Nanotechnology (nanotech) is revolutionizing farming, requiring a critical study on ultra-small-scale materials. “Nano” means “one billionth.”
Nanotech can set the standards for fertilizers, pesticides, and other agri supplies that contain agrochemicals. DA-PhilRice scientists and researchers are now navigating into nanotech by conducting a “fertilizer derby” experiment led by Dr. Leylani Juliano, chief science research specialist (SRS). A certain nano fertilizer is also being jointly developed with the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), with Dr. Marissa Romero, DA-PhilRice chief SRS leading. On the other hand, Dr. Jacqueline Bagunu, senior professor researcher at the Pampanga State Agricultural University (PSAU), is likewise into deeply experimenting on the potentials of Zeolite Nanoparticles Infused botanical pesticides.
At the epicenter of rice research is “Fertilizer Derby: Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita Challenge,” a project that supports the “FoodSecure Philippines” Program in making our farmers profitable. “This demonstration trial means that together, we want to evaluate the type of results that each participant (product) considers as reasonable and ultimately successful, under the conditions that currently exist in the local area or region,” Juliano said.
“This initiative also aims to provide opportunities for all players in the rice sector to show what can be done to improve yield toward a rice-secure country and to evaluate fertilizers and related products registered for use in rice production by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA). The derby is at DA-PhilRice stations in Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Batac, Negros, Agusan, and Midsayap,” Juliano added.
“We are now processing the nutrient management information of those who have completed the four seasons to determine the best package. At the end of 2022, we will have more participants who will complete 1-3 seasons of field evaluation with the information of their products analyzed,” Juliano revealed.
“With the Fertilizer Derby project, we hope to package the best fertilizer products and nutrient management technologies for increased profitability and productivity,” Juliano said with optimism.
Using nano-pesticides presents a great challenge for biodiversity and in achieving precision agriculture. Ongoing at PSAU since 2020 is the exploratory project on the potentials of Zeolite Nanoparticles-infused botanicals such as Balakat, Neem, and Makabuhay against Golden Kuhol in direct-seeded rice areas of Pampanga.
Bagunu describes this experiment as “an innovative strategy that encourages the use of safe and environment friendly plant-based molluscicides.”
“The use of nano-molluscicides is a promising field. The project’s outputs will greatly contribute to creating nature-based solutions to combat rice pests,” Bagunu said.
“The growing number of novel nanotechnology products in the country is surprisingly unsupported by low patent applications although the overall increase in funding shows a sheer number of potential nanotech R&D applications,” Romero divulged.
DA-PhilRice and CLSU have conducted a joint research on nanosilica-structured biofertilizers, which were subjected to different field conditions to assess their effects on improving soil quality for agricultural purposes.
Is the potential of nano-enabled pesticides still a dream?
“Before any product could be released, a thorough research should be done on bioaccumulation in the food chain and their interactions with other environmental pollutants. Ecotoxicological research will determine the adverse effects of NPs on other organisms, including humans,” Romero replied.
Romero believes nanotech has potentials to boost productivity by increasing plant nutrition, precision farming, water-use efficiency, crop protection against pests and diseases by devolving nano-enabled formulations, and environmental restoration of degraded sites by nano-bioremediation.
“The more innovative approach is replacing the use of conventional fertilizers with nanofertilizers to efficiently use essential nutrients,” Romero qualified.