Efficient, Cost-Effective and Timely Fertilizer Application
With the cost of fertilizer spiraling up, meeting nutrient requirement of rice crop becomes doubly burdensome.
According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, a fanner spent close to P13,000 on the average in 2005-2007 dry season (DS) cropping, and 34 percent of this or P4,500 was spent on fertilizers. Many farmers, however, failed to apply the needed fertilizers due to financial constraints. While some managed to loan from banks or simply borrowed money from fellow farmers, fertilizer application was already late and affected crop performance.
For instance, nitrogen use can be_ optimized through “selection of proper fertilizer rates and sources, correct fertilizer placement, and optimum timing of applications,” according to the article “An Overview of Nutrient Management with Economic Considerations” published by the North Carolina State University. This shows that it is not enough that a farmer applies fertilizer because the amount and timing of application arc equally important.
Such was the case of Alberto Agoo, a farmer-cooperator in the PalayCheck demonstration trial in Aurora, Diamantina, Isabela. He was not able to apply fertilizers in time because he still had to borrow money. So he missed key check 5 or proper nutrient management of the PalayCheck system, a package of technologies on rice production for improved yield. Key check 5 states that that there should be enough nutrients at early tillering to flowering stage of palay.
ADVANTAGE OF FOLLOWING KEY CHECK 5
The delay resulted in irreversible yield loss. Although Alberto harvested 4.68 t/ha in the 2007 DS which was good, it was far lesser than his yield in 2006 DS which was 6.70 t/ha.
Unlike Alberto, Bernardo Sabado, another farmer-cooperator, was able to follow all the key checks as he had all the inputs needed during the 2007 DS. He got 6.68 t/ha and this was 30 percent yield advantage over Alberto’s yield. That’s how much yield loss one can incur by just missing key check 5.
Bernardo applied some organic fertilizers to his rice area prior to planting. Then at 10-15 days after transplanting (DAT), he applied 3 bags of urea. He top-dressed at 40 DAT. He mixed 3 bags of urea with 2 bags of 14-14-14. All in all, he applied 189.5 kg/ha N, 40 kg/ha P, plus foliar fertilizer for grain filling.
NUTRIENT EFFICIENCY AND COST
However, Bernardo applied more than what was recommended, according to PhilRice Isabela. Another farmer in the area has also managed to follow all the key checks and harvested a yield of 6.86 t/ha, yet he has only used 40.75 kg/ha N, 7 kg/ha P, and 7 kg/ha K.
Dr. Rolando T. Cruz, PalayCheck national coordinator, said that although Bernardo achieved key check 5, there is question in nutrient efficiency and cost. Excessive nutrient application may reduce efficiency, and spending close to P7,000 for l ha in a cropping season for nitrogen fertilizer alone is costly, he added.
But there’s a practical and cost-effective way of achieving key check 5. Farmers can use the leaf color chart (LCC). and the Minus-One Element Technique (MOET) to make fertilizer application more efficient and less costly.
Costs only P50, LCC is a handy tool for predicting the nitrogen requirement of rice crop. Studies by PhiIRice show that almost two bags of nitrogen or about P4,000 can be saved by following LCC recommendations.
For instance, Elias Santillan, a PalayCheck cooperator in M’lang Cotabalo, saved P5,000 with the LCC, reducing his production cost for one cropping season from P17,000 to P 12,000.
The MOET, on one hand, is a simple experiment a farmer can easily do to determine what nutrient is lacking in his field and what fertilizer he should apply, of course.
There’s another option for farmers who are short of cash. If one has a budget for 1-2 bags of urea, one can apply it a week before the visible panicle initiation stage or at 40 DAT for a 120-day old variety, says Dr. Constancio Asis of the Agronomy Soils and Plant Physiology Division of PhilRice.
Rice plant will use absorbed N during the reproductive stage to enhance grain yield. It will use some indigenous nutrient supply during vegetative growth. Farmers though have to make sure that the fields is not weedy to avoid competition with weeds, Dr. Asis added.
See, fertilizer application need not be costly after all. There are practical ways to efficiently supply the needed nutrients of rice crop, and the LCC and MOET are helpful tools for this purpose.
By Jaime A. Manalo IV