Why in News?
- A team of scientists has found physical attributes and genes that help identify which types of rice use nitrogen efficiently.
- They also reported 34 genes associated with N-use-efficient (NUE) for potential crop improvement.
Why is Nitrogen needed?
- Nitrogen is so vital because it is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound by which plants use sunlight energy to produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide (i.e., photosynthesis).
- It is also a major component of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Without proteins, plants wither and die.
- Some proteins act as structural units in plant cells while others act as enzymes, making possible many of the biochemical reactions on which life is based.
How does this help?
- The knowledge could help farmers use nitrogenous fertilizers efficiently, save costs, as well as limit nitrogen-linked pollution, which contributes to climate change.
- The Indian government’s subsidy on N-fertilizer (mainly urea) is over ₹ 50,000 crore per annum.
- The farmer pays only a quarter of the market price of urea and harvests a similar proportion of it into grain, at a N-use-efficient (NUE) of 25-30%. The rest of it is lost as N-pollution.
About Nitrogen Pollution in India
- According to the Indian Nitrogen Assessment (2017), agriculture accounts for over 70% of all nitrous oxide emission in the Indian environment, out of which 77% is contributed by fertilizers, mostly urea.
- Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
- It has replaced methane as the second largest GHG emission from Indian agriculture over the last 15 years.
- Cereals account for over 69% of the total consumption of N fertilizers in India, with rice topping the list at 37%, followed by wheat (24%).