Congressman Produces Vermicompost
Vermicompost, the organic soil enhancer produced by composting farm wastes with microbes and earthworms, is now widely applied by small farmers in Compostela Valley, Mindanao. This development is mainly due to the efforts of Congressman Manuel Zamora, fondly known as “Way Kurat” (fearless) to his friends and constituents in the First District of the province.
Cong. Zamora learned the rudiments of vermicomposting at a seminar conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Mati, Davao Oriental in 1999. After testing the technology in his farm in Compostela, he put up a demonstration facility within the premises of the Batasang Pambansa (BP) in Quezon City with the assistance of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) and the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD) of the DOST. Using grass clippings and plant trimmings from the expansive lawns and food waste from the cafeteria of the BP, he produced vermicompost with the African nightcrawler.
To make the technology accessible to farmers in Compostela Valley, he established a vermin demonstration farm in Monkayo, using his Congressional Development Funds. The facility now has an estimated 2 tons of earthworm biomass, produces 50 sacks (with 50 kg each) of vermicompost per day, and regularly conducts hands-on trainings to farmers.
According to farm technician Ariel Kapayo, they produce vermicompost using rice straw which is gathered from rice fields after harvest and animal manures (from carabaos, cattle, and goats) available in most farms. The materials are mixed at a 50 to 50 ratio (by weight), initially processed for vermicomposting by adding sufficient water (to a moisture level of 80%) and anaerobically (without air) decomposed for a period of 2-3 weeks without the earthworms. After such period, the vermin beds are ready for the vermicomposting process by adding the earthworms at the recommended 1 kilo per square meter and culturing under aerobic (with air) conditions. The vermicompost is ready for harvest after 4-6 weeks.
Small farmers who are trained at the Monkayo vermi farm go home not only with the techniques of vermicomposting but also with a fruit-bearing calamansi ex-plant (also produced in the farm) in a pot with three earthworms to start them off with their “vermi adventure”. Vermicompost with the “YK Wati” brand is sold at P2 per kilo to commercial farmers. Farmers from neighboring provinces have also visited the facility.
Those who have applied vermicompost in their farms say that it is much better than chicken manure, the most commonly used “organic fertilizer,” because it does not smell bad and “heats.” A field trial on the use of YK Wati to reduce the application of chemical fertilizers in rice fields is now ongoing in the province in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture.
“With the high cost of chemical fertilizers and commercial pesticides, we hope to improve the incomes of our farmers by reducing the use of chemical fertilizers by at least 50 percent with the use of vermicompost and replacing toxic pesticides with vermi tea,” Cong. Zamora said. Vermi tea is the aqueous solution from the brewing of vermicompost that contains beneficial organisms that ward off plant pests and diseases.
The good congressman who is also a farmer at heart recommends the application of 5 tons of vermicompost plus 3 bags of chemical fertilizers and vermi tea instead of the usual 6 bags of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for lowland rice production. In the first field trial conducted, the area applied with vermicompost, vermi tea. and 50 percent of the recommended chemical fertilizers yielded 8.2 tons of rough rice (palay), while that with the recommended chemical fertilizers and pesticides produced 7.5 tons.
After visiting the Monkayo vermi farm and knowing about the benefit, of vermicompost and what it can do for small farmers, a very much impressed visitor remarked: “Our congressman should be doing what Cong. Zamora is doing with his Congressional Development Funds.”