As part of the government’s goal to attain food security, President Rodrigo Duterte recently approved a National Soil Health Program (NSHP) aimed at rejuvenating the country’s degraded and “sick” soils and ensuring increased crop production in a sustainable manner.

The NSHP will be implemented by the Department of Agriculture through its Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM) from 2021 to 2023, with a budget of P523.57 million (M).

“On behalf of millions of Filipino farmers, we thank President Duterte for supporting this long-awaited soil rejuvenation program to enable our farmers to produce bountiful crops and earn more income for their families,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

“As soil is the foundation of agriculture, we must therefore protect, preserve, and nurture it to sustainably produce adequate, affordable, and nutritious food for all Filipinos,” Dar added.

“Soil rejuvenation has been one of my major advocacies.”

“Since I came back from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), soil rejuvenation has been one of my major advocacies. Aside from water, healthy soil is the other key ingredient to attain sustainable crop production,” the agriculture chief stressed.

“With the NSHP, we now have a science-based framework to rejuvenate our sick soils that will subsequently lead to increased crop harvests and farmers’ incomes,” the agriculture head added.

The program features four major components that aim to:

·         institutionalize national soil monitoring and rejuvenation program;

·         establish mobile soils laboratory to monitor soil health;

·         strengthen partnerships with relevant agencies and organizations to sustain food security; and

·         improve soil analysis for macro- and micro-nutrients, and develop manuals on the use of physical and biological parameters as indicators of soil health.

The first component entails the adoption of a national soil database and monitoring system to rejuvenate degraded soils.

It also aims to enhance the capacities and efficiencies of national and regional soil laboratories through the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment, upgraded laboratory facilities, and highly-trained technical staff.

The second component involves acquisition of modern mobile soils laboratories that will serve farms far from established DA-BSWM provincial and regional laboratories. It also entails training local government extension workers, farmer-leaders, and other stakeholders on the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils.

“With these modern soil laboratories, farmers would have their soil samples analyzed in a matter of minutes.”

“With these modern soil laboratories, farmers would have their soil samples analyzed in a matter of minutes, with the corresponding specific site and crop nutrient recommendations,” he said.

The third component aims to strengthen partnerships between the DA-BSWM and relevant agencies and organizations to sustain food security efforts.

“Part of this is to empower rural-based organizations, particularly farmers’ cooperatives and associations or FCAs (Farmers Cooperatives and Associations), that will serve as partners in implementing the national soil health program,” Dar said.

The program also aims to provide municipal local government units (LGUs) with “Enhancement of Soil Test Kit” or ESTK for their farmer-constituents.

The fourth component entails the development of a “National Soil Kit” complete with the “OneDA” branding.

The kit features all possible properties—physical, chemical, and biological indicators—of soil health.

The NSHP was patterned after the successful “Bhoochetana” or soil rejuvenation program implemented in 2009 to 2012 by ICRISAT in Kartanaka, India, covering 3.3 million hectares.

Dar served as ICRISAT director-general from 2000 to 2014.

Through Bhoochetana, Karnataka farmers were able to increase their crop yields by 23% to 66% through the adoption of soil-test-based nutrient management recommendations, along with the use of quality seeds of high-yielding cultivars, and soil and water conservation measures.

The economic returns for every dollar invested by farmers ranged from 2.1 to 14.6 times, according to ICRISAT. 


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