The sugarcane industry contributes significantly to the Philippine economy; hence the industry’s target for the next five years is to increase cane yield from 60 ton-cane per hectare (TC/ha) to 75 TC/ha. This implies addressing the major problem of low productivity and high cost of inorganic fertilizer inputs in sugarcane production.
In line with this strategy, the University of the Philippines Los Baños-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (UPLB-BIOTECH) developed the Nutrio foliar spray biofertilizer for sugarcane through the funding support of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD).
According to researcher-developer Dr. Virginia M. Padilla, Nutrio biofertilizer improved cane and sugar yields by 10% to 30% when it was used in combination with one-half of the rates used by farmers. Similarly, cane and sugar yields increased when used in combination with half of the rates recommended by Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA). Hence, applying only 50% of inorganic Nitrogen (N) can give farmers 50% savings from the total cost of inorganic N.
Applying Nutrio in sugarcane fields
Nutrio biofertilizer contains endophytic bacteria that are nitrogen-fixing organisms, which have been isolated, screened, and tested for improved growth and yield of sugarcane plants. Toxicological study on the microbial component of Nutrio shows that the product is safe to humans and the environment.
A 100-gram packet of Nutrio costs P200-P250. Its shelf life is six to eight months. A hectare requires 40 packets or two kilograms of Nutrio powder. The first 20 packets are diluted in 50 liters of water and applied two months after planting sugarcane. The second 20 packets are also diluted in 50 liters of water and applied four months after planting. Application is by spraying onto the leaves of the plants.
On the other hand, rates of application of inorganic fertilizer depends on the soil analysis in the area provided by SRA. With Nutrio as a supplement to the N requirement of sugarcane, farmers can apply only half of the recommended inorganic N.
Evidence of benefits: pilot tests and demo trials
The product was tested through the recently-completed PCAARRD-funded project, “Toxicological Study and Pilot Testing of Nutrio Biofertilizer for Improved Production of Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) in Regions III and VI.” UPLB-BIOTECH’s Dr. Ronilo P. Violanta led the project implementation upon Dr. Padilla’s retirement from government service. The project team conducted two pilot tests and six demonstration trials to validate the product’s benefits in terms of yield and cost.
In San Martin in Concepcion, Tarlac, cane yield increased by 10% when Nutrio was used as supplement to one-half of the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) recommended rate (SRARR). At one-half SRARR (100-100-300 kg NPK/ha) plus Nutrio, cane yield was higher at 85.22 TC/ha compared with the farmer’s practice (FP) of fertilization rate (230-110-50 kg NPK/ha), which yielded 77.41 TC/ha. Sugar yield for both practices were almost the same: 150.85 Lkg/ha for 1/2 SRARR plus Nutrio and 150.15 Lkg/ha for FP.
In EB Magalona in Silay, Negros Occidental, cane yield increased by 27.3% when plants were treated with 1/2 of SRARR plus Nutrio. Yield at harvest was 75.70 TC/ha, which was higher than the 59.93 TC/ha yield from FP’s fertilization rate of 234-69-180 kg NPK/ha.
Aside from the two pilot tests, the project conducted demonstration trials in Capas, Tarlac; Silay Negros Occidental; Lico-an Barotaq, Nuevo Iloilo; Pando, Concepcion Tarlac; Tiwi, Barotaq Nuevo Iloilo; and La Granja, La Carlota, Negros Occidental. Treatments, which made use of Nutrio as supplement to one-half FP fertilization rate and to one-half SRARR, showed positive effect on plant growth parameters, cane yield, and sugar yield, compared with the FP alone without the Nutrio.
Positive changes in net income
Comparative partial budget analyses of the different fertilizer application treatments based on sugar yield data from pilot-test and demo-trial areas showed a positive change in net income due to the use of Nutrio as supplement to the inorganic fertilization practice. In pilot test areas, the application of 1/2 FP+Nutrio resulted in additional profit per hectare ranging from P6,891 to P20,784. In the demonstration trials, the same application rate resulted in additional profit per hectare ranging from P21,980 to P72,744. Also, the application of 1/2SRARR+Nutrio gave additional profit per hectare of P21,980.
Production of Nutrio foliar spray biofertilizer is licensed to Fullmight Agricultural Corporation, a family-owned corporation in Los Banos, Laguna. IPOPhil approved the inventor’s patent application declaring the invention as novel, inventive, and industrially applicable. The product generated sales and interest through the project’s promotional activities. A consistent adopter is a plantation owner from Don Carlos City, Maramag, Bukidnon.