With Healthy Soil Comes Healthy Crop
The condition of the soil is the most important factor in successful farming because if the soil is healthy, the crops planted in it would be healthy, too.
This is the conviction of Wilfred Noriel of Baloc, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija. Believing that the crop’s nourishment is the best shield against plant sickness, this economics graduate of De La Salle University who has been farming for more than 11 years has been seeking ways to bring back lost soil nutrients.
He visits farms here and abroad to learn from farmers and experts. He also reads a lot and develops new farming techniques based on his readings and experiences.
In one of his visits to the University of the Philippines Los Banos, a friend offered him a microbial inoculants that hastens decomposition. Due to curiosity, he used it in land preparation and found out that with activated microorganisms, stubbles, hays, grasses, and other farm wastes decompose easily, incorporating back to the soil nutrients such as silica and calcium.
Wilfred says, “it usually takes 10-14 days to decompose farm wastes, and so our land preparation ends on the 21st day.” Within this duration, the farm would be completely cleaned from the previous season’s residues.
The key to efficient land preparation, according to him, is to achieve the softest possible texture of the soil containing decomposed wastes because plant roots develop well in soft soil. So in the dry season when the soil is hard, he uses 20 kilograms of organic fertilizer with 75 percent humic acid per hectare. This will loosen the soil during basal application. In theory, 10 tons of organic manure is needed to supplement 1 hectare of rice land. Whereas, with humic acid in fertilizers, only two bags are needed.
When it comes to fertilizer application, which is usually done in 2-3 splits, he does it two times more. Before the final harrowing, he uses 60 percent of a special organic fertilizer containing 22 percent phosphorus for basal application. He chose this fertilizer over the commercial ones because it has 50 percent more phosphorus and it contains sillicic acid, a mineral that keeps the cell wall of the rice plant strong. Then he applies the remaining 40 percent of the fertilizer at 3-4 splits.
He also mixes the organic fertilizer with single elements like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and even sulfate, if available. In dry and wet seasons, he uses 810 bags and 6 bags of organic fertilizers per hectare, respectively. Each bag only costs P420, cheaper than the inorganic fertilizers that are also applied in combinations.
Then a week after transplanting, he applies a soil conditioner that contains nitrogen-fixing bacteria, humic acid, and other micronutrients at a rate of 2 kilograms per hectare. Then he solubilizes phosphorus to enable the plants to absorb important elements.
Wilfred also sprays Biocozyme with zinc foliar fertilizer once in a planting period. One of his secrets is that during the reproductive phase and early heading, he applies foliar sprays containing a combination of 1 percent each of calcium, boron, and zinc. To produce whole and tasty grains, he mixes 20-20-20 with 40-48, and applies the solution 45-58 days after transplanting and at early heading. The high potassium concentration helps improve grain quality.
He also gives importance on the way chemicals are mixed. Chemicals are usually oil-based. To realize the full potential of these, he said that each chemical should be thoroughly mixed in drums or any other container before transferring into the sprayer.
When it comes to pests and diseases, for him, the best way to control these is by making the crops resistant to these through proper soil conditioning and fertilization. In this way, insect pest management becomes unnecessary.
“If a person is physically fit, he does not get sick. The same is true in rice plants,” he adds. However, in extreme cases when the disease from his neighboring farms spreads, he opts for pesticides but in appropriate dilution.
“All problems in the field are associated with nutritional balance. You just need to manage it to ensure high yield,” he said referring to how he was able to harvest an average yield of 6 tons per hectare from his 23-hectare farm.
His yield is really enviable because aside from being high, it has also a higher grain quality. Wilfred has achieved this because he has ample time to focus on improving his farm practices for he does not have any problems on managing pests and diseases, thanks to the healthy soil in his farm.