Agri Business

Drone spraying of fertiliser: norms to be finalised soon

Prabhudutta Mishra | | | Updated on: Dec 07, 2021
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Move expected to improve soil health, cut subsidy, create village-level entrepreneurs

The Centre is finalising the guidelines for the use of drones in applying fertiliser to crops. India expects to emulate Israel and Europe in adopting this new method, which may help reduce consumption, save on subsidy and improve soil health.

“We are in the process of framing guidelines that will help create village-level entrepreneurs who can operate the drones,” a Fertiliser Ministry official said.

The government had scrapped the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rules and introduced the liberalised Drone Rules in August. “The new rules are based on the premise of trust and self-certification. Approvals, compliance requirements and entry barriers have been significantly reduced,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the time.

According to SK Chaudhary, Deputy Director-General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), drones are being used in some countries for foliar spray of fertilisers.

“Though the basal dose has to be applied manually while sowing, the subsequent application can be done through drones,” Chaudhary said.

Currently, fertiliser is applied at the roots of the plants. However, with preference for nano-urea and liquid fertiliser (suitable for application through UAS) having increased rapidly over the past five years, especially in the case of high-value horticulture crops, the ground is ready for drone usage.

“Protocols are being put in place for drones in pesticides management. Similar guidelines have to evolve for fertilisers as well. Agriculture graduates should be given licence for drone operation,” an agriculture scientist said. The ICAR is yet to be consulted by the Fertiliser Ministry on the guidelines, Chaudhary said, adding that drones need to be operated at very low height for better results.

Drones on tractors

In the past, drones mounted on tractors were not effective in locust control operations. But they provided additional support for sprinkling insecticides on the locust swarms on foothills and sand dunes. A drone can spray pesticide on a nearly 2.5-acre area during a 15-minute flight.

According to government data, sale of key fertilisers – urea, DAP, MoP and complex – increased 12.5 per cent to 58.6 million tonnes during 2020-21 from the previous year. However, there was a 9 per cent drop in sales at 28.4 mt in kharif 2021. The industry has pegged subsidy to reach ₹1.5-lakh crore in the current fiscal, 89 per cent more than the Budget estimate of about ₹79,529.68 crore.

Published on December 08, 2021

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