Philippine agriculture is being hit on multiple fronts amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
One of them is the shortage and soaring prices of fertilizers caused by the increase in oil prices and because 40% of the world’s fertilizer needs come from the two countries and from a third, Belarus, which has stopped supplying fertilizer to the rest of the world.
Prices of chemical fertilizers in the country have more than doubled since last year and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has reminded the agricultural sector of the full range of biofertilizers that its National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Biotech ) has developed and promoted over the years.
These fertilizers will greatly help the agricultural sector in this time of urgent need for the commodity.
Bio N biofertilizer for rice, corn, vegetables
One of them is the microbial-based Bio N biofertilizer that Dr. Mercedes Umali-Garcia of UPLB-Biotech developed nearly 40 years ago.
Bio N helps rice, corn and vegetable growers increase yield while maintaining soil health.
A microbial inoculant, Bio N converts atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can easily use. It contains nitrogen fixing bacteria Azospiril transported in soil and charcoal.
It improves the plant’s root system, stimulates nutrient uptake, provides resistance to pests and diseases, and improves soil conditions.
Bio N users report improved grain quality and increased yield. The use of Bio N also reduces production costs.
A greengrocer from Isabela, Ricky Mabunga, explained how he was able to save on the cost of inputs when he started using Bio N.
In a recent interview, Mabunga said that replacing two bags of urea (50% of the average recommendation per hectare) which cost P5,200 with the recommended five to six sachets of Bio N per hectare which cost between P500 and 600 P translates to over P4,500 in savings.
Broadcast of Bio N
Bio N is currently produced in both concentrated form and ready-to-use packs at Biotech. It is also manufactured and distributed by 17 blending plants established nationwide by the UPLB and the Ministry of Agriculture in 2004 under the National Food Authority’s Maize Development Program and the GMA Maize Program.
The establishment of the blending plants aimed to produce Bio N in areas accessible to farmers as part of the national effort to improve rice and maize productivity, generate income and employment, and transform the marginal areas into self-sufficient farming communities.
The operating staff of the Bio N mixing plants have been trained by the Biotech team, led by university researcher and Bio N project manager Julieta A. Anarna.
In May, Biotech provided 1,000 Bio N concentrates (equivalent to 20,000 ready-to-use Bio N sachets) to Ilagan Soil Laboratory Regional Field Office II, which established and operates the mixture of Bio N in Ilagan, Isabela.
Expand to more distribution and R&D channels
The UPLB continues to find ways to ensure that biofertilizer reaches Filipino farmers.
On May 23, UPLB signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) with DA Regional Office III for the supply and delivery of 10,000 packs of Bio N for Region III.
The University also pursues continuous research and development (R&D) on biofertilizers. The UPLB, through Biotech, entered into an mMemorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DA on March 22.
The MoU entitled “Continuing Biotechnology Inputs to Support the Intensified National Food Production Programs” stipulates areas of collaboration in R&D, capacity building and scaling up of Bio N and other biofertilizers and biotechnology technologies .
The Institute continued its dialogue with key stakeholders for the improvement of production and distribution of Bio N in a meeting held on May 10 with Dr. Leocadio S. Sebastian, DA Undersecretary and Head of cabinet; Dr. Emil Q. Javier, National Scientist and Founding Director of Biotechnology; Dr. John C. De Leon, executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute; and members of the private sector.
Bio N project manager Anarna attributes the success of Bio N dissemination to government support and staff dedication in the production and dissemination of the biofertilizer.
Picture credits: UPLB OPR