The Manurial Problem in India
The manurial problems of India were considered in detail by the recent Royal Commission on Agriculture in India which, after an extensive study of the subject lasting more than two years, reported in 1928. That section of the report which deals with fertilizers is reprinted in full below. A study of this account will bring home to the investigator and to the general reader the evils which invariably result from the fragmentation of any large agricultural problem.
(Extract from the Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India, Bombay, 1928, pp. 80-93.)
80. 'Of the principal plant-food materials in which the soils of India are deficient by far the most important (except in parts of the crystalline tracts where the deficiency of phosphates may be more serious) is nitrogen, and the manurial problem in India is, in the main, one of nitrogen deficiency. India, as is well known, depends almost exclusively on the recuperative effects of natural processes in the soil to restore the combined nitrogen annually removed in the crops, for but little of this is returned to the soil in any other way. Much of the farmyard manure available is burnt as fuel whilst a large quantity of combined nitrogen is exported in the form of oil seeds, food and other grains, and animal products such as hides and bones. This loss is in no way compensated by the importation of nitrogenous fertilizers, for 1925-26 was the first year which the imports of sulphate of ammonia into this country, which amounted only to 4,724 tons, exceeded the exports and was also the first year in which the greater part of the production of this fertilizer by the Tata Iron and Steel Company at Jamshedpur and in the coalfields of Bengal and Bihar and Orissa was consumed in India. In these circumstances, it is fortunate that the recuperative processes in the soil are more pronounced in tropical and sub-tropical than in temperate regions. Although it has been stated in evidence before us that it has not been established that improved and higher yielding varieties of crops, more especially of wheat and sugar-cane, take more from the soil than the varieties they replace, and that their cultivation on present lines will not, therefore, be followed by any loss of permanent fertility, we are of opinion that there is justification for the view that improved crops generally require, for their fullest development, more liberal manurial treatment than those ordinarily grown. The subject is one which requires careful study by the agricultural departments in India and should form an essential part of the investigations discussed in the following paragraph.
81. An acceleration of the recuperative processes in the soil can be effected by improved agricultural methods, by adequate soil aeration, judicious rotations and the cultivation of green-manure crops. The loss of combined nitrogen can also be partially made up by the application of natural and artificial manures. With certain definite exceptions, however, such as, for instance, sugar-cane and the more valuable garden crops, it has yet to be determined for what conditions and for what crops artificial manures can be profitably used to stimulate crop production in India. In this connexion, we have been impressed by the importance of research into the fundamental problems connected with losses in nitrogen and with nitrogen recuperation. We saw something of the work in this field which was being carried on at Pusa by Dr. Harrison and at Nagpur by Dr. Annett. Although, ever since the reorganization of the agricultural departments in 1905, manurial experiments have engaged a large part of their time and energies and have been carried out on every agricultural station in India, it cannot be said that the agricultural experts are even yet in a position to give satisfactory advice to the cultivator in regard to the use of manures. A large amount of data has been collected but it has not been studied systematically or reduced to a form which would enable clear and definite conclusions to be drawn. The problem requires to be studied in three aspects: in relation, in the first instance, to the crops which are dependent solely on rainfall, in the second, to crops which are grown on irrigated land, and lastly, to the planters' crops and intensive cultivation such as that of sugar-cane and garden crops. It is hardly necessary to point out that the use of nitrogenous or other artificial fertilizers is not profitable in all conditions. Where crop production is limited by a small rainfall, the annual additions of combined nitrogen to the soil as the result of natural processes may be sufficient to meet the needs of a crop the out-turn of which is limited by the moisture available. It has, for example, been found in the Central Provinces that the application of fertilizers benefits dry crops, including unirrigated cotton, only in years when the rainfall is adequate and that, in particular, it does not benefit wheat which, in that province, is grown on rainfall only. The planting community, which has its own specialist officers, needs no advice from the agricultural departments in regard to the economic use of manures. We would, however, take this opportunity of stressing the value of close touch between the community and the departments in regard to this and other agricultural matters It is essential that the departments should be in a position to give the ordinary cultivator, both of irrigated and unirrigated crops, definite guidance on the point. The first step is the careful study of the existing material and the correlation of the results hitherto obtained. The second step is the formulation of a programme of experiment with the object of ascertaining, with all possible accuracy, the extent to which fertilizers can be used with profit. This programme should include the laying out of a short series of permanent manurial plots, on lines appropriate to conditions in India, on provincial experimental farms. Only by conducting manurial experiments over a number of years will it be possible to compile such records as would make a substantial contribution to the knowledge of the problems of manures and manuring under tropical and sub-tropical conditions about which little is yet known. The scientific value of continuous experiments depends on accurate methods of collection of all relevant data with a view to their subsequent correlation. All such schemes for manurial trials would ordinarily be drawn up by the Director of Agriculture in close consultation with the agricultural chemist and the deputy directors of agriculture under whose immediate supervision the experiments would be conducted. We wish especially to emphasize the importance of manurial experiments on unirrigated land as the cultivator of such land, who runs, with his very limited financial resources, the risk of losing his crop in an unfavourable season, stands most in need of guidance in this matter. The study of the available data and the formulation of an ordered programme to replace the present somewhat haphazard methods of dealing with the problem would, we think, provide sufficient work to justify an officer of the Agricultural Department being placed on special duty for a limited period, but we prefer to make no definite recommendations on this point and to leave it to the consideration of the local governments. Local conditions vary so greatly between province and province, especially in regard to unirrigated land, that it does not appear necessary to attach an officer to Pusa specially to assist the provinces in this investigation. The Council of Agricultural Research should be in a position to advise as to the manner in which the experiments can best be conducted so as to secure uniformity of method as far as possible and to render the results obtained in one province of some value to other provinces.
Internal Sources of Supply and their Development
(a) Farmyard Manure
82. The first question which arises, in considering the internal supplies of nitrogen available in India and the methods by which these can best be developed, is that of the use of farmyard manure as fuel. The view is generally held that it is the absence of a sufficient supply of firewood which, over large parts of India, compels the burning of cow-dung as fuel. But it must be recognized that there is often a definite preference for this form of fuel, as its slow burning character is regarded as making it specially suitable to the needs of the Indian housewife. Thus we are informed that, in Burma, immigrant labourers from India persist in using cow-dung as fuel although an abundant supply of firewood is readily available. Our evidence does not suggest any alternative fuel for domestic purposes in districts where wood and coal are dear. In some tracts, cotton-stalks, the dry stubble and stalks of tur (Cajanus indicus), the pith of jute and sann hemp and the bagass of sugar-cane, where the use of the McGlashan furnace leaves a surplus which is not required for boiling the juice, could be utilized for fuel to a far greater extent than they are at present. Fuel plantations, more especially irrigated plantations, the formation of which we discuss in Chapters VIII and X, can assist only in a very limited area. In our view, the agricultural departments have a difficult task to perform in attempting to promote the utilization of farmyard manure for its proper purpose. Propaganda in this direction can only prove effective if an alternative fuel is suggested and if the cultivator can be sufficiently imbued with a sense of thrift to induce him to burn that which will probably seem to him a less satisfactory substance. There has been little advance in regard to the preservation of manure since Dr. Voelcker wrote his report on Indian agriculture in 1893. The practice of providing litter for cattle is rarely, if ever, adopted except on government farms. No efforts are made by the cultivator to preserve cattle urine. Manure pits are still seldom found in Indian villages. Where they do exist, no attempts are made to preserve the manurial value of the contents or to safeguard the public health by covering the material with earth.
83. While the task is difficult, there is no doubt that something can be done to promote the better preservation of such farmyard manure as is not diverted to consumption as fuel, by using it as a compost with village sweepings, leaves, and other decomposed vegetable matter. In this connexion, we are impressed by the results achieved in the Gurgaon district of the Punjab, where many villages have, as a direct consequence of propaganda, adopted the practice of depositing in pits all village sweepings and refuse, along with a proportion of cow dung. The effects on crops to which such manure has been applied, and on the sanitation and general amenities of the villages, were most marked. There is no reason why efforts on similar lines should not be made in other parts of the country. The Indian cultivator has much to learn from the Chinese and the Japanese cultivator in regard to the manufacture of composts. Artificial fertilizers are used as little in China as they are in India; but there is no organic refuse of any kind in that country which does not find its way back to the fields as a fertilizer. Not only is all human waste carefully collected and utilized, but enormous quantities of compost are manufactured from the waste of cattle, horses, swine and poultry, combined with herbage straw, and other similar waste. Garbage and sewage are both used as manure. The agricultural departments in India are fully alive to the necessity for instructing the cultivator in the better preservation of manure and the use of composts, but there is great scope for an extension of their activities in this respect. For example, the possibilities of manufacturing synthetic farmyard manure from waste organic material on the lines worked out at Rothamsted deserve to be fully investigated. At Rothamsted, research was at first directed towards discovering artificial means whereby the decomposition of straw might be effected. Straw contains three essentials to plant growth, viz. nitrogen, phosphate and potash. The work proved successful and a method was devised for treating large quantities of straw for the preparation of manure. Reagents were subsequently discovered which were capable of bringing about the rapid rotting, not only of straw but also of other plant residues, and thus of producing a valuable organic manure at a moderate cost. Synthetic farmyard manure is being prepared by the departments of agriculture in Madras and the Central Provinces. The agricultural department in Bengal, following the valuable lead given by Rothamsted, has attempted the manufacture of artificial farmyard manure on a considerable scale. Cattle urine and washings from cattle-sheds, mixed with bone meal, have been used with immediate success. Weeds, various grasses, sugar-cane trash, refuse, straw, prickly-pear, etc., have all proved capable of breaking down into excellent material approximating more or less closely in appearance and in composition to that of cow-dung. Experiments have also been made in Burma but have not so far proved successful. Valuable work on the preparation of composts from night soil and refuse and from cattle urine, weeds, etc., is being done by Dr. Fowler at Cawnpore. In Europe, work of this character has now emerged from the experimental stage and processes devised for dealing with various classes of materials are already on the market. In India, however, the departments concerned have still to devise and introduce a practical method which can be used with profit by the ordinary cultivator on his own land.
The manurial value of earth obtained from the sites of abandoned villages is recognized in many parts of India. The quantities available are, however, negligible in relation to the manurial requirements of the country.
(c) Night Soil
84. Prejudice against the use of night soil has deterred the cultivator in India from utilizing to the best advantage a valuable source of combined nitrogen. There is, however, evidence that this prejudice is weakening and that, where night soil is available in the form of poudrette, it is tending to disappear. From the point of view of public health, the use of poudrette is preferable to that of crude night soil and, given co-operation between agricultural departments and municipal authorities, there is hope that the manufacture of poudrette should prove profitable to municipalities and beneficial to the cultivators in their neighbourhood. The methods of converting night soil into poudrette adopted at Nasik and elsewhere in the Bombay Presidency have been highly successful and appear well worth study by other municipalities. The advantages of this system of dealing with night soil appear to us to justify a recommendation that the departments of local self-government in all provinces should bring them to the notice of all municipal authorities and should also take steps to establish a centre at which members of the municipal sanitary staffs can receive a suitable training in this method of disposing of night soil. The agricultural departments should keep a watchful eye on all experiments in the conversion of night soil into manure and should themselves conduct such experiments. Where municipal authorities in any part of the country are in a position to supply it, the agricultural departments should assist them to find a market by arranging demonstrations of the value of night soil as manure on plots in the neighbourhood of the towns.
Another way in which night soil can be converted into a form in which its use is less obnoxious to the cultivator is by the adoption of the activated sludge process. This process reduces sewage, by the passage of air through it, to a product which can either be used as required in the form of effluent from the sewage tanks or dried and sent where there is a demand for it. The activated sludge process is suitable only for towns which have a sewage system. It is much more expensive than conversion into poudrette but has the advantage of conserving a larger percentage of nitrogen. Up to the present, this system has been adopted in India on any considerable scale only at Tatanagar. The possibility of selling the product at a price that would yield a fair return on the cost of manufacture must depend upon a careful survey of all the relevant factors, including the local market for the product. In estimating the cost of the necessary plant, due regard should be paid to the cost which would be involved in installing any alternative method of sewage disposal, and, if it should prove possible to place a valuable fertilizer at the disposal of the cultivators at a price they can afford to pay, without risk of imposing any additional net charge upon the local ratepayers, we think that it is in the public interest that such schemes should be adopted.
(d) Leguminous Crops
85. Another indigenous source of combined nitrogen to which increasing attention is now being paid by the agricultural departments in India, is leguminous crops and green-manures. The value of leguminous crops in his rotation has always been recognized by the cultivator and the work before the agricultural departments in regard to these crops lies not so much in popularizing the principle of their cultivation as in discovering the varieties of leguminous crops best suited to increase the soil fertility and in recommending such varieties to the cultivators. Recent research has drawn attention to the fact that such crops vary greatly in their power of fixing nitrogen in the soil and should not be regarded as of equal value. Moreover, it is only when the leguminous crop is grown for green-manure that, in all cases, the soil gains in nitrogen. Mr. Howard instances gram as a crop which improves the soil and Java indigo as a crop which seriously depletes the supply of combined nitrogen.
86. The agricultural departments in India have devoted much time and attention to work on green-manure crops with a view to discovering the crops which can best be used for green-manure, the time at which they should be grown and the manner in which they should be applied. Their work has shown that sann hemp on the whole gives the best result and it would doubtless be more often grown for use as green-manure were it not that it may exhaust so much of the moisture in the soil that, when it is ploughed in, there is not sufficient left both to decompose it and to enable a second crop to grow. Much experimental work is still, therefore, required to discover the green-manure crops which can best be included in the cultivators' rotations. The economics of green-manure crops from the point of view of the small cultivator also require to be worked out. The small cultivator is naturally hesitant about growing a crop which only indirectly brings him any financial advantage. With his slender resources, it is indeed not unreasonable for him to take the view that he cannot afford to sacrifice even a catch crop in this way and it is therefore not until the agricultural departments are in a position to demonstrate to him beyond a shadow of doubt the paying nature of green-manure crops on small holdings that these departments will be justified in persuading the small cultivator to adopt them or that their advocacy of them will stand any chance of success. In the present state of knowledge, such crops would appear an expedient to be adopted by the larger landholder and, for the small cultivator, a leguminous crop in his rotation would seem to hold out better prospects of benefit.
The possibility of growing such crops as dhaincha and ground-nut, the leaves of which can be used as green-manure without interfering with the commercial value of the crop, is worth consideration. The use of ground-nut in this way for green-manure would furnish an additional reason for extending the area of this valuable crop. In the case of crops of a woody nature such as sann hemp, it must, however, be remembered that their utility as green-manure for the succeeding rabi crops depends to a large extent on the presence of sufficient moisture in the soil to rot the dry stems and roots.
In Madras, the Punjab and the Central Provinces, the experiment has been made of encouraging the cultivation of green-manure crops under irrigation by the remission of the charge for water from government sources or irrigation. The fact that the results have so far been disappointing may be due to a failure to accompany the remission with sufficient propaganda as to the advantages to be derived from the growing of these crops. We think that the continuance of the concession and its extension to other areas should be conditional on its being accompanied by an active campaign of propaganda, directed particularly to the larger landholder rather than the small cultivator. All areas where the concession is made should be kept under regular examination. If, after a period of five to ten years, it should appear that the concession given in regard to water charges has failed to achieve its main purpose, it should be rescinded.
(f) 0il Cakes
87. The loss to India of a valuable source of combined nitrogen as the result of the export of so large a proportion of its production of oil seeds was emphasized by many witnesses before us. The yield and exports of oil seeds during the last fifteen years are shown in the following table.
Totals by Five Year Periods Cotton Seed Ground-nut Rape and Mustard Linseed Sesamum Total of Columns 2-6 Total of all Oil Seeds 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1910-11 to 1914-15 Yield ('000 tons) 8,419 3,475 6,129 2,541 2,354 22,918 Exports ('000 tons) 1,125 1,035 1,149 1,983 494 5,786 6,832 Percentage of Exports to yield 13 30 19 78 21 25 - 1915-16 to 1919-20 Yield ('000 tons) 8,545 4,758 5,362 2,171 2,104 22,940 - Exports ('000 tons) 387 567 495 1,283 166 2,898 3,408 Percentage of Exports to yield 4.5 12 9 59 8 12.5 - 1920-21 to 1924-25 Yield ('000 tons) 10,733 5,786 5,602 2,203 2,336 26,660 - Exports ('000 tons) 686 1,240 1,181 1,376 119 4,602 5,116 Percentage of exports to yield 6.5 21 21 62 5 17 - Total of 15 years 1910-11 to 1924-25 Total Yield ('000 tons) 27,697 14,019 17,093 6,915 6,794 72,518 - Total Exports ('000 tons) 2,198 2,842 2,825 4,642 779 13,286 15,356 Percentage of exports to yield 8 20 16.5 67 11.5 18 -
These figures indicate that, of the out-turn of the seed of cotton, ground-nut, rape and mustard, linseed and sesamum, the exports amount to an average of eighteen per cent and they suggest the loss which the soil of India suffers by the export of a valuable by-product on the assumption that the whole of the nitrogen contained might be returned to the soil. Under existing practice, indeed, much of this material would probably be fed to cattle and subsequently dissipated as fuel. But it is not surprising that the view that an export tax on oil seeds and oil cakes within the purchasing power of the cultivator has found much favour and even received the support of the Board of Agriculture in 1919 and of the majority of the Indian Taxation Enquiry Committee, but not that of the Indian Fiscal Commission. Some witnesses before us went further and urged the total prohibition of export. Whilst we fully recognize the advantages to Indian agriculture which would follow from a greatly extended use of certain oil cakes as a manure for the more valuable crops such as sugar-cane, tobacco, cotton and tea, we cannot but feel that those who suggest the attainment of this object by the restriction or prohibition of exports have failed to realize the economic implications of their proposal. In the first place, it must be remembered that India has no monopoly of the world's supplies of oil-seeds and is not even the chief supplier of those seeds. The world's linseed market is controlled by the Argentine crop and the sesamum market by the Chinese crop. The competition of West Africa in the supply of edible oils is becoming increasingly serious. In these circumstances, it is an economic axiom that an export duty will be borne by the producer and that the cultivator will, therefore, receive a lower price for the oil seeds exported. The acreage under oil seeds in British India is still considerably below the pre-war level and the tendency to replace oil seeds by other crops which may be inferred from this would undoubtedly be greatly accentuated if any effective restrictions on export were imposed. The immediate fall in price, which would result from such restrictions, would tend to a reduction of area and consequently of out-turn. Even if such a fall in prices were obtained by the method advocated, the gain to the cultivator qua consumer would be far more than counterbalanced by the disadvantage to the cultivator qua grower by the loss of the income he at present derives from his export market. In the second place, it may be argued that if the Indian oil-crushing industry were fully developed to deal with the present out-turn of oil seeds, then the area might remain at its present level and there would grow up a considerable export of oil, while the cake would remain to be used as a feeding stuff or manure. The market for oil in this country is, however, a very limited one and will remain so until India has reached a more advanced stage of industrial development. The oil-crushing industry would, therefore, have to depend mainly on the export market for the sale of its main product. The problem of cheap and efficient transport to the great industrial centres of the west presents almost insurmountable difficulties. Oil-crushers in India would find themselves in competition with a well-established and highly efficient industry and there is little reason to believe that their costs of production or the quality of their product would enable them to compete successfully with that industry. In the third place, even if restriction on exports succeeded in reducing the price of oil cakes, this would mean that a section of the agricultural community would be penalized for the benefit of another and much smaller section, for the growers of oil seeds would probably not be those who would make the most use of the oil cakes.
A similar line of reasoning applies to oil cakes, the average exports of which from India for the five years ending 1925-26 were 165,600 tons, against a negligible import. The oil cakes exported from India are a far less important factor in the world's supply than are the oil seeds and, in these circumstances, the burden of the duty would be entirely borne by the producer, in this case the crushing industry. There can, in our view, be little doubt that the effect of a duty on oil cakes, with or without a duty on oil seeds, would be the curtailment of oil-crushing activities and a diminution in the available supply of oil cakes, in other words, it would have effects entirely different from those desired by its advocates. It is not, therefore, by any restriction on trade that Indian agriculture is likely to reap greater advantages from the supply of combined nitrogen available in the large crops of oil seeds she produces. The only methods by which these advantages can be secured are by the natural development of the oil-crushing industry coupled with great changes in cattle management and in the use of fuel. The question how far the development of the industry can be promoted by Government assistance in the matter of overcoming difficulties of transport and in the form of technological advice in regard to improved methods of manufacture and standardization is one for the departments of industries rather than the departments of agriculture. An extension of the oil-crushing industry would undoubtedly tend to promote the welfare of Indian agriculture and we would commend the investigation of its possibilities to the earnest consideration of all local governments.
(g) Sulphate of Ammonia
88. The important potential sources of supply of combined nitrogen discussed in the preceding paragraphs are supplemented to a small though increasing extent by the sulphate of ammonia recovered as a by-product from coal at the Tata Iron and Steel Company's works at Jamshedpur and on the coalfields of Bengal and Bihar and Orissa. There has been a very marked increase both in the consumption and production of this fertilizer in India in recent years. Of the 4,436 tons produced in 1919, all but 472 tons were exported and there were no imports. In 1925, of the estimated production of 14,771 tons, 6,395 tons were retained in India. With three exceptions, all the producers of sulphate of ammonia in India have joined the British Sulphate of Ammonia Federation which, through its Indian agents, is conducting active propaganda to promote the use of artificial fertilizers and has established a number of local agencies in agricultural areas in several provinces. The manner in which this source of supply is being developed is very satisfactory and it is still more satisfactory that a market for increasing quantities of the sulphate of ammonia produced in India is being found in the country. The importance of the price factor need hardly be stressed, for though the present average price of Rs. 140 per ton free on rail at Calcutta is much lower than that which prevailed immediately after the War, it is sufficiently high to preclude the application of sulphate of ammonia to any except the most valuable of the cultivators' crops, such as sugar-cane or garden crops.
(h) Artificial Nitrogenous Fertilizers
89. A method of increasing the internal supplies of combined nitrogen in India, the adoption of which has received powerful support, is the establishment of synthetic processes for obtaining combined nitrogen from the air in forms suitable for use as fertilizers. The Indian Sugar Committee was of opinion that, from the point of view of the development of the sugar industry alone, the successful introduction of synthetic processes in India was a matter of the first importance. That Committee recommended that the possibilities of utilizing the hydro-electric schemes, which were at that time under investigation in the Punjab and the United Provinces, for the fixation of nitrogen should be thoroughly examined and that, if it were found that electric energy could be obtained at a rate approximating to Rs. 60 per kilowatt year, a unit plant of sufficient size to afford trustworthy information should be installed. Of the three processes in use for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, the arc process, the cyanamide process and the manufacture of ammonia by direct synthesis, the Committee considered the cyanamide process as the one which offered the best prospects of success in India but drew attention to the possibilities of the Haber process for obtaining synthetic sulphate of ammonia.
The position has changed greatly since the report of the Sugar Committee was written. The full effects of the diversion of the capital, enterprise and, above all, the research devoted to the manufacture of munitions to the production of peace time requirements, had not been felt in 1920. Since then, it has resulted in a fall in the world's price of nitrogen by fifty per cent, and there are prospects of still lower prices in the near future. We see no reason to question the view which was placed before us in the course of the evidence we took in London that, in present circumstances, only very large units with a minimum capacity of about 150,000 tons of pure nitrogen per annum can be expected to pay even under the most favourable conditions in Great Britain and on the Continent of Europe and that conditions in India make it much less likely that even a unit of that capacity would prove a paying proposition. The possibilities of manufacturing nitrogen from the air in India have already been exhaustively examined by a leading firm of chemical manufacturers in England, which has decided against proceeding with the project. It is probable that no factory on a scale which could be contemplated by any local government, or even by the Imperial Government, would be in a position to produce synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers at a price less than that at which they can be imported. The whole object of establishing such a factory, that of producing fertilizers at a price which would place them within the reach of a far greater proportion of the agricultural community than is at present in a position to use them, would be defeated if a protective duty were imposed to enable its out-turn to compete against imported supplies. It is also to be hoped that, should the demand for artificial fertilizers in India make it worth while, private enterprise will come forward to erect synthetic nitrogen works in this country. While the economics of the industry remain as they stand to-day, we are unable to recommend any further investigation into the subject under government auspices.
Central Organization for Research on Fertilizers
90. The discussion of the question of nitrogenous fertilizers would not be complete without mention of the proposal placed before us by the British Sulphate of Ammonia Federation, Ltd., and Nitram, Ltd., for the establishment by the Government of India of a central fertilizer organization on which the Imperial and provincial agricultural departments as well as the important fertilizer interests would be represented. The two companies, which are already spending 23,000 pounds annually on research and propaganda in India, expressed their willingness to increase this amount to 50,000 pounds, the additional amount to be handed over to a central organization constituted in the manner they suggest, provided that an equal sum is contributed by Government. The companies have made it clear that the research and propaganda they contemplate would be on the use of fertilizers generally and would not in any way be confined to that of the products they manufacture or sell. This offer, though not disinterested is undoubtedly generous and we have given it our most careful consideration. We regret, however, that we are unable to see our way to recommend its acceptance. We cannot but feel that, whatever safeguards were imposed, the work of, and the advice given by, an organization, at least half the cost of which was borne by firms closely interested in the subject matter of the investigation, would be suspect and would thus be deprived of much of its usefulness, especially since, as we have pointed out, the agricultural departments in India are not yet in a position to pronounce authoritatively on the relative advantages of natural and artificial fertilizers. We, therefore, consider it preferable that the agricultural departments should remain entirely independent in this matter but we need hardly say that we would welcome the establishment by the two firms mentioned, or by any other fertilizer firms, of their own research stations in India working in the fullest co-operation with the agricultural departments, the Indian Tea Association, the Indian Central Cotton Committee and any other bodies interested in the fertilizer question. So much work remains to be done on the manurial problems of India that it is desirable that every possible agency should be employed on it. To the supply by the fertilizer interests of free samples for trial by the agricultural departments there can, of course, be no objection, but we do not consider that any financial assistance beyond what is involved in this should be accepted. In coming to this conclusion, we have not overlooked the fact that the Rothamsted Experimental Station accepts grants from fertilizer interests to meet the cost of experiments with their products. Rothamsted is not, however, a government institution and, further, the experiments it carries out are only undertaken on the clear understanding that the information obtained is not to be used for purposes of propaganda. The conditions at Rothamsted are thus entirely different from those under which it is proposed that the central fertilizer organization in India should function.
Bones and Bone Meal
91. Nitrogen deficiency can be remedied to some extent by the application of bones and bone meal. This form of fertilizer is, however, of greater value as a means of rectifying the deficiency of phosphates which, as we have pointed out, is more prominent in peninsular India and Lower Burma than that of nitrogen. As with other forms of combined nitrogen, an important quantity of this fertilizer is lost to India by a failure to apply it to the soil and by export. Except in the War period, the total export of bones from India has shown little variation in the last twenty years. The average exports for the five years ending 1914-15 were 90,452 tons, valued at RS.64.20 lakhs. For the five years ending 1924-25 they were 87,881 tons, valued at Rs. 95.94 lakhs. In 1925-26 they were 84,297 tons valued at Rs. 89.16 lakhs and in 1926-27 100,005 tons valued at Rs. 97.76 lakhs. The imports of bone manures are negligible. Practically the whole of the exports are in the form of the manufactured product, that is in the form of crushed bones or of bone meal, the highest figure for the export of uncrushed bones in recent years being 545 tons in 1924-25. Only a very small proportion of the bone manure manufactured in India is consumed in the country. During the War period, when prices were low, freight space difficult to obtain and export demand weak, it was estimated that not more than ten per cent of the total production was consumed in India, and this at a time when the prices of all Indian agricultural produce were exceptionally high. Enquiries we have made show that there is no reason to believe that the percentage retained for internal consumption has increased since the close of the War. Many witnesses before us advocated that the heavy drain of phosphates involved in the large export of bones from this country should be ended by the total prohibition of exports and this proposal received the support of the Board of Agriculture in 1919, whilst the majority of the Indian Taxation Enquiry Committee recommended the imposition of an export duty. For much the same reasons as those for which we have rejected the proposal for an export duty on oil seeds and oil cakes, we are unable to support this recommendation. As was pointed out by the Board of Agriculture in 1922, local consumption, even in the most favourable conditions in recent years, has accounted for such a small fraction of the total production that the industry could not continue to exist on that fraction, and the imposition of an export duty would involve a serious danger of its extinction through the closing down of its markets. Further, any restrictions on export would deprive one of the poorest sections of the population of a source of income of which it stands badly in need.
For slow growing crops such as fruit trees the rough crushing of bones is sufficient, but for other crops fine grinding is required. The crushing mills are at present located almost entirely at the ports and, in order to get bone manures to the cultivator, the establishment of small bone-crushing factories at up-country centres where sufficient supplies of bones are available has been advocated. A far more thorough investigation of the economics of the bone-crushing industry than has yet been carried out is, we consider, required before the establishment of such mills can safely be undertaken by private enterprise. The first essential is to obtain definite data in regard to the price at which, and the crops for which, the use of bone meal is advantageous to the cultivator. We suggest that the agricultural departments should take early steps to collect these data. The department of Government responsible should also investigate the cost of processing bones with special reference to those districts in which the development of hydro-electric schemes gives promise of a supply of cheap power. It should then be a comparatively easy matter to determine whether the level of prices is such as to justify any attempts on the part of Government to interest private, or preferably co-operative, enterprise in the establishment of bone-crushing mills in suitable centres. In determining the level of prices, allowance should be made for the advantage which local mills will enjoy in competition for local custom with the large units at the ports through the saving to the local concerns of the two-way transportation charges borne by the product of the port mills.
92. Little need be said about fish manures which are another source of supply of both phosphates and nitrogen. The export of these from India for the five years ending 1925-26 averaged 16,774 tons valued at Rs. 19.94 lakhs. In 1926-Z7 only 7,404 tons were exported valued at Rs. 9.21 lakhs. Except for a negligible export from Bombay and Sind, the exports of fish manures are confined to the west coast of Madras and parts of Burma.
The arguments against the prohibition of the export of bones or for the imposition of an export duty apply equally to fish manures. Any restriction of export would involve most serious hardship on the small and impoverished fishing communities of the two provinces, and cannot, therefore, be justified. The only measures which can be undertaken to lessen the export of fish manures, without damage to the fish-oil industry or the curtailment of the amount of fish caught, are measures to establish that such manures can be profitably used for Indian agriculture at the price obtained for them in the export market.
93. Reference should be made here to the extensive deposits of natural phosphates which are to be found in the Trichinopoly district of Madras and in South Bihar. In neither tract do these phosphates exist in a form in which they can be utilized economically for the manufacture of superphosphate; and their employment in agriculture has been limited to applications of the crude material in pulverized form. This source of supply does not offer any important possibilities.'
Next: Appendix B. Some Aspects of Soil Improvement in Relation to Crop Production
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