Title : Micronutrients in ensuring food and nutritional security in North Western Himalaya
Agriculture, with its associated sectors, is the principal source of livelihood in the North-West Himalayan (NWH) region of India. However, only 15% of the farming community is producing enough food to make their ends meet. Studies of NWH region depict the deficient status of different soil nutrients (macro- and micronutrients), a major contributor to the low crop yields. Besides low productivity, the people of the region are dealing with colossal problem of micronutrient malnutrition. However, such deficiencies are more prevalent in the rural region of NWH which dominantly relies on cereal-based diet. Although green revolution has led to self-sufficiency in cereal production, but the dependency on cereal-based diet has unknowingly excavated the problem of micronutrient malnutrition. The challenge, therefore, is to meet the food and nutritional need of the people residing in this region. In general, micronutrient cations (Cu, Mn, Zn, and Fe) deficiencies are associated with alkaline soils, whereas, anions (B and Mo) deficiencies are more pronounced in acid soils. The deficiencies of the aforesaid micro-nutrients affect the crop yields and the nutritional quality of the produce, hence, is a major constraint to achieve the goals of food and nutritional security. These micronutrients are essential for plant growth and development with indispensable benefit to human health. Several researchers documented a significant increase in crops yields ranging from 5-30 % with the application of micronutrients. The response, however, is the function of soil types and crop management practices. Moreover, the optimum application of these nutrients contribute to better nutritional composition of the harvest viz. total soluble salts (TSS), Zn content, ascorbic acid, protein and starch. In acidic soils the application of B and Mo documented an increase of 10-22% and 15-28%, in cereals and vegetable crops respectively. From the field experiments conducted at the sub humid mid hill region of NWH, application of Zn at economically optimum rate of 5.93 kg Zn ha-1 significantly enhanced the productivity of maize-wheat cropping system. Beside this, many genotypes of different crops (maize, wheat, okra and cauliflower etc.) were also identified for different soil types which are more responsive to external micronutrients (Zn and B) application. Furthermore, the foliar application of micronutrients in chelated form beside enhances the crop productivity, improves the nutrient uptake and their apparent recovery, thus, minimizes the negative environmental impacts. Micronutrient’s application not only proves to be more productive with nutritionally rich harvest, but also have positive economic benefits. Furthermore, micronutrients application had a great potential in strengthening/enhancing the immunity in humans, need of the hour in compacting the heftiest challenges of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To conclude, due attention on micronutrients application will play a vital role in achieving food & nutritional security and sustainability goals. However, for realizing the yield potential of crops, the optimum management of micronutrients is very essential. Further, there is a need revisit the availability limits for different crops and soil types of the region.