'Way forward': Inorganic fertilizers out, nanofertilizers in

May 30, 2021
Charissa Luci-Atienza (Manila Bulletin)  | https://bit.ly/3uNbuJP

Researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) have developed nanofertilizers that could help the country achieve a more sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural production.

The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) said the Agricultural Systems Institute and Institute of Crop Science of the UPLB developed FertiGroe® nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) nanofertilizers to reduce farmers’ use of synthetic fertilizers and at the same time, increase their profits and produce.

“Nanotechnology plays a significant role in agriculture and agricultural product development. One innovative nanotechnology are the nanofertilizers, which offer a greener approach to nutrient management through increased nutrient use efficiency (NUE) and reduced nutrient leaching into groundwater,” it said in a statement.

It said nanofertilizers could address environmental hazards posed by increased and unregulated use of synthetic fertilizers.

“Excessive use of synthetic fertilizers causes high soil toxicity and soil imbalance. With high NUE, nanofertilizers reduce fertilizer application frequency, thereby minimizing the adverse effects of using too much synthetic fertilizers.”

The UPLB-developed FertiGroe® N, P, and K nanofertilizers are inorganic single fertilizers in powder or granulated form.

They contain 29 percent nitrogen, 13 percent (phosphoric acid or phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5), and 48 percent potash or potassium oxide (K2O), respectively, the PCAARRD said.

“They are called slow-release fertilizers, meaning the nutrients are gradually released into the soil, making nutrient delivery to crops more effective, nutrient use and plant absorption more efficient, and nutrient loss lesser,” it said.

The DOST-PCAARRD said a program seeking to optimize the production and use of FertiGroe® N, P, and K nanofertilizers in selected agriculture crops has been launched.

The program is funded by DOST and monitored by PCAARRD.

The Council said based on the results of a study conducted on the use of nanofertilizers in agricultural crops such rice, corn, eggplant, cabbage, potato, sugarcane, coffee, cacao, and banana in 11 areas, FertiGroe® N, P, and K nanofertilizers “helped reduce inorganic fertilizer use by 50 percent; higher net profit; and yields comparable with those from using conventional fertilizers.”

The testing sites were the following: Batangas, Benguet, Bukidnon, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Isabela, Laguna, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Nueva Ecija.

The UPLB researchers found that in annual crops such as rice, corn and potato, use of FertiGroe® N, P, and K nanofertilizers reduced fertilizer application by as much as 50 percent compared with using conventional fertilizers.

With increased yield and lower application rates, the net profit also increased by 40 percent in rice, 20 percent in corn, and 48% in potato, the test results showed.

“Moreover, when applied at the recommended rates similar to conventional fertilizers, FertiGroe® nanofertilizers increased yields of eggplant by 36 percent and of cabbage by five percent, translated into a 58 percent and six percent increase in net income, respectively,”

The research team also noted in perennial crops, like sugarcane, FertiGroe® nanofertilizers increased cane tonnage by 46 percent and sugar yield by 40 percent.

It also reduced the application rate by 45 percent of the recommended rate while improving the stalk length, weight and diameter of the millable cane yields, they said.

“With FertiGroe® nanofertilizers, the amount of fertilizers applied was reduced by 33.5 percent in coffee resulting in 104 percent increase in coffee berry yield. In cacao, the recommended rate was reduced by 50 percent, while giving 106 percent increase in cacao pod yield.”

“Moreover, labor costs were reduced and yields increased, which provided an additional income to coffee and cacao growers. With considerable reduction in fertilizer inputs, a positive net profit of about P20,000 after one year of application was realized in both coffee and cacao.”

The UPLB project also showed that in banana, FertiGroe® nanofertilizers increased the number of hands per bunch in “saba” and reduced the amount of rejects in cavendish, thereby increasing the marketable yield in “saba” by 22 percent and cavendish by 24 percent.

The DOST-PCAARRD said the benefits of FertiGroe® nanofertilizers were tackled during a research program webinar held on April 15

It was led by UPLB program leader, Dr. Pearl B. Sanchez, together with project leaders Dr. Lilia M. Fernando, Dr. Jose E. Hernandez, Mr. Gerardo B. Gauna, Dr. Pompe C. Sta. Cruz, Professor Babylyn T. Salazar, and Dr. Edna A. Aguilar.