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Imported liquid Nano-Nitrogen fertiliser not organic, says a group of academics

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The liquid Nano-Nitrogen fertiliser from Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO) imported by the government is a synthetic chemical fertiliser, and not an organic fertiliser, academics attached to the Agriculture and Technology Faculties of State Universities said yesterday.

They issued a statement under the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) letterhead:

“The Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer of IFFCO is a urea-based formulation where urea is coated with polymers to make nano-size particles. Therefore, this fertilizer is a synthetic chemical fertiliser, and not an organic fertilizer. The Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer is recommended to apply as a foliar spray and said to contain 4% Nitrogen. This is rather a new product, which has very recently (2021 March) received approval for large scale production from the Ministry of Agriculture of India. Anyhow, nano-fertilisers are not accepted in organic agriculture in Sri Lanka as indicated in the standard of requirements for organic agriculture (SLS1324:2018),” the statement said.

FUTA added that the Ministry of Agriculture claims that three applications of 2.5 L of this fertilizer at a time (i.e. 7.5 L in total) is adequate to provide required nutrients for the cultivation of one hectare of paddy crop. When applied at this rate, Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer would provide only 300 g of Nitrogen per one hectare.

“However, in general, nearly 105 kg of nitrogen is taken up by the paddy crop yielding 4-5 tons of grains per hectare. Accordingly, Nano-Nitrogen fertiliser should be applied at a rate of 1,250 L per hectare if it is the only source of nitrogen added to the crop, which is an impossible task to be realized within a cropping season,” the academics said.

Given below is the statement in full: “The government of Sri Lanka recently imported liquid Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer from Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO). From an initial order of 3.1 million liters, 45,000 liters (90,000 bottles, each carrying 500 ml) were airlifted on 19th October 2021 to Sri Lanka. We have learned that there are many misconceptions being publicized in the mass media on this Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer. As a concerned group of agricultural professionals in the country, academics attached to the Agriculture and Technology Faculties of State Universities in Sri Lanka, we wish to provide correct scientific facts about the imported fertilizer and express our views on this matter as follows.

“The Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer of IFFCO is a urea-based formulation where urea is coated with polymers to make nano-size particles. Therefore, this fertilizer is a synthetic chemical fertilizer, and not an organic fertilizer. The Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer is recommended to apply as a foliar spray and said to contain 4% Nitrogen. This is rather a new product, which has very recently (2021 March) received approval for large scale production from the Ministry of Agriculture of India. Anyhow, nano-fertilizers are not accepted in organic agriculture in Sri Lanka as indicated in the standard of requirements for organic agriculture (SLS1324:2018).

“In media briefings conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, we learned that three applications of 2.5 L of this fertilizer at a time (i.e. 7.5 L in total) is adequate to provide required nutrients for the cultivation of one hectare of paddy crop. When applied at this rate, Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer would provide only 300 g of Nitrogen per one hectare. In general, nearly 105 kg of nitrogen is taken up by the paddy crop yielding 4-5 tons of grains per hectare. Accordingly, Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer should be applied at a rate of 1,250 L per hectare if it is the only source of nitrogen added to the crop, which is an impossible task to be realized within a cropping season.

“In their official website, IFFCO has indicated that this Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer should be applied only as a top dressing along with a reduced rate of urea, while phosphorus and potassium sources are to be supplied at full rate as per the recommendations. All research reports on this liquid fertilizer have recommended using this fertilizer to fulfil only partial requirements of Nitrogen for crops and often used with 50% recommended dose of urea. Therefore, Nano-Nitrogen is more appropriate to be viewed as a supplementary source of Nitrogen than a major nutrient source.

“Spraying liquid fertilizer may not be practical for some crops unless the farmers have access to drone technology. This is because spraying large areas and taller crops such as maize and sugarcane is not practical with commonly used spray tanks. Moreover, the effectiveness of these foliar fertilizers depends on the ground-cover by leaf area, weather conditions and application technology. Therefore, it is a necessity to provide clear guidance to the farmers on correct application procedures.

“In this context there is a serious question as to what should be recommended to the farmers in Sri Lanka, as the sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium nutrients are limited in the market with the recent ban imposed on importing synthetic ‘chemical’ fertilizer. It is important to note that the benefit of Nano-Nitrogen cannot be realized when the crop suffers from nutrient imbalances. The Nano-fertilizer is applied at a much lower rate than regular urea fertilizer application mainly because it is a foliar spray. Applying the Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer at high concentrations, in the absence of soil application of Nitrogen fertilizer such as urea, could damage leaves. Therefore, the available option would be to have repeated application of Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer at a lower dosage.

“It should be noted that nano-fertilizers are more expensive than regular nitrogen fertilizers. Thus, considering the cost of the fertilizer and labor cost for application, the use of foliar fertilizers in a crop like paddy is expensive and will increase the cost of production.

“Any fertilizer imported to the country needs to be tested following the accepted protocols prior to giving approval for importation and after the shipment has arrived in order to assure quality and to avoid any negative impacts. Sri Lanka does not have developed SLS standards for nano-fertilizers, yet. These standards should be developed to assure quality of the product free of biurate-like toxic substances. Besides, recommendations should not be made in an ad-hoc manner without conducting any field investigations.

“Furthermore, in the eco-friendly/green agriculture concept, much attention is given to improve and regenerate soil fertility. However, foliar application of fertilizers will not contribute to enhancing soil fertility. Therefore, while failing to achieve higher crop yields, it is highly unlikely that the expensive Nano-Fertilizer we have imported will help in realizing the objectives of green-agriculture.”



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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