Benefits of Organic vs Chemical Fertilizers

The choice of organic fertilizers over inorganic varieties may be viewed in the context of a story about Mang Jose. He was seen by Mang Pedro hurriedly cutting wood with a dull saw to meet a one-month production volume target.

Mang Pedro asked, “Why don’t you stop cutting wood and sharpen your saw first?”

Mang Jose replied, “I don’t have time to do that. Can’t you see I’m rushing?”

Long vs Short Term

In that story, Mang Jose’s decision to continue using the dull saw might be correct in the short term, but foolish in the long run. The decision to overuse chemical fertilizers is similar to Mang Jose’s decision.

With increased demand for food caused by our rapidly burgeoning population, we have begun to rely heavily on chemical fertilizers to rapidly increase production. In the short run, this has been effective.

But as we use more chemical fertilizers, our land becomes less fertile. This has led us to use even more such fertilizers, thus resulting in a dangerous downward spiral. This kind of agriculture is simply not sustainable.

According to data compiled by Florence Mojica-Sevilla of the University of Asia and the Pacific, imported chemical fertilizers in 2005 have more than doubled from the 2001 levels, while domestic product sales have been cut in half (see table below). For organic fertilizers, volume has tripled. But sadly, it is still less than 1 percent of chemical fertilizers.

Chemical fertilizer prices have also become a heavy burden for farmers to bear. The price of urea has more than doubled, while that of 14-14-14 has increased by more than 85 percent. The data appeared in Mojica-Sevilla’s study, “The Philippine Fertilizer Industry.”

A strong case can be made for the desirability and urgency of using organic fertilizers. Given the impact of global warming, climate change and increased environmental degradation, we must now prioritize the restoration of ecological balance. The use of chemical fertilizer not only damages our soil fertility, which we need to produce our food, it also threatens our health and well-being. Many chemical fertilizers today cannot just be washed off with water. They penetrate and become part of the food we eat. However, moving immediately and completely to organic fertilizers is often not realistic.

One of the agencies I supervised at the Department of Agriculture (DA) was the Bureau of Soils and Water Management. Its research, which I witnessed first-hand, showed that when one moved to purely organic fertilizers in one season, production generally dropped.

The recommended approach is to use a balanced fertilization strategy, using an optimal combination of organic and chemical fertilizers for a given site. The organic fertilizer component restores the important macro and micro nutrients needed to recover soil fertility, while the chemical fertilizer help sustain production volume. In the long run, production volume increases with the rise in use of organic fertilizers.

For more information, contact:

Dept.of Agriculture
D.A. Compound, Elliptical Rd.,
Diliman,Quezon City
Tel. Nos. (632) 929-6065 to 67 / 920-3991 / 928-1134
Web: www.da.gov.ph

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