Smart farming program raised sugarcane yield, reduced fertilizer use

A research and development program that aimed to boost the sugarcane industry in the country resulted in 24% increase in average yield (tons cane per hectare [TC/ha]) of sugarcane and reduced fertilizer use by 15% to 25%.

This was the highlight of the accomplishments of the program, “Boosting the sugarcane industry through smart farming techniques.”

The program, which has five project components is led by Dr. Armando N. Espino, Jr. of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU). It is monitored and funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) through its Industry Strategic S&T Program (ISP) on Sugarcane.


Other agencies that implemented the component projects were: Philippine Nuclear Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PNRI); University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB); DOST-Metals Industry Research and Development Center (DOST-MIRDC), and the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization of the Department of Agriculture (DA-PHilMech).

According to Dr. Espino, the 24% increase in average yield was realized through the use of S&T interventions such as: use of varieties with high sucrose content and resistance to smut and downy mildew; improved nutrient and water management strategies, and mechanization of harvesting operations.

Summary results

Project 1, “Smart Water Management Strategies for Sugarcane,” implemented by CLSU found an increase in sugarcane yield by 30% by adopting soil moisture and weather-based irrigation scheduling system; fertigation system; subsurface drip lateral installer; soil moisture monitoring device; and best water management schemes for drip and furrow irrigation methods.

Project 2, “Smart Farming-Based Efficient Nutrient Management to Increase Sugarcane Productivity through Elemental Tracer and Related Techniques,” implemented by DOST-PNRI increased nutrient use efficiency by 20%, reduced fertilizer use by at least 15%, and reduced loss of soil nutrients by 15%. This was achieved through precise fertilizer recommendation for different soil fertility levels; utilization of best time and method of fertilizer application; and use of efficient variety x N-fixing endophytic bacteria combination.

Project 3, “Development of Nanofertilizers for Sugarcane Production,” implemented by UPLB resulted in reduced fertilizer use by at least 25% through the development of a nanofertilizer (N, P, K, and NPK) and optimized method and rate of nanofertilizer application.

Project 4, “Design and Development of Sugarcane Harvesting Equipment for Small-scale Sugarcane Farm,” implemented by DOST-MIRDC led to the reduction in labor requirement from 120 man-day per hectare (md/ha) to 36 md/ha and reduced equipment cost by 20% for small-scale farms. This was made possible through the development of harvesting equipment including cutter, leaf stripper, and loader for small farms that cover 1 to 5 hectares (ha).

Harvesting equipment was also developed for medium-scale farms by DA-PHilMech. This was achieved through Project 5, “Design and development of harvester for medium-scale sugarcane farm.”

The development of a combine harvester capable of harvesting 5 ton-cane per hour (TC/hour) reduced labor requirement from 120 md/ha to 8 md/ha. The cost of the developed harvester is 25% cheaper than what is available in the market.