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Zero Pesticide Farming with the Cortes Brothers

Brothers Manuel and Dr. Lino Cortes, advocates of zero pesticide farming, are spreading their soil conditioning technology to the grassroots.

Manuel Cortes, known in the broadcast industry as Ka Maning, is not only a farmcaster, forester but also a plant nutritionist. Meanwhile, his older brother, Lino is a doctor of plant genetics who, for 40 years, was based in the US. By a twist of fate, both brothers found themselves bonded by a cause: to promote zero pesticide farming in the country through complete plant nutrition and soil conditioning.

The “calling” to promote their cause, however, did not happen overnight. In fact, as Dr. Lino Cortes explained it took almost a fatal stroke for him to be able to realize that his brother needed him in the country to help educate our small farmers.

Today, both brothers are regularly conducting free seminars on zero pesticide farming to anyone interested in the subject. In order to spread their technology, they are even planning to publish a book based on what they believe will be their humble contribution to the development of Philippine agriculture. We recently had a conversation with the Cortes brothers, both of whom passionately discussed their current agricultural advocacies.

What is the thesis of your technology which you call zero pesticide farming?

Ka Maning
First we’d like to say that we don’t mean zero pesticide farming in the literal sense. We’re really advocating for minimum usage of pesticide because first, using too much pesticide is very dangerous to the environment and human health. Second, we cannot pass the standards of the GATT agreement if we do not reduce our pesticide use. Part of what we’re advocating is what we call complete plant nutrition. It cannot be soil fertilization anymore. In fertilization, you’re just feeding the soil to give the plant the needed nutrients. Plant nutrition involves all the living organisms in the soil. The interplay of all these organisms becomes the reason why the soil is not destroyed.

You call your technology soil conditioning or soil remediation. How do you do that?

Ka Maning
It involves the infusion of microorganisms in order to remove the toxic elements of the soil. We use microbes and foliar spray which are available at SAGREX.

Is this economical?

Dr. Lino Cortes
One of our problems in this country is that we used to buy fertilizers for only Php320 per bag. Now it’s already Php1,800. What we’re trying to teach is to use foliar spray to replace the application of fertilizers. If you’ll read the literature, it says that foliar spray is 20 times more effective than fertilizers.

Ka Maning
To be able to understand this better, I’m inviting your readers to come to our model farm in Palangge Dos Agrarian Reform Multipurpose Cooperative, Naic, Cavite. There you will see how much fertilizer they use. How they condition their soil. They don’t till their soil, they only produce continuously and have high yield. You have to talk to their chairman who is a multi awarded farmer. His name is Lito Tibayan. Last February 1-11, less than 31 cooperatives from Canada went to their place to visit their farm. The Canadians were all in awe! How did he do it? He is producing a lot and he doesn’t use pesticides!

When you say micronutrients, what exactly are these?

Dr. Lino
We’re talking about boron, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, iron and copper.

Ka Maning
What we’re trying to say is let us take advantage of the cheap cost of soil conditioners and use them. In two years time, you don’t need to fertilize anymore. Our problem is the soil, not really the plants.

Has your technology been subjected to economic analysis?

Ka Maning
If you will read the integrated nutrient management that Philrice did in 2002, it says there that for you to produce 7 tons of palay per hectare, you need 148 kgs of nitrogen, 69 kgs of phosphorous and 102 kgs of potassium assuming that all other nutrients are available. Now if you convert this to the number of bags needed, it will turn out to be 14.4 bags of commercial fertilizer. At the present price of Php2,000, you need around Php28,000. Now we made a program that will challenge this: 7 tons of palay per hectare using foliar spray. Our cost only amounted to Php16,000. You have Php12,000 savings. So dun pa lang, pangitang pangita na.

Manuel and Dr. Lino Cortes can be contacted at tel nos. (+632)8896576/8138534 and (+63)9175517547.