The unprecedented surge in world prices of rice, coupled with its dwindling local supplies have driven the country’s policy experts to dig deep for intelligent solutions. They believe the situation calls for practical solutions such as urging the people to cut down on rice consumption by switching to other carbohydrate-rich substitutes. For the long-term, however, most are advocating for a “low-cost, high-yield” production method as a way out of the mess.
To address the issue the Technology Resource Center (TRC) and the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH-UPLB) are set to stage the first BIO-N Congress on April 24, 2008, at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna.
The TRC believes at the core of such “low-cost, high-yield” formula is the use of an inexpensive yet highly effective fertilizer. Today, a hectare of rice requires 10 to 20 bags of inorganic fertilizer, which costs around P800 to P1,000 per bag. This is very prohibitive for a common farmer who tends at least 10 to 20 hectares. TRC Director Genera! Antonio Ortiz said farmers are now on the lookout for inexpensive alternatives to inorganic fertilizers. “Well-informed farmers have long tried to use organic fertilizers,” he said “but it was only recently that they have discovered Bio-N and found it to be as good as the more popular commercial fertilizers.”
If a farmer opts to use 5 to 6 packets of Bio-N per hectare, which costs only 60 pesos per 200g packet, he would be able to decrease his inorganic fertilizer consumption from 10 to 20 bags to two sacks thus saving the farmer P700. This is more effective if a percentage of the fertilizer used is compost produced from dried rice straws and stalks.
Ortiz said, the emergence of this technology not only benefits the farmers but also the environment since it does not release harmful components.
Economically speaking, the widespread use of Bio-N is seen not only to help improve farm productivity but also help stave off the country’s dollar reserve from the ever-increasing prices of imported inorganic fertilizer
The Promise of BIO-N
Bio-Nitrogen or Bio-N is an organic/microbial inoculant fertilizer for rice and com invented in the early 1980’s by Dr Mercedes Umali-Garcia. It was borne of her dream to boost the production of agricultural products in the country coupled with her curiosity of the ever-so-resilient talahib grass (saccharum spontaneum L). By isolating two strains of bacteria from the talahib, Dr. Garcia was able to transfer the resiliency trait of the grass to rice and corn.
Bio-n contains two strains of bacteria-azospirillum lipoferum and azospirillum brasilense both derived from the talahib. These two promotes shoot growth and root development in crops. It also increases plants resistance to wind, to insect infestation, as well as to certain plant diseases. This led to its being dubbed as a “microbial inoculant.”
Bio-N ensures better nitrogen consumption, which is essential to plant growth. The azospirillum bacteria or “tikbaw” converts the airborne nitrogen into ammonia. Ammonia penetrates to the root zone and makes the necessary 50% nitrogen needs of the plant available for root consumption
Dr. Garcia’s work has won for the Pantas Award which is the highest award in research given by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Last year she also received the Gawad Saka in recognition of the significant contribution to agriculture.
The potential of Bio-N to increase farmer’s income has prodded the TRC to forge a partnership with the BIQTECH-UPLB in 2001. In the agreement, TRC granted P4.8 M to BIOTECH-UPLB. The fund was used to construct a production shed, purchase the necessary equipment and serve partially as the initial operating capital for the joint venture.
The BIO-N Congress
Bio-N has been available to the public since the early 1990’s but it has yet to gain popularity. Its promotion was even supported by the Department of Agriculture through its Ginintuang Masaganang Ani rice and corn program by establishing mixing plants in 2004. Dr. Garcia thinks the people’s natural fear and skepticism about the unknown has made farmers reluctant to use Bio-N. They would rather stay with what they are used to rather than experiment and risk a season’s worth of harvest. Dr Garcia hopes the Bio-N Congress will help erase such skepticism.
The congress will feature farmers, mixing plant operators, local officers, government officials/employees, fertilizer distributors, dealers and retailers who will share their experiences in the use of Bio-N.
For more information about Bio-N and the Bio-N Congress, please contact:
National Institute of molecular Biology and Biotech
UP Los Banos, Laguna
Tel no. (049) 536-8380/1620; 536-2721 to 25
Email: [email protected]
You can buy Bio-N fertilizer at the BIOTECH UPLB. Please visit the UPLB website: www.uplb.edu.ph (and then click the Biotech Institute and then click on Biotech products for sale) for the details.