The DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Seed and Extension programs is currently developing location-specific fertilizer recommendations to help local farmers maximize their resources amid high fertilizer 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,” Flordeliza Bordey, DA-PhilRice RCEF Program Management Office head, explained.

Studies show that mineral nutrients are vital in boosting the rice growth and development. However, some mineral nutrients have limited availability in the soil and must be supplemented with fertilizer application.

Experts said that too little application will lead to sub-optimal yield while excessive application is costly and can lead to soil and water pollution. Thus, they emphasized the need to determine the amount of mineral nutrients available and lacking in the soil.

With this, the Institute started conducting massive soil analysis of farmers’ fields representing major soil types in RCEF target areas through the use of the Minus-One Element Technique (MOET) kit. The project started in 2021 wet season and is expected to complete generating specific recommendations for 512 municipalities by end of 2023.

“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 they would  hopefully adopt,” Bordey noted.

MOET is a diagnostic tool used to identify deficient macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and micronutrients including sulfur, zinc, and copper in field conditions. Part of its results show the right element, amount, and timing of fertilizer application needed by the crop for better yields.

“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,” Ailon Oliver V. Capistrano, DA-PhilRice nutrient management expert, said.

He further said that the common method of assessing the needs of the rice crop is to observe its physical appearance. When crops turn yellowish, some farmers would usually apply urea to solve it. However, Capistrano said the practice may not always address the soil or the crop’s specific needs.

“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 it affects the soil and the plant’s capacity to absorb NPK. Thus, micronutrient deficiencies must be addressed first,” Capistrano explained.

The availability of these six nutrients can be determined through MOET.

“We would also like to encourage our partner-LGUs to help us not only in helping disseminate the fertilizer recommendations to farmers, but also to implement programs that complement our advocacy on proper nutrient management such as providing the required fertilizers,” Bordey said.

The RCEF-Seed Program is a component of Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law, which allots P10 billion funds every year for the rice farmers from the rice tariff earnings of the country. The program is a six-year government initiative to help farmers improve their competitiveness. The local government units and lawmakers assist in its implementation. Mandated to help ensure a rice-secure Philippines, DA-PhilRice leads the RCEF-Seed Program. It is also the government’s lead agency on rice research and development.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute