Excessive use of chemical fertilizers not only affects the safety of the food we consume but also the richness of the soil. Based on the Department of Agricultre, around 38% of the arable land in our country has lost its richness and nutritive content and has since been damaged due to excessive application of commercial fertilizer. The challenge nowadays is the to address the need to reach the potential yield of agricultural crop production but in so doing, ensure that the nutritive content of the soil is being preserved, if not further enrich, and the quality of the products, safe for human consumption.
Organic Farming are words that are not new to our ears. As early as 1940, the term itself was subsequently coined by Walter Ernest Christopher James from his concept of “the farm as organism” and the fertilizer that are being used in this practice is simply called as “organic fertilizer”. These are derived from the following substrates: animal matter, animal manure, biodegradable materials, kitchen waste, saw dust, clippings and other domestic waste found in the surroundings under a process called composting where nutrients such as Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) are harnessed. The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) tags organic fertilizer as a “soil enhancer” because it helps in conserving the soil while sustaining the nutrients needed by the crops. As soil enhancer, organic fertilizers also helps in increasing the population of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes that are good for the soil.
Composting can be done at the household. However, for a compost to be considered an organic fertilizer, it has to meet the required level of NPK which is ranging from 5–7% based on the Philippine National Standards (PNS), otherwise, it is considered to be a soil conditioner. At present, the CBE Farm is using Plantmate Organic Fertilizer which was awarded as “The Best Organic Fertilizer in the Philippines” that consists of 25 beneficial microorganisms with NPK, Calcium, micronutrients, probiotics, enzymes, amino acids, and growth promoting substances that really performs well when applied in the soil. While Plantmate is effective, its procurement has been costly and time consuming, which could be not sustainable for the farm.
The research team of Social Enterprise Program (SEP) from the Lifebank Foundation, Inc. then conducted an experiment to determine the optimal substrates formulation to be used in producing a cost-effective organic fertilizer. The results of the experiment will guide CBE in producing its own organic fertilizer, which will be the first step in becoming self-sufficient and cutting the cost of production.
The experiment used two kinds of treatments. The substrates used for Treatment 1 were chicken manure (43 kg, 86%), carbonized rice hull (4 kg, 8%), saw dust (2 kg, 4%), Madre de cacao (1 kg, 2%) and Bio-quick starter (100 grams: 2 kg/ton of organic inputs). While the inputs used in Treatment 2 were chicken manure (40 kg, 80%), carbonized rice hull (5 kg, 10%), rice straw (1.5kg, 3%), Madre de cacao (1.5kg, 3%), wood ash (2 kg, 4%) and Bio-quick starter (100 grams: 2kg/ton of organic inputs). Bio-quick starter is an activator that helps shorten the composting period of the materials used in production and composed of inoculant known as Trichoderma, a fungus that has the ability to accelerate the composting process.
The inputs were decomposed last November 2016 and harvested in January 2017. The outcome of the two treatments were almost the same in terms of physical properties where both have black color, no foul odor, and friable consistency. The quantity of the compost for each treatment after sieving are both 26 kg. The compost produced before sieving was 39 kg and 36 kg for Treatment 1 and treatment 2, respectively, and both treatments have the same recovery rate which is 52 %.
However, the two treatments showed a big difference in terms of nutrient contents present in their finished product based on the results of the analysis conducted at Laboratory Services Division of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). Treatment 1 have 2.102% Nitrogen, 1.675% Phosphorus, 2.017% Potassium and have a total NPK of 5.794% which passed the minimum requirements for organic fertilizer (5-7%). Thus, substrates used in Treatment 1 is recommendable formula to attain the desired organic fertilizer. On the other hand, Treatment 2 contains 1.940% Nitrogen, 1.127% Phosphorus, 1.032% Potassium and gives a total NPK of 4.099%, which is lower than the minimum required by PNS and can only be considered as soil conditioner.
Results of the experiment
The result of the experiment is promising. Nevertheless, the CBE will continue to embark on more repetitions for consistency and validity check to ensure reliability of the results.