Written by Charisma Love B Gado
Farmers need not guess the type and amount of fertilizer and its time of application with the Nutrient Manager (http://webapps.irri.org/nm/ph/) developed by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Nutrient Manager is a computer-based decision support tool featuring fertilizer recommendations based on farmers’ field conditions, varieties, and current practices.
Under the Improving livelihoods and overcoming poverty in the drought-prone lowlands of South and Southeast Asia project funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development, more than 200 extension workers and farmers in the rainfed areas of Region I, II, and III were trained to use the device.
“It took me three tries before I got my recommendations. The printer was not working; the file was deleted; then there was a five-minute brown-out. But it was worth overcoming these problems because if I follow this recommendation, I could save half of my fertilizer expenses and increase my yield to about a ton,” Adelia Pagatpatan, 52-year-old farmer of Victoria, Tarlac, said.
To use the web-based device, farmers will answer 15 questions either in English, Filipino, Iluko, Cebunano, Hiligaynon, and Bikolano. The Nutrient Manager will release its recommendation in about a minute.
Based on the recommendation, Adelaida will only have to apply 4 bags of fertilizer during the early, active tillering, and panicle initiation stages. Previously, she applied 10 sacks of fertilizer and yielded a little over 4 t/ha. With the new recommendation, she is expecting an increase of more than 1 t/ha.
Meanwhile, old farmers including Narcisa Laggui said Nutrient Manager is easy to use as it only takes few clicks to get the recommendation.
“Trying this web-based device for the first time at 67 is very easy. I just have to click for the choices in the questions and if the question is quite unclear to a farmer, no worries, there are photos that will guide them,” the woman-farm owner in Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija said.
IRRI assistant scientist Niño Paul Meynard Banayo said fertilizer contributes 20 percent of the total rice production cost, following labor at 60 percent.
“With fertilizer getting expensive and the need to increase yield, we could help farmers by advising them on the right time and amount of applying nutrients. The Nutrient Manager features site-specific recommendations generated from 15 years of research in Asia,” Banayo said.
Banayo said the site-specific nutrient recommendations could help increase yield, augment profit, and protect the environment.
In Nutrient Manager trial sites, Banayo reported that farmers garner an average of 4.98 t/ha by applying a maximum of 8 bags of fertilizers. Meanwhile, farmers’ current practice of applying as high as 22 bags of fertilizers only yielded 4.82 t/ha.
Implemented by IRRI, Philippine Rice Research Institute, and local government units, the series of trainings on Nutrient Manager also covered the farmers’ children who were tapped to access agriculture information on the web for their parents.
Other knowledge sources for farmers
Other than the Nutrient Manager, farmers and extension workers can get updates on rice farming through the Pinoy Rice Knowledge Bank (www.pinoyrkb.com), a rich source of information to help farmers improve and localize their farming practices. It features PalayCheck®, an integrated crop management system for rice, which covers eight best practices from seed selection to harvesting.
The website also contains downloadable materials such as videos and powerpoint presentations on yield-enhancing and cost-reducing technologies. The materials are available in Filipino, English, Cebuano, Iluko, and Hiligaynon.
Information on rice farming is also at the fingertips with the Pinoy Farmers’ Text Center (0920-911-1398), an SMS-based helpdesk and customer support, which links experts, extensionists, and farmers by answering rice-related queries through call and text messaging.
PhilRice website (www.philrice.gov.ph) and the online community for rice advocates at FaceBook (http://www.facebook.com/rice.matters) are also good sources of information and venue of inquiries.