Absence of Zinc is shown to have direct impact on crop output: Minister

Absence of Zinc is shown to have direct impact on crop output: Minister

According to UN statistics, the world population will grow by 2 billion people in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion. India's population is expected to surpass China's by 2050, rising from 1.3 billion to 1.6 billion. Agriculture intensification without micronutrients is a key concern to feed the world's expanding population.

The International Zinc Association (IZA), in collaboration with Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL) and the India Lead Zinc Development Association (ILZDA), recently organised a virtual discussion on Zinc Fertiliser and its Raw Materials for Food and Nutrition Security.

With the major speakers, the minister emphasised the Ministry's and the Government's initiatives under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including fortified crops and fertiliser subsidies. “Lack of micronutrients like Zinc has been demonstrated to directly effect agricultural yield, threatening food security. We have been focusing on improving backward links such as upgrading soil testing infrastructure, developing micronutrient fertilisers and raising awareness among important stakeholders. This is our goal for the next few years,” said Choudhary.

“The value of Zinc in building our immunity and protecting us cannot be overstated,” Arun Misra told the gathering. The lack of this essential vitamin in our natural foods is a matter that requires urgent and concerted action from all stakeholders. Hindustan Zinc has teamed with IZA to investigate new and innovative products and technology to convert primary zinc into zinc fertiliser raw materials. We have also started a zinc fertiliser trial on a farm near Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. A favourable and accommodating micronutrient policy is vital for guaranteeing the country's food, nutrition, and health security.

They are aligned with Modi's Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN Abhiyaan) and Mission Poshan 2.0, the Government of India's flagship effort to enhance nutritional outcomes for populations most impacted by micronutrient deficiencies through crop fortification.

According to the WHO, around 8,00,000 people die annually from zinc deficiency, 4,50,000 of whom are children under the age of five. According to UNICEF, the number of deaths from diarrhoea and pneumonia in children under five in India is dangerously high, even higher than in Sub-Saharan African countries or bordering countries. There is a severe zinc deficiency in soils in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan (60%) and an average deficit of roughly 40%.

“For the agricultural sector to develop, not only farm output and productivity must improve, but also the quality of output,” stated Dr Andrew Green at the conference. Adding micronutrients like zinc not only increases crop output and water intake but also makes plants healthier and stronger. In addition to providing fortified grains to the poor, PM Narendra Modi's new announcement should help improve Zn biofortification.

Micronutrient fertilisers have a poor utilisation efficiency of less than 5% in crops. The necessity of the hour is to develop fresh and novel micronutrient fertiliser products. “Scarcity of quality raw materials, i.e. zinc ash, has added to the troubles in the zinc fertiliser sector. A serious influence on zinc fertiliser production and consumption”, said Dr Soumitra Das.