Crop protection chemicals key to food security

Every year in India pests and diseases eat away on an average 15-25 per cent of food produced by the farmers. Due to the rising population and decreasing arable land, demand for grain is increasing at a faster pace when compared to its production. This, therefore, necessitates putting more thrust on crop productivity enhancement as well as crop protection methods. Use of crop protection chemicals can increase crop productivity by 25-50 per cent, by mitigating crop loss due to pest attacks. Thus, crop protection chemicals are also very essential to ensure food and nutritional security, according to a report by Ficci and TATA Strategic Management Group.

Traditionally, agrochemicals have been manufactured through chemical synthesis but lately biochemical processes are also gaining popularity. Usually, agrochemicals involve an active ingredient in a definite concentration along with adjuvants, which enhance their performance, safety and usability. The agrochemicals are diluted in recommended doses and applied on seeds, soil, irrigation water and crops to prevent the damages from pests, weeds and diseases.

Therefore, to improve crop performance, yield or to control pests, agrochemical is the most relevant and reliable solution in the current context.

Agrochemicals are substances that are manufacture through chemicals or bio-chemical processes. They contain active ingredient in a definite concentration along with other material that increases performance and enhance safety of crops. Compared with the past the environmental and toxicological property of these chemicals has increased considerably. Research aims to improve chemicals that are not just potent but are specific for the required process while not affecting the environment in any other way.

Insecticides are the largest sub-segment of agrochemicals with 60 per cent market share, whereas herbicides with 16 per cent market share are the fastest growing segment in India.

The Indian crop protection market is dominated by insecticides, which form almost 60 per cent of domestic crop protection chemicals market.

The major applications are found in rice and cotton crops. Fungicides and herbicides are the largest growing segments accounting for 18 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, of total crop protection chemicals market respectively. As the weeds grow in damp and warm weather and die in cold seasons, the sale of herbicides is seasonal. Rice and wheat crops are the major application areas for herbicides. Increasing labour costs and labour shortage are key growth drivers for herbicides.

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