills aquatic life.

Price Sensitivity

Except for urea, India’s fertiliser industry is absolutely dependent upon import of either finished fertilisers like MOP (muriate of potash) or raw materials/intermediates like rock phosphate, sulphur and ammonia for manufacture of DAP (di-ammonium phosphate).

Urea is the only fertiliser for which the MRP (maximum retail price) continues to be fixed by Government. Moreover, it is mandatory to be imported via the state trading corporations MMTC, STC or Indian Potash Ltd. The MRP on other fertilisers was decontrolled in 2010. Also, LNG (liquefied natural gas) as feedstock is imported by many urea manufacturers. In 2013-14 India’s urea production was 22.72 million tonnes as against 7.09 million tonnes of imports.

For an acre of wheat, a farmer would typically use 125 kgs of urea (a cheaper fertiliser) as compared to 50 kgs DAP and 25 kgs MOP. The Government’s NBS (Nutrient Based Subsidy) is not given to farmers, but to manufacturers who are allowed to fix the MRP (except for urea).

Under the NBS scheme implemented since April 2010, a fixed rate of subsidy used to be announced for nutrients – nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulphur – by the government annually, but since 2022 it is done every 6 months. In April 2022 the GOI had approved a subsidy of Rs 60,939.23 crore for phosphatic and potassic (P&K) fertilisers for the kharif season. Then in November 2022 the Cabinet approved a subsidy of around Rs 51,875 crore for P&K fertilisers for the second half of 2022-23 as part of its efforts to provide affordable soil nutrients to farmers. For the second half of FY23 a subsidy of Rs 98.02 per kg of nitrogen (N), Rs 66.93 per kg of phosphorus (P), Rs 23.65 per kg of potash (K) and Rs 6.12 per kg for sulphur (S) under the NBS scheme was approved by the government.

Thus for the non-urea fertilisers alone the subsidy touched almost Rs 1.13 trillion in FY2023. Whereas, the subsidy on urea (according to conservative estimates) was never lower than Rs 80,000 crore a year. The FY23 Budget had provided for Rs 1.05 trillion as total fertiliser subsidy however it was expected to be around Rs 2.25 trillion.

A gadget developed in 2015 by the Central Institute of Cotton Research called ENG (Express Nitrogen Guru) shows how much urea should be used on crops by detecting nitrogen intake. Thus farmers can use the required quantity of urea and not in excess as is usually done.

Plants usually absorb only 30-40% urea and the rest contaminates water bodies or evaporates in the form of pollutant ammonia gas. But by coating urea with neem oil the release of nitrogen is slowed down and crops get more time to absorb the nutrient. Therefore in 2015 the Government of India made neem-coating mandatory for urea. However by 2019 India faced an acute shortage of 85% neem oil despite having 25 million neem trees because the total oil yield was about 3,000 tonnes only (but it is good that 90% of the neem fruit is used to make neem cake, an organic fertiliser) which was insufficient to coat the 32 million tonnes of urea used. Therefore import of neem oil had gone up by 38%. Over and above which the World Neem Organisation asked GOI to revise the standard from 600 grams to 2 kgs neem oil to be sprayed on 1 tonne of urea.


In November 2017 the Prime Minister urged farmers to pledge to cut down the use of urea by half by 2022 because excessive use of it harmed mother earth.

Contrary to this, India increased its urea production capacity from 207.54 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) in 2014-15 to 283.74 LMT in 2022-23. Under the aegis of Aatmanirbhar Bharat the government revived 6 urea production units: Chambal Fertilisers Ltd in Kota, Rajasthan; Matix Ltd, Panagarh, West Bengal; Ramagundam, Telangana; Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh; Sindri, Jharkhand; and Barauni, Bihar. It was hoped that these indigenous production units and nano urea plants (producing nano urea liquid developed indigenously) would reduce the import dependency on urea by 2025-26. In 2023 under India’s new initiatives for sustainable fertiliser management the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) granted an extension to the Urea Subsidy Scheme till 31 March 2025 with an allocation of Rs 368,676.70 crore.

In addition to nano urea liquid, urea gold featuring a sulphur coating was introduced. Urea gold reduces urea consumption and enhances crop productivity by ensuring slow release and improved nitrogen use efficiency.

The waste to wealth GOBARdhan initiative incorporates various biogas and renewable energy schemes, waste management programmes and sanitation initiatives in addition to the government providing support at the rate of Rs 1,500 per metric tonne for organic fertilisers produced at associated plants.

The PM PRANAM (PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness generation, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother-Earth) an eco-friendly and sustainable initiative was introduced by the government to encourage natural farming practices, promote alternative fertilised and balance utilisation of chemical fertilisers.

Facing Facts

Synthetic fertilisers can kill life and harm the environment. (When pest control is undertaken in houses, not only do cockroaches and others die, but it is very harmful for humans – people who have remained in or entered the house soon after have had severe breathing problems and some even died within 12 hours.)


Organic fertilisers can themselves be made of ingredients derived from animals, poultry or fish.

We detest the slaughter of animals, poultry and fish. We don’t eat their flesh, but we have unfortunately land
ed up indirectly supporting factory farming and slaughter.

The vegetables and fruits we eat, particularly if organic, are grown with the help of bone, blood, feather and fin fertilisers that are so-called by-products of killing.

The ‘breed to kill’ industries would not do so well if they did not generate additional income by selling their unwanted waste. It helps them financially while solving their problem of waste management and it conveniently makes them say they are not causing pollution.

Page last updated on 07/12/23