Previous PageTable of ContentsNext Page

Paper Number 9

Sustainable fertilization management of croplands:
the Philippines scenario*


* This country report has not been formally edited and the designations and terminology used are those of the author.

Rogelio N. Concepcion, Ph.D.
Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Department of Agriculture, Philippines

Summary

Scientists and policy-makers in the Philippine has been conducting self-review to change the paradigm of agriculture from being the production – income oriented where natural resources are exploited primarily for food security and improve yield and income of the small and resource poor vulnerable farmers to sustainable production-human cum-environment health oriented that creates sustainable natural resource use as the national platform that link food and food related production with human safety and environmental wellness.

The four decades of agricultural development in the Philippines is marked by mixed results of policy conflict, lack of continuity in programme implementation, and low public investments in targeted agricultural researches and technology development. During the last 40 years, the major factors of food production such as irrigation, hybrid technology, fertilizers have been in place, and yet, yield of major food and commercial crops have either declined or have reached a yield plateau. These long years of yield stagnation have been caused by excessive soil mining vaused by wide imbalance use of Urea with P and K fertilizers. The imbalance fertilization become one of the major causes of widening human induced soil nutrient deficiencies, notably including P, K, zinc, boron, and lately sulfur in most irrigated lands in the country. The country launched a nationwide organic-based farming with the objectives of sustaining high yields and arrestingsoil degradation and reduce farmers’ dependence on oil-based fertilizers which caused escalation of prices and unafordability of fertilizers by the resource poor small farmers. The programme embarked 20 hectare field techno-demo and proven to sustain yields between 5 to 7 tonnes and over the years has gained advocates among local governments and farming communities.

1. Introduction

The development of the agricultural sector in the Philippines, like in any other country, has been highly dedicated to small farmers, with particular focus on livelihood and general well being. The country’s agricultural systems followed a very distinct policy-driven development characterized by increasing conflict caused by increasing population and inability to relate sustainable development of agriculture with urban and industrial development needs. Agriculture development, despite the advances in production technologies and improved human capacity, was not able to progress to provide strong safety nets and shelter to rural farming communities against the increasing global pressures of marketing competition. The net result is the unmitigated loss of native capacity of soils to sustain nutrient needs of new high yielding plant varieties that are comparatively superior to the traditional plant varieties in extracting plant food from the soil to support their large biomass production. The final impact of inability to provide proper soil nutrition to the modern plant varieties is a creeping soil degradation that reduces the overall capacity of the Philippines to meet growing food demands from high population growth rate.

Paradigm shift in agriculture

Agriculture of today and of the future must conduct a self-review to change the paradigm of agriculture from being the production – income oriented where natural resources are exploited primarily for food security and improve yield and income of the small and resource poor vulnerable farmers to sustainable production-human cum-environment health oriented that creates sustainable natural resource use as the national platform that link food and food related production with human safety and environmental wellness.

The call for sustainable agriculture is the strategic step to ensure that lands for food and food-related production must be available with unchanged productive capacity for use by future generations. Agriculture development must be designed to provide multiple benefits to multiple users. It must harmonize food production with nature and ensure food safety and environmental wellness. Sustainable agricultural technology development must have social responsibility that link food and food related production with community welfare and environmental soundness.

The drivers of unsustainability of agriculture: Quick solutions, short-term social and ecological benefits

As human pressure aggravated resource use conflict, most policy-makers chose an easier but short-term benefits to alleviate the growing threats of food insecurity. As strategic lands for advance agriculture systems are being becoming more attractive locations for more lucrative high revenue land uses, urban and industries, the technologies for agriculture were basically biased for technologies that increase outputs per unit area which have equivalent trade-offs often associated with higher social costs to the society and to the government. The first of this kind of decision is the creation large irrigation systems, a capital intensive which in most cases not design to manage and protect the adjoining human and natural environment. The net result is dislocation of resourcepoor communities, their migration in to the urban areas to become part of urban blight, and the massive flooding during the monsoon season. The upstream impact is the disturbance of the watershed bio-diversity and a change in the overall micro-ecosystem in the flooded portion of the dam sites. The second major option after the inability to sustain the first option due to lack of capital is the development of hybrids and high yielding varieties (HYV’s) to increase the output per unit farm area. This however, is not often paired with Integrated Nutrient Management, where the massive withdrawal of soil nutrients by the HYVs is not adequately addressed. This provides short-term benefits with high social and environmental costs. The silent process of soil; fertility decline is called as soil mining, the primary cause of desertification that now cause food shortage in many arid and semi-arid regions. The third option is the Urea-based fertilizer packages which is now the major reason for the serious nutrient use imbalance in the Philippines and most Asian and Pacific countries. This problem is recorded and shown by the rapid increases in importation of nitrogenous fertilizers mostly in the form of Urea and Ammonium Sulfate. The Philippine has reached a serious imbalance ratio of nitrogen to phosphorous at the rate of 6 to 9 units of N to every unit of phosphorous (Concepcion, 2001) over time, this imbalance use of N and P lead to silent soil degradation and the condition for another set of soil anomaly, the increasing areas suffering from zinc and sulfur deficiencies. The net impact of this imbalanced soil and plant nutrition is the creation of cascading domino – effects on the fertilization induced nutrient deficiencies starting from problem of decline of P and K availability and later on extending to proliferation of micronutrient deficiencies, i.e., Zn, Cu and B, and even S.

Evolution of ecological convergence with Philippine agricultural development

The four decades of agricultural development in the Philippines is marked by mixed results of policy conflict, lack of continuity in programme implementation, and low public investments in targeted agricultural researches and technology development. Just like elsewhere in Asia and ASEAN countries, the early years (early 60’s) was a dedicated forestry development programme with focus on wood and wood products as economic resources that support fundamental development needs of the country. Until finally in the recent years, there is a shift in natural resource management from forestry development (wood production) to watershed development where the center of economic wealth cause a paradigm shift from wood production to production and protection water resources. The current watershed development paradigm put water management as the ultimate wealth that must properly shared between food production and urban and industrial development needs.

Table 1 is constructed to provide synthesis of the various lessons learned from four decades of managing the convergence of agriculture and natural resources for economic and social development in the Philippines. It will be noted that for some time, the production function of agriculture was overemphasized to the point of being unmindful of the consequences of farming activities on the natural resources (e.g. soil mining), environment and human health and safety. In recent years, sustainability of natural resources, conservation and protection of the environment and provision of safe food have already been important considerations in agricultural undertakings. During the last 40 years, the major factors of food production such as irrigation, hybrid technology, fertilizers have been in place, and yet, yield of major food and commercial crops have either declined or have reached a yield plateau (Concepcion, 2001). Specifically, data from the country’s national agricultural statistics office have shown that the national average on a hectare basis for rice is barely above 3.0 tonnes, while for white and yellow corn, the yields were 1.0 to 1.5 tonnes, and 1.5 to 2.5 tonnes, respectively (Concepcion, 2001). These yields were considered very low relative to the potential yield of these crops vis-à-vis their high yielding varieties, and despite the employment of optimum agronomic management.

Table 1. Significant Events in Natural Resource Use and Agricultural Development in the Philippines shift from Forestry Development (Wood as source of income) to Watershed Development (Water as sources of sustainability and common development resource)

Pre-1960s

Era of traditional extensive agriculture; helthy watershed; low population density; many intact natural forest trees (high bio-diversity)

1961-1980

Decade of policy conflict on natural resource management and infrastructure development (Forestry Management Concept)

  • Massive construction of dams for irrigation systems for power and domestic uses (almost all prime irrigable lands provided with irrigation system at the end of the decade)
  • Massive watershed deforestation (logging) for the generation of cash resources
1981-1990

Decade of environmental degradation characterized by:

  • Massive soil degradation in the lowlands caused by the excessive use of Urea resulting into unprecedented soil mining and human-induced micronutrient deficiency, and stagnation of yield of food crops
  • Increase use of marginal lands left behind by logging operations
  • Increase area of idle grasslands replacing natural forests
  • Loss in bio-diversity caused by destruction of natural habitat
1991-1996

Decade of irrational land use conversion to urban development and industrialization (Decade of Watershed Concept of Upland Management)

  • Deterioration of river systems and aquifers
  • Rapid deterioration of irrigation systems established in the last decade
  • Net importation of practically all food products despite the availability of human and natural resources
1997-onwards

Philippine agriculture and environment in transition development and self-review: (Expanding to Integrated Watershed Management Concept)

  • Passage of Agriculture and Fishery Modernization Law which advocate for legal establishment of Strategic Development Zones which fully recognized
    Scarcity of land and financial resources as the major constraint to modernizing agriculture and fishery sectors
    Switch to planning focus on non-agri-based livelihood option for marginalized communities
  • Cost-reduction and environment-friendly government soil fertilization programmes were implemented nationwide

In the study conducted by the author for the FAO on plant nutrition in the Philippines, it was very clear that the incremental value of micronutrients, zinc for paddy rice, has been overlooked and this resulted in the low yields in the entire decade of 1970-1980, the period where the country has dedicated so much targeted investments on irrigation facilities, high yielding varieties and a year-to-year dedicated national rice and corn production programme.

This paper is therefore prepared to share our experiences from 1997 to this current year and our plans onwards in developing advocacy in sustainable fertilization strategy for plant productivity improvement through massive and extensive large scale techno-demonstration of organic-based farming.

2. Soil nutrient status as explained by natural and human-induced factors

2.1 Naturally-occurring nutrient disorders

The soil variability that characterized soil ecosystem of an archipelagic landscape of the Philippines cannot be ignored and have, in fact, poised a major challenge and opportunity in managing natural soil fertility and sustaining soil productivity.

A case in point is the increasing areas of salinity due to excessive extraction of shallow ground aquifer and the use of saline affected irrigation water. The combined studies conducted by BSWM and Philippine Rice Research Institute or PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) clearly indicated the negative pervasive effects of the use salt affected soils on rice yields and soil quality. Figure 1 showed the case of salt-intrusion leading to soil chemical degradation of a rice field involving complex soil chemical interactive reactions or processes such as sulfate-iron reduction which lead to acid-sulfate soils formation.

The expansion of rice cultivation in coastal areas is a result of loss of prime lands from land use conversion which is rampant and uncontrolled in the country.

On the other hand, the acid upland soils are naturally-occurring nutrient-starved soils represented by the country’s Ultisols and oxisols. For years, the drive for increased agricultural production, have made these lands marginalized (Figure 2), which to be useful needs careful and well planned physical and chemical rehabilitation.

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 1. Salt-intruded coastal rice soils in Saranggani Province, in Mindanao Island, the Philippines (Babiera, 2001)

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 2. The acid-uplands intensively grown to corn in Eastern Isabela in Luzon Island, the Philippines ( DA-CVIARC-PhilRice, 2004)

Some of the soil infertility attributed to nutrient deficiency is geologically controlled. Many agricultural lands in the country, especially the small islands, are developed from limestone, where crop production is limited by poor soil phosphorus unavailability and deficiency in zinc. The naturally occurring trace element deficiencies more prominently zinc, copper and boron among others, can be found within the vast expanse of the rice growing areas in the country. Zinc and boron deficiencies were initially attributed to the alkalinization of the soil reaction (increasing pH of thesoil solution), and the formation of bicarbonates. However, very recent results of investigations have indicated that the said deficiencies were the results of calcium-magnesium negative interactions with zinc, boron, and phosphorus as well in the soil solution. The said phenomenon was due to the underlying or defining mountain limestone parent materials, wherein as a result of the geo-chemical process of dissolution, have released Ca2+, Mg2+ ions into the solution over space and time.

Another case of nutrient anomaly is shown in high organic volcanic soils located in many soil sites in sporadically located across the country (Figure 3). In this particular case, copper is the problem but unknown to all farmers and have not looked into by researchers. Copper (Cu2+), when available in appropriate concentrations is critical element for grain filling and rice quality. Figure 4 illustrates the positive correlation between increasing organic matter content and zinc-phosphorus concentration, while a negative correlation was noted with organic matter and copper concentration within the soil solution.

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 3. High organic matter soils of Lanao del Norte province within the volcanic region of southwestern Mindanao, the Philippines (BSWM-PhilRice, 2001) 

2.2 Human-induced plant nutrient disorders

The unmitigated deforestation of the country’s remaining primary forests, and the continuing use of its log-over areas by subsistence upland farmers for slash and burn farming system to produce food and fiber, have resulted in sporadically, but wide-spread, network of degraded uplands (Figure 5). The development of irrigation systems in denuded watersheds, while providing for food production is likewise causing water stagnation and prolonged seasonal flooding, a condition that create favourable condition for an induced seasonal zinc deficiency, a problem that limit yields of high yielding varieties in the country.

The slash and burn farming practice, aside from being the major cause of run off erosion because of stripping soil of its surface cover, enhances the loss of vital soil nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and to certain extent some basic trace elements.

In the pursuit for increased production of specific food types such as those shown in Figures 6 and 7, monoculture is being practiced even in relatively fertile but fragile upland soils, where balance soil nutrition and sustainable agronomic farm practices are needed. Moreover, long years of continued mono-cropping of corn and pineapple has been observed in the uplands of the province of Cavite, where there is an increase requirement of chemical fertilizer use from 3 bags per hectare to almost 15 bags per hectare for the same area and same crop with almost having similar production output. In these farming areas, the most common limiting micronutrients are zinc and boron. The latter micronutrient is very evident in its impact o the quality of papaya, one of the most important cash crops in the province.

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 4. Correlation between organic matter and copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), and phosphorus (P) in volcanic soils (BSWM-PhilRice, 2001)

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 5. A human-induced nutrient depletion/mining of marginal upland soils through slash and burn (kaingin) agriculture in the country

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 6. A predominantly corn field with coconut and banana patches

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 7. A pineapple field in the acid uplands of Cavite in the Philippines

The massive and misuse of inorganic fertilizers in most upland soils in the country is a major form of unsustainable fertilization practice which is now a major factor in inducing soil infertility in many parts of the country. The classical examples of these malpractices are the commercial sugarcane and banana. The sugarcane farmers use huge amounts of lime and Urea while the banana planters use huge and increasing amounts of Muriate of Potash. The sugarcane farms developed lime layer in the subsoil and has been suffering from phosphorous deficiency due to unavailability while banana farms suffer from excessive potash which apparently create a classical case of imbalance ratio of K and magnesium.

3. Trends in oil-based chemical fertilizer use

In the 1960s, the phenomenon called Green Revolution was introduced to feed the booming world population of that time. It has been praised for significantly increasing cereal yields using conventional varieties and increased oil-based chemical inputs, fertilizers, including insecticides/ pesticides.

In earlier agricultural plant nutrition programmes in the country, the consideration for the judicious use and proper nutrient balance was not given much consideration, even by the country’s leading local and international scientists. It is very evident that farmers, while very much aware of the importance of new plant varieties, was not properly guided in the use of fertilizers appropriate to plant individuals (HYV’s) and the type of soils they are being grown. Figure 9 indicate success of the national government in encouraging farmers to perform national function to support national food security by using more fertilizers. Unfortunately, Figure 9 suggested that farmers favoured Urea and is used without consideration for using it together with the right amounts of P and K as needed by their soil to sustain high biomass production of the HYV plant varieties. This can be partly explained by the facts that Urea gives good green color to the plants and these effects on the plants are visible and easily seen by the farmers.

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 9. Tonnes nutrient elements (NPK) usage in the Philippines

On one hand, data for the yearly average fertilizer usage by fertilizer grade for rice, on a hectare basis for the period covering 1988-1991 are shown in Figure 10 while annual fertilizer usage per hectare, by fertilizer grade for corn, for the period covering 1988-1997 is shown in Figure 11. Apparently, Figures 10 and 11, has illustrated the significant preference for fertilizer nitrogen specifically sourced from Urea, over the rest of the fertilizer grades used in both irrigated and upland farmlands in the country.

Over the next decades, Filipino farmers have generally preferred Urea because of their greening effects on plants without them, since nobody provided them with proper information, knowing that the use of Urea alone results in soil mining. This is, in spite, of the presence of various inorganic and organic fertilizers sold in the market (Tables 2, 3 and 4) and increasing prices of the inputs (Table 5). Later on, soil analysis conducted between 1970 and 1990 revealed that there is an increasing number of plant nutrients required to sustain plant growth (Table 6).

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 10. Average annual fertilizer usage per hectare for rice by fertilizer grade in the Philippines

  Table 2. Types of inorganic fertilizers locally produced and imported (Concepcion, 2000)

Locally produced

Grade

Import

Grade

Ammonium Sulphate

21-0-0 Urea

46-0-0

Triplesuperphosphate

0-46-0

Calcium Ammonium Nitrate

27-0-0

Superphosphate 0-20-0

Ammonium Chloride

25-0-0

Single Superphosphate

0-18-0

Ammonium Sulphate

21-0-0

Sulphate of Potash

0-0-52  

15.5-0-0

Diammonium Phosphate

18-46-0

Triplesuperphosphate

0-46-0

Ammonium Phosphate

16-20-0

Single Superphosphate

0-18-0

NPK 15-15-15

Muriate of Potash

0-0-60

  14-14-14

Sulphate of Potash

0-0-52

  12-12-12 NP

20-20-0

  6-10-4  

11-52-0

  6-9-15

Diammonium Phosphate

18-46-0

   

Ammonium Phosphate

16-20-0

    NK

17-0-17

    NPK

16-16-16

     

14-14-14

     

20-20-20

     

6-9-15

    Zinc Sulphate

ZnSO4

     

KNO3

   

Magnesium Sulfate

MgSO4

     

NaNO3

     

NH4NO3

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 11. Average annual fertilizer usage per hectare for corn by fertilizer grade in the Philippines

 Table 3. Organic fertilizer supply and demand in metric tonnes

Year

Production

Sales

Year

Production

Sales

1991 43 052 15 828 1998

16 893

15 684

1992 73 212 17 138 1999

 8 951

9 764

1993   7 647   5 973 2000

12 108

11 961

1994 12 458 11 070 2001

6 969

6 770

1995 21 769 28 090 2002

21 160

1 914

1996 14 754 12 734 2003

2 758

3 522

1997 11 651 12 102 2004

19 389

16 253

Table 4. Fertilizer supply and demand statistics Philippines, 1995-1999 (Volume in metric tonnes)

Year

Production

Imports

Supply*

Sales

Exports

1995 1 389 770 1 237 575 2 627 345 1 472 250 717 578
1996 1 607 436 1 207 867 2 815 303 1 637 150 528 133
1997 1 321 898 1 246 106 2 568 004 2 038 232 456 636
1998 1 181 271 787 354 1 968 625 1 544 855 438 804
1999 1 167 707 1 222 353 2 390 060 1 864 134 200 295

* Constitutes local production and imports only.

Table 5. Inorganic fertilizer average retail prices, Cy 1991-2001 Major fertilizer grades’ (Phil. Peso per  50 kg bag)

Year

Urea

21-0-0

16-20-0

18-46-0

14-14-14

0-0-60

1991 346.34 172.28 352.54 442.85 358.63 309.77
1992 292.98 170.80 335.07 409.17 339.31 282.33
1993 252.29 177.57 301.92 367.02 307.07 264.82
1994 281.17 193.01 312.24 371.18 316.15 251.87
1995 368.93 212.93 316.54 396.40 322.61 259.32
1996 378.05 217.16 325.97 409.21 332.78 279.83
1997 345.54 224.82 334.46 424.26 348.31 245.40
1998 365.64 239.03 385.89 468.13 390.59 340.72
1999 313.65 227.41 398.00 507.27 403.97 357.68
2000 365.43 231.87 398.87 515.57 402.72 379.23
2001 439.98 272.24 413.89 552.08 426.87 434.70

Source: Reports from FPA Regional/Provincial Officers NRG/WNO/age – 03.31.2002.

Table 6. Trend in fertility decline

1960-1970

Nitrogen fertilizer is generally required

1970-1980

Nitrogen plus phosphorus are generally required

1980-1990

Nitrogen, phosphorus plus potassium, including micronutrients (Zn) are generally required in rice and Mg in corn

4. Effects of nutrient imbalances

The widespread use of Urea alone has worked for sometime time, but then after long years of overuse of Urea, it was observed that yield plateaus (when yields hit the 3.0 tonnes/ha) even for the high yielding varieties have occurred. In a study made by the BSWM, it was found out that the major cause of yield plateau was the misuse of fertilizers. Specifically, in irrigated rice land, the excessive and imbalance use of nitrogen sourced from Urea, relative to phosphorus, was graphically shown in Figure 12 (Concepcion, 2001).

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 12. The relative imbalance use or ratio of nitrogen sourced from Urea to phosphorus as P2O5 use in the Philippines. (Concepcion, 2001)

Under such situation, soil mining of nutrient elements other than nitrogen, such as the trace elements mainly caused by the crop’s (rice and corn) ability to extract higher quantity of these elements far higher than the crop needs. This particular process has led further not only to nutrient depletion, but also to nutrient imbalances, which can be summarily known as soil chemical degradation affecting the overall soil productivity (Concepcion, 2001). This is particularly the case in nitrogen (Urea)-driven intensive rice monoculture, which is evident in old irrigation systems in the country. Soils laboratory data during the 1970-1980 periods have indicated, that the general requirement for optimum rice growth is nitrogen, with few areas requiring approximately 20 kg/ha of phosphorus as P2O5. It was however noted that between the periods 1980-1990 an increased requirement for phosphorus, potash, and micronutrients such as zinc and boron in almost all irrigated lands. It was also during the said period that sulfur deficiency started to appear and became significant, especially in farmlands with inefficient irrigation system.

The same observation was reported by De Datta (1983), wherein an application of 174 kg/ha of N resulted to an increase of 2.9 times more than the existing highest yield of rice, but not without a consequence of increased removal of phosphorus, potash, and sulfur by a factor of 2.6, 3.7, and 4.0, respectively.

5. Evolution of soil fertility and plant nutrition programme in the Philippines

The Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, has implemented various programmes to address concerns on soil fertility and plant nutrition not only to maximize crop yields but also to produce/maintain healthy soils and reuce production cost. Because of the need to fast track the dissemination of information and knowledge about organic-based fertilization, the BSWM implemented nationwide network of large scale techno-demo composed of selected clustered farms of advance farming communities with larger objective of creating models for farm-based technology development, sharing and farmer-farmer extension approaches. Each set of techno-demo is a 20 hectare farm composed of 12-25 farmers working together to share their own experiences and knowledge and have agreed to share common platform and common good for better livelihood and social development.

The preference for advance farmer innovators is driven by the needs to effectively deliver the information to the farmers as wide as often. The natural evolution of the organic-based fertilization is driven by the following events which to the farmers are part of their own survival in the current and future globalization where small farmers will be hardly hit and most probably be displaced or surrender their right to participate in nation building.

a. Phase 1: Balanced Fertilization Strategy (BFS) Programme (1997)

Prior to the year 1997, farmers are making demands for new rounds of direct support for fertilization and other land use priorities, for very practical reasons. The current efforts to continue use of chemical based fertilizers is highly threatened by changing patterns of monsoon and the very low capital to buy more expensive inputs. The year 1997, is marked by the upsurge of unbridled increases of oil-based fertilizers causing increase in production cost and the subsequent the loss of gains derived from the use of hybrid rice. A study of historical results of soil analysis during the last decade showed that serious soil fertility depletion has occurred despite the continuous increase in the use of fertilizers. The rate of fertilizer use has almost tripled from 5 bags per hectare during the last five years to 8 to 12 bags of chemical fertilizers per hectare. This increase fertilizer use did not translate to increase yields.

On August 27, 1997, BFS was formally adopted through Presidential Proclamation No. 1071 which provides the legal and institutional basis for the adoption of a science-based organic farming which focused on the use of cost-efficient and location-specific and proper combinations of organic and inorganic fertilizers to sustain the increases in rice productivity. Figure 13 shows the various organic-chemical fertilizer combinations with various level of zinc in zinc-deficient areas. The scheme calls for the site-specific clustering/groupings of fertilizer recommendations, premised on historical data (15 years) of soil test values of lowland rice soils across a spectrum of agro-climatic zones.

IMPROVING PLANT NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FOR
ETTER FARMER LIVELIHOODS, FOOD SECURITY
AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Figure 13. Spatial distribution of the soil fertilizer groups for BFS

The various descriptions of the fertilizer groupings are discussed in the following order of soil and micro-climate ecosystem:

Table 7. Recommended rates of N, P, K, organic fertilizers and zinc for irrigated rice

Fertilizer group

Balanced fertilizer recommendation

N (kg/ha)

P2O5 (kg/ha)

K2O (kg/ha)

Organic fertilizer (bags/ha)

Zinc sulfate (kg/ha)

Wet season

Dry season

Wet season

Dry season

Wet season

Dry season

Wet season

Dry season

FG1 90 115 20

25

20

15

5

6

10

FG2 90 115 25

30

15

0

5

6

5
FG3 90 105 25

25

15

5

5

6

10

FG4 80 85 25

20

15

0

5

6

5
FG5 90 95 25

30

15

0

5

6

10

FG6 125 150 15

20

0

0

5

6

20

FG7 65 90 20

25

20

15

5

6

20

Table 8. National mean yield variation (combining all 7 fertilizer groups)

Area (ha)

Average yield and seasonal variability of all techno-demo
combining fertilizer groups

Wet season

Dry season

Yield (tonne/ha)

Percent CV

Yield (tonne/ha)

Percent CV

0.5 5.69 16.4 5.72

12.7

10 5.45 20.9 6.03

19.2

20 5.25 17.9 5.51

17.0

b. Phase 2: ‘Tipid Abono’ or Optimally Reduced Fertilization Proramme (2004)

The year 2004 saw a sudden increase in all fertilizer attributed to the upsurges of global oil prices which directly impacted on the prices of chemical fertilizers. This threatened this livelihood and incomes of all farmers, particularly the poor farmers farming in vulnerable areas. This gave rise to the reformulation of the BFS fertilizer recommendation to further reduce the fertilizer cost by increasing the portion of organic fertilizers at the rate of 70 percent organic fertilizers and 30 percent chemical fertilizers. Table 9 shows the significant price increases of major fertilizer that make them unaffordable to all farmers in the Philippines.

Prices of fertilizers, especially Urea, are increasing at a rate that cuts the gains (reduced farmer’s income and national rice and corn supply) obtained in the successful implementation of hybrid rice and corn programmes of the government. In many places, poor farmers have to stop using chemical-based fertilizers and this cause loss in plant production and further decline in soil fertility.

The BSWM has reformulated its fertilizer recommendations earlier used by BFS Programme to increase use of organic fertilizers to reduce production cost without sacrificing yield improvement.

The ‘Tipid Abono’ Fertilization Programme is the programme to reduce cost of production of the major food sources in the country, rice and corn. It advocates for a judicious, balanced combination of organic and inorganic fertilizers with a yield target of about 5-7 tonnes per hectare of rice per cropping.

Table 9. Change in fertilizer prices due to global oil crisis

Fertilizer Types

Change in fertilizer price per bag (US$)

Before global oil crisis

During global oil crisis

Urea

8.18-9.36

13.46-16.68; in some
remote places can reached
up to $20.0

Ammo sulfate

4.55-5.09

6.55-8.91

16-20-0

7.64-8.19

11.73-14.46

14-14-14

7.33-8.19

11.82-12.46

Table 10. Comparison of yields of tipid abono and pure inorganic fertilizers

Fertilization
technology

Average yield of 25 demonstration sites of
20 hectares each

Tipid Abono (mixtures of organic and inorganic fertilizers)

6.63 tonnes /ha

Best hybrid seeds adopters (pure chemical fertilizers)

4.61 tonnes per ha

Difference 2.02 tonnes/ha

The results of recent large scale “Tipid Abono” techno demo for 2004-2005 dry seasons in various key hybrid rice producing areas showed the difference in yield between the combined organic and inorganic fertilizers under the Tipid Abono and that of the best farmer adopters (Table 10).

c. Phase 3: Mainstreaming the Organic-Based Agriculture Development Programme, called ‘Agri-Kalikasan’ or “Nature Farming” (2005)

The Philippine government, for the first time, is implementing a nationwide programme called “Agri-Kalikasan”, an Organic-based Agriculture Development Programme which aims to ensure the long-term capacity o the natural resources base to sustain the economic, social and environmental services of the various agricultural lands of the country. The budget for this project is initially supported by Japanese government and National Agriculture and Food Council (NAFC) by putting the grant money into the BSWM budget. It promotes judicious use and proper mixtures of organic and inorganic fertilizers for use in specific soil and climate conditions to ensure the sustainability of high yields over long periods without losing land productivity anytime in the future. Chemical inputs are still used in this kind of farming system but in very minimal amounts. Further, it advocates for the proper use and application of organic fertilizers, ameliorants and processed biological organisms and materials that enhance atmospheric nitrogen capture and collection (e.g. Bio-N) appropriate to crop needs as well as in conformity with the specific variations of soil and climate conditions in the areas.

One of the key costs reducing plant nutrition approach is the paddy rice composting. This effort, which will reduce burning of rice straw and also contribute to reduction of air pollution, is now on its second year. The paddy rice composting is done with the use of Compost Fungus Activator (Trichoderma) which allowed decomposition of rice straw waste right in the paddy field within 28 days which is much faster than the normal rice straw decomposition of 60 to 75 days. This effort frees the extra labour of the small farmers for use in other economic, non-farm activities to augment their daily income. The initial results showed that a 10 tonne rice straw obtained resulted in 6.5 tonnes per hectare yield of rice with no need to add any chemical fertilizers. In some places, only one to two Urea may also be required. The timing for Urea application is guided by the use of leaf color chart developed by the Philrice.

The Programme’s benefits target the following recipients: farmers, households, organic fertilizer industry and environment. The Programme will reduce production costs and consequently increase farmer’s income through lesser dependence on inorganic fertilizers whose prices have become too expensive for farmers. It will also provide livelihood opportunities to farming communities through activities such as contract farm wastes composting and mushroom production. On the other end of the food system spectrum are the Filipino households who deserve affordable and safe agricultural products but due to the production system’s strong dependence on external inputs and very low regard on the hidden potential of farm wastes has resulted not only to high cost of farm products but also to unsafe food products not fit for human consumption. The Programme will also boost the development of the organic fertilizer industry through promotion of its products and creation of strong linkage between the farmers and the organic fertilizer producers. Further, the problem on excessive and long-term use of inorganic fertilizers, which resulted to negative environmental effects such as decrease in soil productivity, groundwater pollution due to leaching of nitrate and degradation of water sources, will now be addressed.

Programme scope

A. Market Niche-driven Pure Organic Farming

Encourage the expansion of alternative pure organic upland and rainfed farming technology, a low external input system that develop special organic products that conform with the Philippine National Standards for Organic Agriculture

B. Balanced and Judicious Organic-based Farming

The technology interventions using balance and judicious use of organic and inorganic fertilizers to meet national obligation to attain sufficiency in food and feed grains in a long-term cost-efficient and sustainable regime.

Programme components

The Organic-based Agriculture Development Programe has two major (2)-programme components and three (3) crosscutting programmes that will support the implementation of the major programme components.

1. Municipal Level Component Programmes for site specific plant nutrition programmes

2. Provincial Level Integrated Programme (Synthesized from results of municipal demonstrations)

3. Crosscutting Programmes

6. Future directions for regional collaboration

The archipelagic nature of the country basically provides a natural laboratory for understanding the dynamics of variability of soil fertility and nutrition of its agricultural landscapes. In this landscape setting, soil fertility for crop improvement of small farmers is defined by the integration of the productivity factors of land and water.

Plant nutrition improvement would require understanding of the optimum plant ecosystem which therefore mean putting together the understanding about the soils, micro-climate, landscape or a simple production paradigm of “planting the right crop at the right location”

The forum today here in Beijing provide us the opportunity to work together from the distance by developing Collaborative Network of Ecosystem-based Plant Nutrition Programme in Advance Farming Community performing farmer to farmer exchanges of knowledge and lessons learned an unlearned as basis for their best practices for sustainable plant nutrition.

The Philippines for its part has developed the organic-based sustainable fertilization programme that incorporates the following success factors for replication and effective medium for a farmer-to-farmer transfer of knowledge and best practices:

  1. An ecosystem-based ensuring that each demonstration is composed of cluster of farms with similar land, water and micro-climate conditions that control plant response to farm inputs;
  2. Preferably done in advance farming communities, where farmer-to-farmer exchange of knowledge can be established and will therefore serve as a useful medium for a community- based transfer practical knowledge and lessons learned and unlearned during the conduct of techno-demonstration for improved plant nutrition;
  3. An organic-based plant nutrition programme that focus on the incremental role of micronutrients in yield improvement to support food security and livelihood of individual farmers in rural poor and vulnerable areas;
  4. Creation o pool of scientific and farmer-based knowledge to link livelihood opportunity to all and every rural development interventions for the promotion of organic-based farming;
  5. A collaborative multi-institutional programme that strengthens operational and scientific knowledge on micro-biological focus for organic farming through national and global review of lessons learned and best practices and understanding on:

References

Babiera, Victorcito. 2001. Report on Soil Health of PhilRice Experimental Areas.

BSWM-PhilRice, 2001. Report on Characterization of Major Riceland Areas.

Concepcion, Rogelio. 2000. State of Land, Water and Plant Nutrition Resources: Philippine National Report. Paper presented during the Regional Workshop on Land Resources Information System. January 25-27, 2000.

Concepcion, Rogelio. 2001. Precision Soil and Plant Nutrition Management. Issues in the Management of Agricultural Resources. FFTC Book 2001.

DA-CVIARC-PhilRice, 2004. Field Testing of the NuMASS in Acid Upland Areas of Isabela Province. Paper presented during the CMRSP Workshop. January 25-26, 2005.

De Datta, Surajit. 1983. Nitrogen Economy of Flooded Rice Soils: Proceedings of a Symposium on the Nitrogen Economy of Flooded Rice Soils. Washington, DC.

Previous PageTop of PageNext Page