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March 20, 2008

Heavy agro-chemical uses reduces Filipino soil fertility

The unabated heavy use of chemicals and fertilizers by thousands of farmers in this vegetable-producing province (Manila, Phillipines) has drastically reduced the productivity of the soil which, in turn, greatly contributed to the increase in the production cost of farm crops.

This situation prompted provincial officials to appeal to the thousands of farmers to reduce the volume of chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers they use in their farms and start shifting to the production of organic crops which are beneficial to the health of the consumers.

It can also reduce the pollution.

A research conducted by the Benguet State University (BSU) and the Saint Louis University (SLU) showed traces of chemicals in vegetable crops in the different towns although the levels of the chemicals are still within tolerable limits.

The alarming use of chemicals and fertilizers by farmers to ensure increased production of crops prompted the provincial government to embark on a program to promote organic farming which aims to help farmers become environment friendly and competitive in the global market.

Experts believe that if local farmers want to be competitive, they should drastically reduce their dependence on chemical-based farming and start adopting good agricultural practices which are now the practice worldwide.

The provincial government has entered into an agreement with the Bureau of Soils, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), for the conduct of soil analysis in the vast tracts of farm lands in the province to determine the acidity and fertility levels of the soil.

The findings would enable it to make recommendations to the farmers for better farm management.

Furthermore, the provincial government has been pushing the adoption of organic-based farming practices to make them competitive in an open market under the general agreement on tariff and trade of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Local officials noted that almost all farm lands in the province have exceeded the normal acidity level of the soils due to the excessive use of chemicals to fight pests and fertilizers to improve the quality of crops for better marketability.

The indications that the farms are acidic are the vulnerability of vegtable plants -- like cabbage and lettuce -- to clubroot, a major disease of crucifers -- and the proliferation of various kinds of pests and diseases attacking the crops.

The volume of chemicals and fertilizers being used keeps increasing every cropping season, causing the farmers to spend more for inputs in their efforts to ensure that they would be able to produce the crops for the market. However, this means additional investments on their part.

The use of red-label chemicals has also contributed to the high toxicity of the river systems near farms. This has affected the safety of water flowing to the lowlands.

Manila Bulletin

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