Agricultural Reviews

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 ​Use of Amritpani: An Excellent Bio-Enhancer for Sustainable Agriculture: An Overview

Saikat Biswas1,*, Rupa Das2
1Department of Agronomy, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Mohanpur, Nadia-741 252, West Bengal, India.
2Department of Seed Science and Technology, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Mohanpur, Nadia-741 252, West Bengal, India.
Sustainable agriculture relies on conservation of agricultural resources for future generation through paradigm shift of modern day chemical based farming to organic farming. This conversion is not only required for generating quality agricultural produce but also protecting the environment from chemical hazards. Organic farming is done through adopting various organic inputs as well as sustainable practices. Beside the manures, various traditional organic formulations commonly known as bio-enhancers like Amritpani play a key role in organic farming through boosting agricultural productivity as well as quality in an eco-friendly way. Application of Amritpani in agriculture is an age old practice to achieve high as well as sustainable agricultural production. It has diversity of nutrients, beneficial micro-organisms, growth promoting hormones, enzymes, vitamins, bio-pesticidal compounds etc. which can improve soil health as well as crop productivity and protect the crop from pests by boosting the plant’s immunity power. Encouragement of soil microbial activity through Amritpani is a vital factor of success of organic farming in many areas. However, Amritpani still lacks scientific testing and therefore, requires adequate researches on its efficacy before recommendation. This can be achieved through multi-locational, multi-crop research trials as well as bio-chemical analysis of the formulation. Further, use of raw materials and their quantities, time, method and dose of application of end product should also be properly standardised before its effective transfusion in new areas through strong extension service. 
Over the years, the world has experienced tremendous increase in population. It has caused both increase in food demand and reduction in agricultural land area. Even, India, being an agriculture dominated country, has got shaken up by the urge of food from the burgeoning population. In earlier days, agriculture was practiced using organic inputs and as the population was less during that time, food produced organically was sufficient to meet the demand of the population. With gradual increase of population and shrinkage of agricultural land area, organic agriculture became insufficient to ensure food security of the nation (Biswas and Das, 2022). To relieve the nation from the clutches of food scarcity, green revolution came in picture in mid 60s, which not only opened the path for intensive agriculture but also ensured jump in productivity levels to meet the food demand of the country. Green revolution introduced the use of chemicals (fertilizer and pesticides) in agriculture, which in short run, has become impressive in increasing the crop yield, but in long run, acted as slow poison towards destruction of the environmental safety. From 1990 onwards, green revolution has lost its charm due to unscientific and injudicious uses of chemical based agriculture and India has experienced set back in agricultural production (Biswas, 2020). Reasons reveals that in intensive agriculture, application of chemicals is a common practice to increase crop yield. Continuous use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides unscientifically in excessive amounts may lead to degradation of soil health in a long run. Beside depleting soil fertility, chemical agriculture reduces activity and number of beneficial microorganisms in the soil as well as hampers soil physical properties. Build-up of soil salinity, destruction of soil aggregate stability, fluctuation of soil pH, low water holding capacity etc. are some common phenomena observed in intensive agriculture (Sharma et al., 2021). Nutritional deficiency in soil directly results in poor quality of the produce along with low yield. Therefore, in order to conserve the health of the environment and to achieve sustainable agricultural production, organic agriculture is again receiving attention as researchers are trying to formulate various technological interventions to increase the production in organic agriculture.

Organic farming is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances health of agro-ecosystem including bio-diversity, biological cycle and soil biological health. It completely avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives and thereby, ensures environmental safety. Practicing organic farming ensures improvement of soil health which directly reflects on crop yield. Organic agriculture relies on use of green manures, crop rotations, crop residues, organic manures, biofertilizers, botanical pesticides or non-chemical options. Besides, organic agriculture utilizes various livestock based liquid organic formulations like Panchagavya, Beejamrita, Sanjibani, Jeevamrita, Amritpani etc. which are commonly known as bio-enhancers, for enhancing crop production. Bio-enhancers are prepared from active fermentation of plant and animal residues for a certain time period (Ram et al., 2018). They are rich in microorganisms, macro and micronutrients, plant growth promoting hormones, enzymes, vitamins and bio-pesticidal properties. Among these ITK (indegeneous technical knowledge) formulations, Amritpani is gaining popularity in recent days due to its beneficial role in crop growth and yield by improving soil physical, chemical and biological health as well as through providing bio-pesticidal properties.
Role of bio-enhancers
Use of bio-enhancers is a traditional practice in India (Ram et al., 2020). Bio-enhancers are involved in various forms of organic farming (Rishi Krishi, Biodynamic, Natural farming etc.) (Vaish et al., 2019). The quality of bio-enhancer depends on the raw materials used for its preparation (Solanki et al., 2015). Bio-enhancers are used to treat seed or seedlings, improving soil health and for accelerating the decomposition process during preparation of manures. They contain beneficial micro-organisms which when applied, multiply and performs soil enhancing activities. Besides, these micro-organisms pose bio-pesticidal properties (Ram et al., 2018). These altogether reduces the harmful impact of chemicals and improves crop yield in a sustainable manner. Presence of macro and micronutrients also enhance the soil fertility to support the crop growth. Solanki et al., (2015) reported increment of plant growth in terms of bigger leaf area, dense foliage, high number of branching and development of roots. Application of bio-enhancers improves soil structure, porosity and water holding capacity as well as nutrient uptake by the crop. They boost up immunity in plants and help plants to resist against pest and diseases through synthesis of various metabolites (organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotics etc.) by the micro-organisms. Among these bio-enhancers, Amritpani is one which is a cheap formulation used through treating seeds or seedling roots, foliar and soil applications for boosting the performance of many crops.
Amritpani preparation
Amritpani is known as elixir for dead soil. It contains wide range nutrients which not only improve the soil physical, chemical and biological health, but also stimulate plant growth, yield and quality. For preparation of Amritpani, cow dung, cow ghee, honey and water are mostly used. The quantity of these materials required for Amritpani preparation has been mentioned in Table 1. The average contents of nutrients present in Amritpani is 1.68% nitrogen, 0.33% phosphorus and 0.24% potassium (Vala and Chavda, 2021). However, nutrient contents of the organic formulation are highly variable depending on the quality of the raw materials used. Anandan et al., (2016) evaluated physio-chemical properties as well as microbial population of five organic formulations (Panchagavya, Sanjivani, Amritpani, Jeevamrutha, Kunapajola) which are shown in Table 2 and Fig 1, respectively. Their study confirmed that like the other organic formulations, Amritpani is also rich in primary, secondary as well as micro nutrients, growth promoting hormones and beneficial micro-organisms.

Table 1: Ingredients/materials used for Amritpani preparation (Shekh et al., 2018).

Table 2: Physio-chemical properties of different organic formulations including Amritpani.

Fig 1: Distribution of micro-organisms in different organic formulations including Amritpani (Anandan et al., 2016).

Amritpani can be prepared using the following steps:
• Firstly, fresh cow dung and honey or jaggery should be thoroughly mixed to make a creamy paste.
• Then, cow ghee is added to it and mixed properly.
• The mixture is finally poured into 200 litres of water and stirred well for achieving uniform suspension. Mouth of the container should be covered with cloth.
• Within 7-10 days, Amritpani is ready to be used.
• Regularly, it should be stirred 2-3 times clockwise and anti-clockwise to prevent precipitation of suspended materials.

Sometimes, Amritpani consists of some bio-pesticidal properties along with improving soil health and thereby, improves crop growth and yield. In this regard, it is noted that preparation of Amritpani is very often modified as per the its use. Raskar et al., (2014) have suggested modified Amritpani preparation which requires 1 kg fresh cow dung, 1 litre fresh cow urine, 1 kg green neem leaves, 1 kg pulse flour, 100 g jaggery and 10 litres water. Cow dung contains various nutrients. Pulse flour and jaggery are used as fermenting agents, while cow urine and neem leaves are used to add pesticidal properties in the end product (Amritpani). The preparation process of modified Amritpani has been mentioned here under.

In a plastic bucket of 15 litres capacity, all the ingredients are to mixed thoroughly with wooden stick and mouth of bucket should be covered with lid and kept under shade for 7-10 days. Every day, at 2 intervals, materials should be stirred clockwise and anticlockwise. After 10 days, Amritpani should be filtered through cotton cloth before use.
Application of Amritpani
Amritpani can be applied directly into soil or it can be applied as foliar spray (Deshpandey, 2003). It can also be used as a seed treatment material. For direct soil application, 200 litres of Amritpani is recommended for one-acre area which can applied directly or with surface irrigation methods. If required, second application can be made 30 days after first one in between the two plant rows directly to soil or with irrigation water. In many places, before application of Amritpani, virgin soil (15 kg/acre) collected from the rhizosphere zone of banyan tree is applied over the field as the collected soil is considered to contain high microbial population (Solanki et al., 2015). For seed treatment, seeds or planting materials should be soaked in Amritpani and dried under shade prior to sowing/planting. If the seed contains hard seed coat, before treating with Amritpani, it should be soaked in cow urine for 12 hours. For vegetables, root dipping in Amritpani can be done prior to transplanting of seedlings.
Benefits of Amritpani use in agriculture
Amritpani improves crop growth, yield and quality. It can be applied to the crop field solely or in combination with other organic nutrient formulations. Sakubai et al., (2014) used mycorrhiza and organic formulations viz., Panchagavya and Amritpani to buckwheat field and reported that Amritpani improved crop response when applied with VAM and Panchagavya (Table 3). The favourable response of crops to Amritpani is speculated due to its high nutritional properties and positive influence on soil micro-flora and fauna (Yadav and Mowade, 2004).

Table 3: Impact of Amritpani application on performance of different crops.

Apart from improving the nutritional status of the soil, Amritpani is known to have bio-pesticidal properties. Raskar and Wani (2014) in their study, noticed that application of Amritpani reduced pest problems in rice and thereby, improved growth and yield of the crop (Table 3). Ram et al., (2020) assessed the anti-microbial properties of Amritpani, cow pat pit, Jeevamrita and panchagavya against pathogens Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, Fusarium solani and Aspergillus fumigatus through plate assay method and reported that the growth of these pathogens under the bio-enhancers were relatively less or nil as compared to the control (Table 4). In resonance with earlier findings by Swain et al., (2008) and Waziri and Suleiman (2013), they concluded that presence of cow dung containing various beneficial microorganisms might be the reason for controlling many diseases of crops through bio-enhancers.

Table 4: Growth of pathogens against various organic formulations and their comparisons with control.

Amritpani is a good source of beneficial microorganisms which multiply and decompose organic wastes after application to the soil (Anandan et al., 2016). Kate and Pathe (2009) in their study noticed that in Amritpani formulation, there were 1.03 × 106, 1.12 × 105 and < 30 colonies (count/ml) of bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes, respectively. Ram et al., (2018) evaluated microbial population in Amritpani and observed that there was steady increase of bacterial population up to 9th day from start of Amritpani preparation. Fungi, Azotobacter and Azospirillum numbers declined as the days progressed. However, populations of Pseudomonas, Rhizobium, P-solubilizing microorganisms gradually increased. They, further, observed that actinomycetes population decreased from the start of Amritpani preparation up to 6th day and thereafter, enhanced up to 9th day. Ram et al., (2018) also compared microbial population of Amritpani with other organic formulations such as Panchagavya, Jeevamrita, biodynamic liquid pesticides and observed higher populations of actinomycetes, gram negative bacteria and P-solubilizing microorganisms in Amritpani over others.
Various research works confirmed that bio-enhancer Amritpani is rich in different types of nutrients, beneficial micro-organisms, growth promoting hormones, enzymes, vitamins, bio-pesticidal compounds etc. and therefore, has immense potential in organic farming to achieve sustainable quantitative and qualitative agricultural production. Encouragement of soil microbial activity through Amritpani is a vital factor of success of organic farming in many areas. Still, various reasons behind its efficacy or quality attributes lack scientific proof. As most the ITKs are based on the beliefs rather than scientific testing, adequate research is required to confirm the efficacy of the formulations. It has been also observed that research works on Amritpani is relatively scanty as compared to other such bio-enhancers/organic formulations. Therefore, research trials in various locations, agro-climatic situations, on various crops can, further, confirm the performance of Amritpani in commercial agricultural production. Besides, there is a need to identify the most suitable form of Amritpani from its various modifications available in different locations. Use of raw materials and their quantities, time, method and dose of application of end product should also be properly standardised through adequate research works. Finally, strong extension works are required to disseminate knowledge about Amritpani to new areas through awareness campaign, demonstration etc. for better introduction and use of this bio-enhancer which not only can improve the agricultural production but also can ensure environmental safety to a high extent.

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