PILI, Camarines Sur—The Department of Agriculture (DA)
is intensifying its campaign to draw Bicol farmers into using
at least two affordable bio-fertilizer brands that increase
crop production as part of the long-term strategy to wean them
away from costly, imported fertilizers.
Under this initiative, the agriculture department is pushing
on microbial-based fertilizers with the trade marks Bio-Con
and Bio-N, both environment-friendly inoculants developed by
scientists of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños
(UPLB), and tested to increase crop yields by as much as 20
Bio-N is a microbial-based inoculant available from suppliers
in 49 newly established mixing plants nationwide, while Bio-Con
is a commercially produced variety that is now being tested
in the corn-farm clusters in Mindanao, the Ilocos region, Cagayan
Valley, Central Luzon and Palawan, according to Jose Dayao,
DA’s regional executive director for Bicol, based here.
Dayao said experts from UPLB and the Philippine Rice Research
Institute (PhilRice) have recommended the use of Bio-N and Bio-Con
as affordable, growth-boosting and environment-friendly alternatives
to imported chemical fertilizers after these substitute fertilizers
were screened for their effectiveness on a variety of agricultural
The use of organic fertilizers will not only increase yields
per hectare, but will, in the long haul, actually save for farmers
hundreds of millions of pesos. Organic fertilizers are believed
to help reduce reliance on expensive, imported chemical fertilizers
in palay and corn farms, he said.
He noted that Bio-N, for instance, supplies at least 50 percent
of the nitrogen requirements of rice, corn and vegetable crops
and that five 200-gram seed packets are enough for 1 hectare
planted to rice or corn.
Bio-N promotes shoot growth and root development in crops;
increases the yield per hectare; and develops the resistance
of corn crops to wind and certain plant diseases.
“It is an environmentally safe inoculant that can eliminate
the risk of groundwater pollution caused by the leaching of
nitrate, especially in loose soils,” the Bicol DA chief
Developed by Dr. Mercedes Garcia of the UPLB’s National
Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Biotech) several
years ago, Bio-N is a microbial inoculant made with a bacterium
called Azospirillum. It helps the plant fix nitrogen from the
Dayao said nitrogen is one of the main nutrients required by
plants. Although the atmosphere is composed of 78-percent nitrogen,
plants cannot readily utilize the gas as nutrient. It has to
be converted into a form that can be used by the plants.
Traditionally, farmers apply chemical nitrogen like urea to
their crops, but sometimes, chemical fertilizers do more harm
than good. Synthetic fertilizers can make the soil acidic, degrading
In the long run, they pollute the soil, air and water table.
Aside from these, most of the chemical fertilizers available
in the country, particularly urea, are imported. With the current
peso-dollar exchange rate, the prices of these fertilizers are
exorbitant for farmers.
The advantage of using Bio-N is that it provides the nitrogen
needed by plants without harming the environment. The Azospirillum
in Bio-N converts the nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form
that can be readily used by the plant.
Rice and corn plants become robust with Bio-N and since microorganisms,
like bacteria, are natural components of the environment, this
inoculant does not damage the soil. Most of all, it helps increase
harvest, Dayao said.
It is cheaper than chemical fertilizers because Bio-N is made
from local materials. The bacterium in Bio-N is isolated from
the common talahib. Farmers can save a considerable amount by
substituting or supplementing Bio-N with chemical nitrogen.
He explained that a pack of urea now costs P44, while Bio-N
costs only P30 and is enough to apply for 20 kilograms of rice
or 3 kilograms corn seeds. In 1 hectare, a farmer will need
only five packs of Bio-N.
Biocon promotes growth with marked increases in yield ranging
from 10 percent to 20 percent, while reducing the use of chemical
fertilizers by 30 percent to 50 percent, he said.
Biocon is currently being used in selected areas covered by
the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) Corn Program in Mindanao,
Central Luzon, the Ilocos region and Cagayan Valley. It is now
under evaluation of the UPLB and PhilRice experts for wider
use in the GMA Rice Program, Dayao said.
With Bicol emerging this year as among the top rice-producing
regions in the country with the wide use of hybrid palay seeds,
he said using bio-fertilizers would further boost the region’s
A hybrid-rice variety, also referred to as the F1, is the direct
product of crossing two genetically different parents. In hybrids,
the positive qualities of both parents are combined, resulting
in a phenomenon called “hybrid vigor” or “heterosis”
that results in better reproductive characteristics, Dayao said.
These factors result in higher yields than ordinary rice by
15 percent, and with proper management, farmers harvest up to
240 cavans per hectare per season or 12 tons per hectare per
year, Dayao explained.
The entire Bicol region had a total of about 291,000 hectares
of land devoted to rice that contributed almost a million metric
tons of the staple food to the country’s overall production
Most of these areas, however, are still using ordinary rice
variety and synthetic fertilizers. Certainly, when the DA is
able to expand the coverage of the hybrid varieties and use
of bio-fertilizers in the region, Dayao said, “we expect