President Duterte has approved the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) P523.57-million national soil health program (NSHP) which seeks to rejuvenate the country’s “degraded and sick” soils to increase crop production.
The DA said the NSHP is a three-year program that will be implemented by its attached agency, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the NSHP was a “long-awaited” rejuvenation program that would enable farmers to produce “bountiful crops and earn more income for their families.”
“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,” he said.
Since returning from his stint as director general of the India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Dar said soil rejuvenation has been one of his major advocacies in his second stint as the country’s agriculture chief.
“Aside from water, healthy soil is the other key ingredient to attain sustainable crop production,” he said.
“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 four major components of the NSHP are: institutionalization of 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,” the DA said.
“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 DA said the second component of the three-year program involves acquisition of modern mobile soils laboratories that will serve farms far from established DA-BSWM provincial and regional laboratories. This 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 the corresponding specific site and crop nutrient recommendations,” Dar said.
The DA said the program’s third component aims to strengthen partnerships between the DA-BSWM and relevant agencies and organizations to sustain food security efforts. The DA added that the fourth component entails the development of a “National Soil Kit” which would feature all possible properties of soil health (physical, chemical and biological indicators).
The DA said the NSHP was patterned after the soil rejuvenation program implemented in 2009 to 2012 by ICRISAT in Kartanaka, India, covering 3.3 million hectares.