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Fertilizer being tailored to rice-growing locations

THE Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said it is developing location-specific fertilizer for rice farmers to make their operations more cost-effective at a time of high input costs.

“Farmers’ resources have now become more limited because of high fertilizer costs. Meanwhile, current practices show that if farmers continue to apply fertilizers that are not appropriate to crop needs, their resources are wasted, and yields can be sacrificed. We want to help them address that,” PhilRice Deputy Director Flordeliza H. Bordey said in a statement.

The project is funded by the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund Seed and Extension programs.

According to PhilRice, some mineral nutrients have limited availability in soil and must be supplemented with fertilizer application.

“Too little application will lead to suboptimal yields while excessive application is costly and can lead to soil and water pollution. Thus, (there is a) need to determine the amount of mineral nutrients available and lacking in the soil,” PhilRice said.

The agency said it started conducting a soil analysis of farmers’ fields through the use of the Minus-One Element Technique (MOET) kit.

MOET identifies deficient macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and micronutrients including sulfur, zinc, and copper in field conditions. It helps determine appropriate nutrients, amounts, and timing of fertilizer application needed by the crop.

“We have processed the recommendations from the first batch of the MOET setups and are getting ready to cascade these to the target areas. We are collaborating with our partner-local government units (LGUs) to ensure that the recommendations reach the farmers, which we hope they will adopt,” Ms. Bordey added.

The project is expected to complete generating specific recommendations for 512 municipalities by the end of 2023.

“Crops require both macro and micronutrients for better growth and development. Some of it can be sourced from the environment. The rest are deficiencies that can be supplemented by fertilizers,” PhilRice nutrient management expert Ailon Oliver V. Capistrano said.

He said that the common method of assessing the needs of the rice crop is to observe the plants’ physical appearance.

“When crops turn yellowish, some farmers would usually apply urea. However, the practice may not always address the soil or the crop’s specific needs,” he said.

“Common fertilizer grades that farmers use like urea and 14-14-14 provide the macronutrients needed by the crop. These include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). While NPKs are generally important for crop growth, there are also micronutrients such as copper, zinc, and sulfur that are necessary because they affect the soil and the plant’s capacity to absorb NPK. Thus, micronutrient deficiencies must be addressed first,” he added.

Ms. Bordey urged local government units (LGUs) to help disseminate fertilizer recommendations to farmers.

“We would also like to encourage partner-LGUs to implement programs that complement our advocacy on proper nutrient management such as providing the required fertilizers,” she added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson