In the context of climate change, agriculture faces complex and unique problems. Crop production is directly dependent on natural resources, weather, and climatic conditions. As a result of rising temperatures, variable rainfalls, invasive pests, and more, the sector, farmers, and farm communities are facing several challenges. These effects tend to worsen as climate change accelerates, making it critical to implement mitigation strategies as soon as possible to curb its long-term impacts.

In this regard, biofertilizers have emerged as a green solution for agriculture, which can help counter the detrimental impacts of climate change. However, before delving into its significant benefits, let us explore the intricacies of biofertilizers.

Exploring biofertilizers

Biofertilizers refer to the latent or living cells of effective strains of micro-organisms, which help plants grow by associating with them in the rhizosphere when the seeds are sown into the soil. It increases the supply of nutrients to the soil by the processes of nitrogen fixation, phosphate solubilization, release of phytohormones, and more, which facilitates the availability of the nutrients required for the plants to grow, increases plant’s capacity to absorb nutrients, and increases biomass. When used efficiently in agriculture, they offer a healthy environment that lasts for future growing seasons.

The consistent use of biofertilizers by farmers can aid in improving crop yields. Since they are eco- friendly (natural fertilisers), they do not allow pathogens to flourish and also protect the environment from pollutants, making it a robust climate mitigation strategy. In addition, it increases soil fertility by improving the physical and chemical properties of the soil.

An eco-friendly solution

The most contributing function of the biofertilizer is a substantial reduction in environmental pollution and enhancement of agro-ecological soundness. When compared to chemical fertilizers, they are more eco-friendly and cause no harm to the ecosystem. In addition, they also enable a reduction in the use of these chemical fertilizers that impact the soil, crops, and the environment as a whole. Owing to their eco-friendly nature, the demand for bio-fertilizers has increased over the years. According to the IMARC Group, the Indian market for bio-fertilizers stood at a whopping $111.3 million in 2022 and is further anticipated to reach USD 221.4 million by 2028 at a CAGR of 12.5 per cent.

Improves crucial soil properties

Biofertilizers enhance the physical conditions of the soil by improving the structure and aggregation of the soil particles. Furthermore, it increases the pore spaces, water penetration, and decreases compaction, which enhances the physical properties of the soil. In terms of chemical properties, biofertilizers improve nutrient availability in the soil, making nutrient absorption easier by the roots. As a result, the soil experiences an enhanced capacity for nutrient exchange, which has a positive effect on the physico-chemical stability of the soil.

Instills several growth hormones

By replacing chemical nitrogen by 25 per cent, the biofertilizers aid in maintaining stable nitrogen (N) concentrations in the soil. The nitrogen-fixating microorganisms have a crucial role to play in enhancing the nitrogen supply as they convert atmospheric nitrogen into organic forms that can be used by plants. Biofertilisers facilitate the use of a biological Nitrogen fixation process that reduces the application of

N fertiliser, which results in a reduction of environmental risks. In addition to the process of nitrogen fixation, biofertilizers have the ability to secrete and synthesise biologically active substances. These can include the vitamins thiamine and riboflavin, nicotinic acid, pantothenic acid, and plant growth regulators such as heteroxins and gibberllins. These biologically active substances aid in modifying the nutrient ingestion of plants.

A practical mitigation solution

The adverse impacts of climate change have caused detrimental impacts on the environment, such as a rise in carbon dioxide, an increase in temperature, the depletion of natural resources, and more, which have significantly impacted agriculture. Therefore, the need of the hour is to implement robust climate change mitigation techniques that would reduce the detrimental implications for farming and farmers.

In this context, biofertilizers have emerged as a green solution that not only improves the yield of crops but is also eco-friendly, enhances soil properties, and instills several growth hormones in the soil. As a result, it nourishes the quality of the soil, curbs environmental pollution, reduces the usage of chemical fertilizers, and guarantees appropriate nutrition delivery to the plants. Therefore, this cost-effective and easily accessible solution is a practical mitigation solution for minimising the global warming potential.

(The author is President at IPL Biologicals Ltd )