29th - 30th November 2017 @ International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Colombo

  This two-day conference will consist of plenary thematic sessions with expertsí presentations, sharing of experiences, and panel discussions

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Background

Poor in organic matter (OM) has become a characteristic feature of more than half of soils in Sri Lanka. This is an increasing challenge, especially in areas where drought is common, such as most of the agricultural lands of the country with a high drought exposure index due to climate change impact (IWMI, 2010). The poor OM status of the soils is not supporting any lengthened dry periods as expected under climate change, resulting in a potential increase in poverty and food security. However, mineral fertilizer continues to be highly consumed as the nutrient input in agriculture. Avoiding over use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides related food safety and health impacts are high in national agenda. Specifically, due to the unknown origin of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu) in Sri Lanka, chemical fertilizers are contemplated critically and has resulted a strong call for organic fertilizers. Locally produced high quality organic fertilizer is still seldom to find in the market at commercial scale despite supportive policy environment. To assess the interest from national government, the recently launched (early 2016) three-year national programme named "A Wholesome Agriculture - A Healthy Populace - A Toxin free nation" (Wasa Visa nathi Ratak) with the intention of preventing the use of agrochemicals in farming sector, is suffice.

Confirming the dubious of agro chemical overuse in agriculture, WHO-UN internal report in December 2013 verified Sri Lanka as the highest per hectare user of pesticides and the eighth highest user of chemical fertilizers in the world. Chemical fertilizer brings major nutrients NPK, but does not support organic matter build up (which is lacking in Sri Lankan soils) or micro nutrients as agriculture inputs, which organic fertilizer can offer. Prolonged and over use of chemical fertilizers lead to direct impacts such as soil quality diminution, environmental pollution, changes to soil properties (e.g. pH), and contamination/pollution to the soil and water bodies. The indirect impacts can be recognized as harmful to microorganisms and friendly insects (i.e. soil ecosystem), increased crop vulnerability to pests and diseases, reduced soil productivity, and increasing health problems for farmers and consumers.

The pertinent question is how to cope with sustainable nutrient management and pest and disease management while mitigating over and misuse of chemical fertilizer and synthetic pesticides in Sri Lanka. The most appropriate answer for this crucial problem is the exploitation of an alternative method of plant nutrient supply system and ecofriendly pest and disease management means. Bio fertilizers and Bio pesticides have emerged as a highly potent alternative to chemical fertilizers, Inorganic Pesticides & Fungicides due to their eco-friendly, easy to apply, non-toxic, and cost effective nature.

Agro and urban waste is abundant in low-income country context. By considering the fact that from 60% organic matter content in municipal solid waste, if 50% is subjected to reduction during the composting process, a total 810 tonnes of compost production can be estimated per day (based on collected waste quantity, while assuming all collected organic waste is composted). By considering the actual capacities of the compost plants and assuming that all compost plants are operational to their design capacity, the actual compost production potential in SL is estimated at 200-tonnes/day. However, actual production is limited to 75 tonnes/day. Compost derived from urban waste is considered as a soil conditioner due to low nutrient content and hence does not qualify as an organic fertilizer. Above fact indicates the need of an organic fertilizer, superseding what is currently available in the market for agricultural use.

Traditional bio pesticides derived from herbal plants are diminishing from the society, with the indigenous knowledge, and the use of the bio pesticides is negligible.

Therefore, it has become the foremost responsibility to researchers, policy makers, regulating authorities, and industries to ensure the availability of bio fertilizer and bio pesticides with moderate value proposition at a competitive price at the market, for sustainable agricultural production. The status of development and use of bio fertilizers and bio pesticides in Sri Lanka is rather infantile compared many other countries in the region. Limited number of bio fertilizers and bio pesticides are in an acceptable quality and are commercially available for field level application. The bright side of this aspect is that many Universities, state Agricultural departments, research Institutes, and commercial enterprises are involved in research and product development. However, cross knowledge sharing, conclude scientific findings to practical conclusions and commercialization is minimal due lack of established links, which could be addressed by a platform introduced by this project.

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