Daily Analysis: 14th September 2020

The Hindu, PIB, IE and Others

Index

A) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

1. Nanofertilizers (PIB)

2. Innovative practices to make agriculture productive (PIB)

3. Red Sanders (TH, pg 5)

B) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

4. INSPIRE Awards-MANAK (PIB)

C) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

5. Explained Ideas: Why the Question Hour matters (IE)

A) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

1. Nanofertilizers (PIB)

  • Mechanical cum biochemical approach is being employed to prepare nanofertizers where materials are grinded to nanosized particles through mechanical means and then biochemical techniques are put in action to prepare effective nanoscale formulations.

Advantages of nanofertilizers over conventional mineral fertilizers:

  • Nanofertilizers feed the crop plants gradually in a controlled manner in contradiction to rapid and spontaneous release of nutrients from chemical fertilizers.
  • Nanofertilizers are more efficacious in terms of nutrients absorption and utilization owing to considerably lesser losses in the form of leaching and volatilization.
  • Nanoparticles record significantly higher uptake owing to free passage from nano sized pores and by molecular transporters as well as root exudates.
  • Nanoparticles also utilize various ion channels which lead to higher nutrient uptake by crop plants.
  • Within the plant, nanoparticles may pass through plasmodesmata that results in effective delivery on nutrient to sink sites.
  • Due to considerably small losses of nanofertilizers, these can be applied in smaller amounts in comparison to synthetic fertilizers which are being applied in greater quantities keeping in view their major chunk that gets lost owing to leaching and emission.
  • Nanofertilizers offer the biggest benefit in terms of small losses which lead to lower risk of environmental pollution.
  • Comparatively higher solubility and diffusion impart superiority to nanofertilizers over conventional synthetic fertilizers.

Limitations of Nanofertilizers

  • Nano fertilizers related legislation and associated risk management continue to remain the prime limitation in advocating and promoting nano fertilizers for sustainable crop production.
  • Another limiting factor is the production and availability of nano fertilizers in required quantities and this is the foremost limitation in wider scale adoption of nano fertilizers as a source of plant nutrients.
  • The higher cost of nano fertilizers constitutes another hurdle in the way of promulgating them for crop production under varying pedo-climatic conditions across the globe.
  • Another major limitation pertaining to nanofertilizers is the lack of recognized formulation and standardization which may lead to contrasting effects of the same nanomaterials under various pedoclimatic conditions.
  • There are many products being claimed to be nano but in fact are submicron and micron in size. This dilemma is feared to remain persistent until and unless uniform size of nanoparticles (1–100 nm) gets implemented.

2. Innovative practices to make agriculture productive (PIB)

e-CHARAK

  •  “e-CHARAK” – e-Channel for Herbs, Aromatic, Raw material And Knowledge is a platform to enable information exchange between various stakeholders involved in the medicinal plants sector.
  • e-Charak has been jointly developed by the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), Ministry of Ayush, Government of India and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).

Advantages

  • Serves as a virtual market place for buyers and sellers of medicinal plants sector to interact with each other.
  • Serves as a virtual showcase to display products and services related to medicinal plants sector.
  • Serves as a knowledge repository of technologies, market information and other resources related to medicinal plants sector.
Kisan Suvida App provides information about:
  • Report– for that day and weather forecast for next five days. Extreme weather alerts are also provided.
  • Market Prices – information about rates of various crops in different mandies are provided
  • Plant Protection – Crop specific information related to pest management are provided. If the condition of crop is not normal, farmers can upload a picture/photo of the crop and send it through kisan suvidha app to agriculture experts for advice.
  • Agro Advisories – Information from agriculture experts of districts regarding the advisories about activities to be undertaken and precaution to be taken staring from sowing to harvesting.
  • Contact KCC – This option provides facility to speak to Kisan Call Centre (KCC).
  • Soil Heath Card – option gives information about Soil Health Card, so that farmers can use fertilizer and pesticides judiciously having regard to minerals available in a particular land/farm.
  • Information about warehouse and cold storage available in the district like warehouse / cold storage, List of the dealers of Seeds, Pesticides, Fertilizer and Farm Machinery are provided.

Super Absorbent Polymers (SAP)

  • Super Absorbent Polymers (also known as SAP, hydrogel, absorbent polymers, absorbent gels, super soakers, super slurpers, water gel) is a new type of macro molecular synthetic water absorbing polymer material.
  • SAPs act as micro water reservoirs at plant roots. They absorb natural and supplied water 400-500 times their own weight and release it slowly on account of root capillary suction mechanism thus preventing water loss in soil by leaching and evaporation.
  • Super Absorbent Polymers used in agriculture are mostly prepared from acrylic acids. The polymer so formed is called a polyacrylate.
  • Polyacrylates are non-toxic, non-irritating and non-corrosive in nature and tested to be biodegradable with a degradation rate of 10%-15% per year.

Advantages of Hydrogel

  • SAPs can help save water and labor by reducing irrigation frequency, help overcome drought conditions and act as soil conditioners, prevent leaching in sandy soils, runoffs in mountainous and sloping fields, improve virescence efficiency and restore soil biota.
  • SAPs can reduce overuse of fertilizers and pesticides in fields. The chemicals so absorbed with water are slowly released thus extending the operational life and uptake efficacy by root systems.
  • Improves soil quality, preserves water and resists drought stress.
  • Gradual biodegradability without formation of toxic species.
  • Increases seed sprouting and seedling development leading to better farm success.
  • Helps in reducing irrigation frequency and water consumption and creates a simple cyclic process to provide water directly to roots and prevent soil compaction.
  • In cold regions, death during germination and maturation is common due to moisture freezing in & around plant root tissue. Absorbed moisture in hydrogels does not freeze and makes easy accessibility to plants. It also regulates seedling growth temperature preventing death by freezing.
  • It helps reduce soil erosion by surface run-offs, fertilizer and pesticide leaching to ground water, reducing cost of water and irrigation and success rate at growth and high yields of crops.
  • Pusa Hydrogel -The Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi has developed an absorbent polymer called “Pusa Hydrogel” to meet the requirements of water productivity in Agriculture.

Hydroponics

  • Hydroponics is a simple technique in which the plants are grown using water instead of soil.
  • It is a subset of hydroculture.
  • Mineral nutrient solutions are used as water solvent.

Benefits

  • The increased control over growing conditions makes it easier to provide the best possible environment for plant, leading to better quality produce and high yield.
  • The production in hydroponics may be increased approximately two times as compared with soil cultivation in a comparable area with because the plant does not have to compete for moisture and nutrients.
  • A small hydroponics garden can be set up almost anywhere even in upstairs balconies and open area and protected structures because the land is not necessary. (Urban Farming)
  • Hydroponics produce generally tastes better and is higher in nutritional value than field-grown crops.
  • Plant grow 50% faster than soil has grown under the same condition because of the easy access to food and water.
  • The occurrence of soil born disease and nematode damage is not possible, so hydroponic production is exported safely. (Easily meets WTO-phyto-sanitary standards)
  • Water wastage reduce to the minimum.
  • There is no need for crop rotations as growing media can be reused continuously or replaced.
  • The plants are uniform in growth and maturity.

3. Red Sanders (TH, pg 5)

Context: Red sandalwood/Red Sanders worth ?1.87 crore seized.

Analysis

  • Red Sanders is a non-fragrant variety of sandalwood.
  • It is found in Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests at altitudes of 150 – 900 m.
  • It grows on dry, hilly, often rocky ground, and occasionally found on precipitous hill sides also.
  • It prefers lateritic and gravelly soil and cannot tolerate water logging.
  • It takes at least 20-25 years for the tree’s beautiful, deep red wood to be of use.

Distribution

  • Red Sanders has a highly restrictive distribution in the South Eastern portion of Indian peninsula to which it is endemic.
  • It is mainly found in the Palakonda and Seshachalam hill ranges of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Sporadic wild populations occur in the adjoining districts of the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu & Karnataka.
  • Red Sanders is a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora.

What is it used for?

  • The species has negligible utilization within the country mainly in Ayurvedic medicines.
  • There is an unsubstantiated belief that red sanders can absorb nuclear radiation. Its primary use, however, is decorative, musical instruments making and ornamental.

February 2019: Red sanders is now free of export restrictions

  • All red sanders farmers, who weren’t allowed to export their produce as the foreign trade policy prohibited it, now can.
  • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in February 2019 revised its export policy to permit its export if it is obtained from cultivated land.
  • However, red sanders remains listed in the Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which says “trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival”.
  • However, it has been removed from endangered category of International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an international organisation for nature conservation, has reclassified red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) as ‘near threatened’ from the earlier ‘endangered’ in 2018.
  • According to the IUCN categorisation, species which come under ‘critically endangered’, ‘endangered’ and ‘vulnerable’ categories are considered threatened.

B) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

4. INSPIRE Awards-MANAK (PIB)

  • ‘Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research’ (INSPIRE) scheme is one of the flagship programmes of Department of Science & Technology (DST).
  • The INSPIRE Awards – MANAK (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspirations and Knowledge), being executed by DST with National Innovation Foundation – India (NIF), an autonomous body of DST, aims to motivate students in the age group of 10-15 years and studying in classes 6 to 10.
  • The objective of the scheme is to target one million original ideas/innovations rooted in science and societal applications to foster a culture of creativity and innovative thinking among school children.
  • Under this scheme, schools can nominate 2-3 best innovative ideas.

C) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

5. Explained Ideas: Why the Question Hour matters (IE)

Context: The decision to go without “Question Hour” during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, beginning September 14, has evoked serious concerns about the democratic functioning of the institution. 

Analysis

  • Cancelling Question Hour erodes constitutional mandate of parliamentary oversight over executive action as envisaged under Article 75 (3) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Question Hour is not only an opportunity for the members to raise questions, but it is a parliamentary device primarily meant for exercising legislative control over executive actions.

The right to question the executive has been exercised by members of the House from the colonial period.

  • The first Legislative Council in British India under the Charter Act, 1853, showed some degree of independence by giving members the power to ask questions to the executive.
  • Later, the Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed members to elicit information by means of questions.
  • However, it was the Indian Council Act, 1892, which formulated the rules for asking questions including short notice questions.
  • The Indian Council Act, 1909, which incorporated provisions for asking supplementary questions by members.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford reforms brought forth a significant change in 1919 by incorporating a rule that the first hour of every meeting was earmarked for questions. Parliament has continued this tradition.
  • In 1921, there was another change. The question on which a member desired to have an oral answer, was distinguished by him with an asterisk, a star. This marked the beginning of starred questions.

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