The effect of Covid-19 and Movement Control Order on agriculture in Malaysia

The novel Coronavirus or Covid-19 has been spreading across the nation in increasing rates daily. This virus has forced Malaysia to go under Movement Control Order since 18th March 2020. The Movement Control Order is a very crucial step taken by the government to avoid the spreading of the virus in Malaysia. Due to this, there are many effects on the economy, personal income and environment resulting from agricultural activities. Some of the effects are discussed below.One of the drawbacks of the Movement Control Order (MCO) is that most of the local and global trade markets are kept on hold. Locally, many farmers are facing a drop in income as their sales do not reach the targets. Small scale farmers are losing their income as there is not much demand for fruits at this point. Most consumers prefer to stock up food such as rice, bread and canned food during the MCO while fruits are often neglected. On a global scale, large scale farmers and traders of fruits are also experiencing loss as the import-export activities have been closed down due to the MCO.Next, many farmers are losing their optimum yield as they are unable to get their fertilizer on time for fertilizing the crops. MCO has urged the shops to be closed as a preventive method to avoid the further spreading of Covid-19 in Malaysia. Therefore, missing the fertilizing period, can cause a drop in yield for the farmers.

On the other hand, there are also some pros from the MCO as observed by the community. Due to the limited movement time and flexibility to buy daily essentials, many consumers tend to stock up on food. As for Malaysia, the most consumed food is rice and grains. Therefore, the demand for these food sources has increased due to panic buying.Other than that, since fertilizing and aerating new land for farms during the MCO period is impossible, the impact can be seen in the environment. There is less water pollution in the lakes surrounding the plantations. Also, since transportation is banned for transporting the produce to markets or other places, there is also a drop in air pollution during this moment.Lastly, although MCO may cause difficulties for some parties, we should understand that it is crucial to follow the rules of MCO by staying home and avoiding public places to curb the further spread of the virus. The economy can slowly be recovered later on, but lost lives cannot be brought back. Therefore, stay home and save lives.


Production process to containerization

This is the production process of our product Silicate Fertilizer from its production until containerization.

The production is processed in Korea and delivered to our buyer in Tawau, Malaysia. The process is as listed.

The process starts by processing the raw materials into Silicate Fertilizer.

Next, we pack them individually in their bag in an automated way.

After packing, each of the products is transported via the conveyor belt in the manufacturing line onto the pallet.

We pile the products in each pallet before automatedly cling wrap them.

Once it is clung wrap we forklift them and arrange them on each pallet in the warehouse.

The products are made ready to be stuffed into the container and shipped to our buyer.

A Scientific Analysis Of the Performance of Ulexite in Soil

Boron fertilizers have always been essential to the agriculture industry. Borate or Boron is one nutrient that all plants need and it cannot just be omitted from any fertilizer application process. The lack of Boron can lead to crops being less productive and appearing withered or diseased.

In recent years, there have been new innovations in the field of fertilizers, whereby slow-release and controlled-release fertilizers have been developed. These fertilizers have a slower release rate than more traditional forms of fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers have an advantage over fast-release fertilizers as they are able to last longer and are less prone to leaching in soil.One research project has examined the rate of release and leaching of Ulexite, and we shall see the main findings of this paper with regards to the performance of regular Ulexite in soil and for agricultural purposes.

The concentration of Boron in commercial Ulexite

In the paper by Da Silva et al. (2018), the amount of total Boron in a sample of Ulexite from Argentina was 98 grams per kilogram. However, the water-soluble portion of this product was only about 74 grams per kilo. In effect, this means that only 7.4% of the total weight of the product is being released into the soil to be used by plants. This, of course, is only the results of one product, and Ulexite from different places may vary slightly.

Boron leaching from Ulexite

The leaching rate of a MOP (Muriate of Potash) blend with Ulexite was examined. The blend was applied to soil columns with different pore volumes (PV). Pore volumes were set at 2.5PV, 5PV, 10PV and 20PV. Water was then poured through the soil columns and the amount of Boron remaining was measured in order to determine how much of it was lost.

At 2.5PV, the leaching rate of the Ulexite blend was about 52.9 %. However, at higher PV values, the percentage of leaching became stable at 70.2%, 75.8%, and 77.8% respectively. This shows that Boron in Ulexite is highly soluble and can be lost at high degrees in soils with heavy rainfall and high sandy content.Uptake of Boron in Canola

In a study of the uptake of Boron by the Canola plant, it was found that soils with less leaching has plants that had a higher amount of Boron, and generally had higher shoot dry matter yield. This means that the Canola with less leaching in soils generally had a bigger mass and healthier growth rate. Canola is one plant that is sensitive to Boron content, and therefore is often used as a measure for Boron performance in soil.The Importance of Slow-Release and Controlled-Release Ulexite

In the study by Da Silva et al. (2018), we can conclude that regular Ulexite is prone to wastage to due soil leaching, with about 70-75% lost when rainwater washes it off. This is why the technology of slow-release and controlled release is so important to be used in the field, in order to conserve the Boron in Ulexite so that it really reaches the plant.



Ulexite Market Trends for 2020 And Beyond

Boron and borates are a class of fertilizers that are essential to the agriculture industry. They are a major category of fertilizers, along with Nitrogen (N), Phosphates (P) and Potassium (K).  Commercially, boron is available in several natural forms. These include borax, Ulexite, Colemanite, and Boric Acid.

Boron and borate minerals are used in many fields, not just as fertilizers. They’re also widely present in the glassmaking industry, ceramics, detergents, and others. In fact, slightly more than half of the borate minerals in the world go towards the glassmaking. Only about 14% of all borate minerals are used as fertilizers. Among these is of course, Ulexite.Demand for Ulexite

Ulexite will continue to see a growth in terms of demand for the year 2020 and beyond. Ulexite itself provides borates to crops, which are micronutrients without any substitutes. Since Ulexite has no other material substitutes, and the demand for agricultural products is not expected to decline anytime soon, we will see the demand trend for Ulexite be pretty stable.

Agricultural demand for Borates stood at 14% in 2012 and is expected to rise by 1.48% in 2020, and a further 1.32% and 1.33% in 2021 and 2022. The forecasted production amount for the agricultural sector in 2020 is about 314,095 tons and this number is projected to increase slightly in the subsequent years to 326,860 tons in the year 2023, as seen in Table 1.

Table 1: Projected Boron Demand Forecasts (In B2O3 tonnes). Source: StormcrowThe recent COVID-19 pandemic around the world is not expected to affect the production and supply of Ulexite in Malaysia. This is because the production of Ulexite as a fertilizer is considered an essential service, as it pertains to the food and agriculture industry.Ulexite Pricing

The pricing for Ulexite had more or less remained stable and shows only a slight increase In the past. In 2005, the documented price of Ulexite was USD250-USD300 per metric ton (FOB basis). However, now the Ulexite price has increased a lot, by reflecting high demand from the world. in 2020 we are seeing Ulexite being sold commercially for about USD400-USD450 per metric ton (FOB basis).

The Future of Ulexite

In general, there are several countries that are the main producers include South American countries like Bolivia, Peru and Chile. The main players in the Ulexite production field include Socomirg of Bolivia, Quiborax of Chile and Inkabor of Peru. However, there are many other smaller companies from other countries that can potentially penetrate the market and be successful. This is based on the simple fact that demand is steadily increasing and supply is always welcomed.

The market is definitely not saturated, and the usage of Ulexite is not limited to the fertilizers and the agricultural sector. The best way forward is therefore to vary your target market if you’re producing Ulexite into as many fields and industries as possible.

Stormcrow Industry Report on Borates (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/535e7e2de4b088f0b623c597/t/55365c32e4b09956c7c42fc0/1429625906212/Stormcrow-Borate+Industry+Report-Apr2015-Final.pdf)

Industrial Minerals and Rocks: Commodities, Markets and Uses

Composted and non-composted Organic Fertilizer

Organic fertilizer is considered free from artificially added chemicals and other elements that are harmful to plants. However, organic fertilizer, such as chicken or cow manure, users can either be composted or not composted. There is a difference between these two types of fertilizer. Fresh and not composted manure can be applied to plants that require a high level of nitrogen. However, applying fresh and not composted manure to plants possess a health risk.

The not composted manure contains bacteria and pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. These bacteria and pathogens are in fact harmful to humans. Although they are not taken up by the plant roots, some of these bacteria and pathogens can stick to the plants and can be brought to the kitchen along with the plants. These can then enter the cooked food and harm humans. Also, some vegetables such as cabbages and salads alongside fruits are not cooked before consumption. Therefore, this can also affect consumers.

Dried and processed manure is sold in hardware stores. These types of organic fertilizers are safer in comparison homemade with non-composted manure fertilizer. However, if you wish to make the fertilizer at home, the following steps can be followed:

  • Make sure to dry the manure in high temperatures of 55 degree Celsius and above for at least 15 days
  • Another way is to dry the manure for 6 months to 1 year in order to kill the pathogens and bacteria

When properly composted, organic fertilizer made at home from manure can be very beneficial over the chemical-based fertilizers. It also helps save the cost of maintaining your backyard garden.



Regenerative Agriculture

We often hear issues on global warming, climate crisis, poverty and malnutrition happening around the world. Many are unaware that these problems can be lessened, if not solved, through regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture defines as a practice that can reverse the effects of climate change by helping to rebuild soil organic matter and by restoring the biodiversity of degraded soil. This in return, contributes to carbon drawdown and an improved water cycle.

Based on researches done by scientists, with the current rate of soil destruction, including erosion, desertification and chemical pollution, the public health and food supply chain is seen to deteriorate in the coming 50 years. It is expected that the food supplied will lose most of its nutritional values. Other than that, the lack of arable soil will cause a drop in the food supply, causing hunger around the less wealthy side of the world. It will also be impossible to keep the global warming conditions at below 2 degree Celsius and would lead to a loss of biodiversity.

Regenerative agriculture uses technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and environment, rather than damaging it by planting crops. This technology leads to a healthy soil condition that is able to produce high quality and nutrient-rich food. Regenerative agriculture incorporates permaculture and organic farming practices that include crop rotation, composting, using organic fertilizer, and organic farming practices to increase food production, income and most importantly, the quality of the soil.

Biodiesel – the fuel of the future

Biodiesel is the fuel produced from extracting oil from animal fats, plants or waste. Scientifically, biodiesel is called fatty acid methyl esters.Some of the sources of biodiesel include rapeseed, soya beans, and corn. Since some of these are also sources of food, there is a Fuel vs Food debate on biodiesel production from food sources. Therefore, a lot of research is being done on producing biodiesel from inedible sources. Some examples include sandbox seeds and cotton seeds.
Biodiesel is produced through esterification process of oil extracted from the seeds. Firstly, the seeds are cleaned and dried. Then, oil is extracted from the seeds via processes such as soxhlet extraction or by mixing the oil with sulfur dioxide. The oil extracted is then refined and esterified by a reaction between the oil and alcohol as the base. A catalyst can be used to enhance the reaction. The time and temperature depend on the type of alcohol and oil used. Once the reaction completes, the alcohol is evaporated using rotary evaporation.

The use of biodiesel is important as it comes from natural renewable resources. It also helps reduce carbon footprint where the carbon footprint emitted is countered by planting sources like sandbox seeds and cotton seeds for further production. Biodiesel is an important technology which can significantly help overcome the problem of fossil fuel and natural gas depletion. Therefore, more research is to be done to prepare biodiesel on large scales to overcome the depletion.

Azolla as a Bio Fertilizer

Azolla, also known as mosquito fern, is a form of aquatic plant that resembles duckweed or mosses. In addition to being one of the fastest-growing plants, it also does not need land to grow on. This is due to its ability to self-produce nitrogen, which other plants tend to obtain from the soil they grow on. This process is known as nitrogen fixation.

Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium, a similar nitrogen-fixing eubacterium, also provides nitrogen directly from the atmosphere but the relationship between these two organisms need to be renewed each generation. On the other hand, Azolla is capable of directly transmitting its cyanobacteria to the next generation during its reproductive cycle. Azolla and its cyanobacteria have evolved together over millions of years, making them a superorganism which can fix nitrogen three times more than legumes and its cyanobacteria.

Azolla is cultivated as a biofertilizer in paddy fields. It provides nitrogen to the surrounding paddy field through nitrogen fixation. Currently, Azolla is used in paddy fields of tropical temperatures. However, research is needed to use the fern in high altitude paddy fields. Also, the algae should be resistant to the pesticides and herbicides that are commonly used in the paddy fields.

Apart from being used as a biofertilizer, Azolla is also being cultivated for livestock feed. It is rich in various vitamins, minerals, proteins and amino acids, thus a balanced food for livestock. There is also the potential of this plant to be used as a biofuel.

Carbon Dioxide Fertilizer to Promote Growth

Carbon dioxide is essential to plants as oxygen is essential to humans and animals. Humans and animals inhale oxygen produced by plants and exhale carbon dioxide that is used by plants to support photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process carried out by plants in order to prepare ‘food’ with the presence of sunlight, chlorophyll and carbon dioxide.

An efficient photosynthesis rate is needed for the plants to be able to grow to their full potential. Naturally, plants need 0.1 to 1.0 % volume of carbon dioxide to reach their optimal photosynthesis rate. However, the surrounding air contains only 0.03 % of carbon dioxide that is available for photosynthesis. Therefore, plants are unable to reach their maximum growth due to the lack of carbon dioxide. This results in smaller plants, leaves and fruits.

In order to ensure optimum growth, carbon dioxide has to be supplied to the plants. In the 1920s, carbon dioxide gas was supplied directly to the plants. Pipes were built along with the plants. Carbon dioxide gas would be slowly released from the pipes to be absorbed by the plants. However, the situation was difficult to control as there is the runoff of the carbon dioxide into the environment.

In current days, fertilizer in the form of calcium carbonate is available to the consumers. This type of fertilizer is usually a slow release. Once applied, the granules slowly release carbon dioxide over a long period of time, just enough for the plants’ stomata to absorb some carbon dioxide to assist photosynthesis, and avoid wastage and environmental poisoning. The extra source of carbon dioxide enables plants to produce a higher yield of fruits and also larger and healthier fruits.

Qualities of a good fertilizer

The most important mechanical quality of fertilizer is the ability to spread evenly, precise application, a low impact on the environment and promising a high return on investment. The first look of fertilizer can actually indicate the quality of the granules. Dust-like and crushed granules indicate fertilizer with low quality. On the other hand, granules that are smooth and inhomogeneous size indicate high quality and ability to spread evenly.

Taking into importance the well-being of the environment, fertilizers should be free of additives. Another important effect of fertilizer is the release of carbon footprint. Carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment by a certain activity, which in this case is agriculture. This leads to an increase in global temperature. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the fertilizer emits carbon footprint at its lowest both during production and application.

Next quality is the high return in investment. The fertilizer applied should be able to return the investment in fertilizing during harvesting. Some fertilizer types require more fertilizing with more quantity and more frequency. This type of fertilizer brings a lesser return on investment. Fertilizer that needs to be applied lesser times, but with the same harvest, promises a higher return of investment.

In short, a good quality fertilizer should have the following:

  • Free-flowing (easily applied)
  • Consistent in particle size with smooth and hard granules
  • Easily spread – ensuring even distribution patterns
  • Quickly dissolve when in contact with moist soil or water (avoid run-off)
  • Free from contaminants and additives