By: Charisma Love B. Gado
Farmers often use fertilizer inefficiently because the amount of nutrients applied does not match those required by the crop. Fertilizers are expensive and when these are wasted because of a mismatch, farmers’ profit is reduced and the health of the environment is endangered.
To help farmers cut fertilizer expenses by half, extension workers in three regions in the Philippines are learning to use Nutrient Manager for Rice (NMRice). It is a computer-based decision support tool featuring fertilizer recommendations based on farmers’ field conditions, varieties, and current practices. Farmers can access NMRice through mobile phone-based application when they need science-based fertilizer advice that matches their particular farming conditions.
Crispulo Bautista Jr, regional technical director for operation and extension in Region 3, said that the NMRice will benefit farmers in rainfed areas who usually spend P5,000 on fertilizers per season.
“I’m confident that farmers will not spend more than P3,000 on fertilizers should they apply the recommendations in the Nutrient Manager. I encourage extension workers to help farmers gain access to this new tool because this will also help them increase their income,” Bautista said during a recent ICT skill training for extension workers in Regions 1, 2, and 3.
Dr. Nenita V. Desamero, training lead and principal investigator, said that NMRice developed by IRRI and partners is the product of a 15-year research on site-specific nutrient management.
“Recommendations in Nutrient Manager are based on very extensive studies conducted in different locations in the country. Despite the complex research basis, extension workers and farmers will only have to answer 15 questions. Nutrient Manager will give recommendations in a minute or less,” Desamero said.
In a survey, it was found that extension workers perceive Nutrient Manager as beneficial to farmers and that its recommendations are reliable.
Despite the age and the lack of skills in navigating the Internet, extension workers also said that Nutrient Manager is easy to use and that the questions are easy for them and the farmers to understand.
Researcher Gado, who conducted the study in 2013, said, “In spite of the novelty, preference towards the Nutrient Manager is surprisingly quite higher than to other tools used in identifying the right amount and time of applying fertilizers.”
The training sessions on Nutrient Manager for extension workers were jointly sponsored by the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office of Regions I, II, and III; the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice); and IRRI. Part of the training activities of the IFAD- funded project titled, Improving livelihoods and overcoming poverty in the drought-prone lowlands of Southeast Asia, were jointly conducted by PhilRice and IRRI on June 11, July 2, and June 18, 2013.
Ms. Charisma Love Gado works at Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)