Fertilizer

Slow Release Fertilizer – The New Age Agriculture

Slow release fertilizer, such as the type developed by Greenfeed Company, promotes some positive contributions to the agricultural industry. A slow release fertilizer, as the name indicates, releases its nutrients slowly into the soil over a long period of time.

Daebak Slow Release Fertilizer

The difference between the slow release fertilizer and the conventional soluble fertilizer is mainly on how the nutrients are transferred to the plants. When slow release fertilizer is used, the coated layer of the fertilizer pallet will evaporate, and the pallet containing nutrient will be absorbed into the soil. The nutrients are then slowly released over a period of 6 to 9 months. This provides the plant with enough nutrients for at least 6 months.

On the other hand, conventional fertilizers release the nutrients at once into the soil as soon as they dissolve into water. This causes the fertilizer effect to wear off quicker while leaching off a portion of fertilizer into the ground.

Credit: Milorganites’s Website

One advantage of the slow release fertilizer includes a reduced frequency to fertilize the crops. In large agricultural lands, a high amount of energy, labour and time are needed to fertilize the whole field. While most conventional fertilizer has to be applied at least three times a year, the whole process can be completed in only one application using slow release fertilizer. This in return saves cost, time and energy.

By providing benefits such as mentioned above, there is a high chance that slow release fertilizer will become the future of agriculture.

Fertilizer and Water

As for humans, we might take supplements to keep ourselves healthy and away from diseases. For plants, fertilizer is equally important as supplements are to humans. In plants, being equally crucial, fertilizer and water play their important roles. Here is a guide to when to fertilizer your plants and to water them.

You should always keep in mind that fertilizer is absorbed by the roots of the plants. Since most fertilizer comes in the form of granules, it is important to water the plants according to your fertilizing schedule.

If you want to apply fertilizer to your plants, make sure they are not dried or browned up. Your plants should always be green or a little fresh at least when you apply fertilizer. Applying fertilizer to browned plants can cause them to dehydrate and die.

If you are applying fertilizer to the plants during dry seasons, water your plants thoroughly every day for at least three days before spreading fertilizer around the roots. This will ensure that the soil around the roots is moist enough for the nutrients from the fertilizer to travel through. Once you are done applying fertilizer, water your plants lightly once more to ensure that there is no fertilizer left on the leaves of your plants.

On the other hand, if you wish to apply fertilizer during the rainy season, be sure to predict the intensity of rain before applying the fertilizer. If it rains just enough to wet the soil till the roots, then the fertilizer will be efficiently absorbed. However, if you apply the fertilizer before a thunderstorm, it will end up being washed up before even reaching the roots.

Therefore, the moisture of the soil before and after applying fertilizer should be taken into count to enable maximum absorption of nutrients by the plants.

** Credit: Agus Andrianto/CIFOR @ Flickr for the featured image of a worker fertilizing on oil palm plantation in Papua, Indonesia

Common Fertilizer Problems Faced By Tropical Plantations

Tropical agriculture, like that in Malaysia, faces its own challenges. Many tropical countries are developing countries that depend on agriculture to drive their economies. This is why increasing and optimizing fertilizer efficiency is paramount.

Credit: CIAT @ Flickr

If you have a plantation here, these are the main issues you may face while using fertilizers and how to overcome them:

1.Fertilizer Runoff

It is the usual practice for many plantations is to apply their fertilizers by spreading them on the ground. This method, although it looks pretty simple on the surface, actually poses some challenges. For starters, it requires a lot of manpower to manually spread the dry fertilizers all over the plantation. Secondly, this method exposes the fertilizers to rain, which causes fertilizer runoff, whereby most of the nutrients are washed away by the rain or leaches through the ground.

How to overcome this: FELDA has worked on a solution to this problem, using a method called the Mulch method for mature palms. This method uses a tarp to cover the area around the palm after fertilizer application. This minimizes fertilizer runoff and increases efficiency since fertilizers only have to be applied once a year. You can find out more about the Mulch method at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zcw7g-CBhk)

Credit: Unsplash.com

2. Changing Fertilizer Prices

The prices of fertilizers can often be a challenge and are very much influenced by volatile market factors such as demand and supply. Availability of raw materials also influences prices to some degree. Fertilizer costs can become a burden to plantations during periods where there’s a sharp rise. However, a plantation cannot go without fertilizers for long. Research has shown that the productivity of an oil palm plantation starts to decline sharply one to two years after fertilizers have been stopped.

Credit: Unsplash.com

How to overcome this: Complete withdrawal of fertilizers should be the last resort. In the meantime, you can reduce your fertilizers and target usage. Withdrawal should be done only on the nutrients with least impact on FFB. You can also withdraw your fertilizers from the soil types, climatic zones and palm ages that are the healthiest and the most stable. However, this withdrawal should not be for long.

3. Environmentally Sustainable Fertilizers

With the global market for palm oil becoming more environmentally conscious, oil palm plantations have to become environmentally conscious too. This means taking steps to make sure that all agricultural practices on the plantation are sustainable. This term ‘sustainability’ means practices that are not harmful to the environment and can be carried out for years and years to come with no major negative impacts. The challenge for plantation owners is to make sure that the fertilization practices are sustainable too.

The main problem with agrochemical fertilizers is the presence of Nitrogen. According to research, 20-80% of the nitrogen in fertilizers is lost due to volatilization and runoff. Nitrogen runoff is especially harmful to the environment as it causes eutrophication, where algae overgrow in a body of water and kill all life living there due to lack of sunlight.

Credit: Unsplash.com

How to overcome this: There are many types of newer fertilizers that treat their nitrogen to make it less volatile and sensitive to leaching. Alternatively, you can also consider controlled release fertilizers that are less likely to pollute the environment due to runoff.

Understanding Soil pH values

The pH value of a medium is how acidic or alkaline it is on the pH scale. The pH of a medium is measured based on the pH scale. The scale ranges from 0 to 14. Value of 7 on the scale is considered to be neutral, while values below 7 are acidic and above 7 are alkaline.

In soils, the pH values control most chemical processes such as nutrient availability. It is very crucial to maintain a proper level of pH in the soil to enable the plants to reach their full potential.

For most plants, the optimal pH range is between 5.5 to 7. However, some plants prefer a pH value of more or less than the common range. For example, blueberries and barley prefer a more acidic medium. While Lilac and Leather flower prefers an acidic pH value to grow in.

In certain cases, the pH value of a certain part of soil can become acidic. This happens due to a few reasons:

  1. Removal of produce

The parts of a plant, except the roots, is generally alkaline. Only the roots tend to be acidic. Therefore, when the plant is removed from the soil, some part of the roots remain and causes acidity

2. Nitrogen leaching from the roots of the crop

Since most fertilizers contain nitrogen, most of the nitrogen is stored in the roots of the plants. There is no doubt that a certain amount leaches out of the roots into the soil, thus increasing soil acidity in the area.

** Credit: Dwight Sipler @ Flickr for the Blue Hydrangea

Precision Agriculture in Preventing Fertilizer Wastage

As the need for food increases day by day, more and more land is cleared to plant food sources such as grains, paddy and wheat. Small scale farmers try to do their best to produce some food for income while large companies tend to clear acres of land at a time to plant the amount of food needed to feed the mouths of so many people.

A lot of time, money and energy is invested in developing a piece of land for agricultural purpose. However, some parts of the land may not be as productive or fertile as it is expected to be during the planning. For example, if a farmer clears and plants fifty rows of grains, one of the rows might just be on an infertile piece of land. However, he will keep fertilizing the row, hoping that the crops produce will increase.

Given the example, precision agriculture techniques can help reduce the risk of fertilizer and capital wastage alongside reducing the effect of fertilizer runoff into the neighbouring lakes and other water sources. Precision agriculture is a technology which utilizes satellites to determine the areas of land which have been barren for years.

3D rendering of a satellite orbiting the earth with illuminated cities at night

Images from the satellite show the areas in a different shading where the infertile regions are marked. These images can then be provided to farmers who own the piece of land. By doing this, the farmers would not clear the land for agricultural use, knowing that the yield would not be rewarding. Therefore, instead of experimenting with the land, the farmers can directly use the land for other purposes such as building habitats for animals cattle, or goats.

This technology promises a reduced carbon footprint from agricultural activities. This is so, once the land is known as infertile, no projects for plantation will be carried out. Thus, lowering the risk of wasteful land clearing. Next, by knowing that the land is infertile, farmers would not plant any food there, thus avoiding the farmers from over fertilizing an area which can not produce a healthy plant. This in return helps reduce the damage done to the environment by the fertilizer runoff.

What Is the MSPO and Why You Need It for Your Plantation

Palm Oil plantation owners and other stakeholders in this field should always strive to improve their plantation practices. One of the ways this can be accomplished is through getting certifications. Currently, the MPOCC of the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council has made one type of certification for oil palm smallholders.

This is known as the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil or MSPO Certificate.

What is the MSPO Certificate?

The MSPO certificate is an acknowledgement that the products of your plantation products are made through sustainable methods. This means there’s nothing that pollutes the environment and all processes are safe and complies Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

The main benefit of having the MPSO certificate is that your products will be more marketable overseas. Right now, many western countries, especially the European Union, have laws against buying palm oil linked to serious environmental issues like deforestation and wildlife destruction.

When Should I Get the MSPO?
Basically, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, under the Ministry of Primary Industries, is trying to get all palm oil plantations certified with the MSPO. This certificate ensures that certain standards of agricultural practices are met within your plantation or palm oil processing plant. It was first announced in 2013 but started out as a voluntary program.

However, in 2017, the announcement was made to make it mandatory for oil palm plantations and factories to be MSPO certified in three stages. The first two phases involved larger plantations and factories who previously had RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Oil Palm) certificates and those who did not have RSPO certification. The first phase ended in December 2018 while the second phase ends in June 2019.

The third and final phase involves all oil palm smallholders. Oil palm smallholders are compulsory to have this MSPO certification by 31st December 2019. Therefore if you haven’t started with the process, now is the time to do it.

How Do I Get The MSPO?

As a plantation owner, you should first submit an application to MPOB after consultation. After that, you will undergo two stages of audits and one peer review. If you pass all that, then the MPSO certificate will be issued to your plantation. However, that is not the end as there will be an annual re-evaluation so that the certificate can be renewed.

What Are The Benefits of Having the MPSO?

The MPSO certificate will give you an edge over competitors as it will ensure consumers and business partners know that your agricultural practices are safe for the environment and sustainable. Additionally, here are some other benefits listed out by MPOB:

  • Continuous and increased production of fresh fruit bunches
  • The rights of plantation owners will be ensured
  • Better access to bank loans and capitals
  • Cleaner environment for future generations
  • A thorough record of your plantation management
  • Minimizes the misuse of MPOB certificates and FFB theft
  • Gaining the confidence and satisfaction of stakeholders

If you’re interested in more information on the MSPO, please visit the official MPOB website here.

Ways to Curb Nitrogen Pollution

Nitrogen is one of the most vital ingredients in fertilizer. Nitrogen helps promote plants growth. The main source for nitrogen comes both from natural resources and also from human activities. Among these two, human sources have a larger impact on the environment.

Too much nitrogen in the environment contributes to climate change and dead zones in water sources such as lakes, rivers and coastal areas. Dead zones are the zones in water sources that are low of oxygen content.

One of the few ways to help reduce nitrogen pollution is by enforcing policies on farmers that utilize nitrogen fertilizers. These farmers should be advised to follow a policy enforced by the government where they are told to use lesser nitrogen fertilizer and opt to other alternatives which are healthier for the environment.

Next, the local fertilizer suppliers and markets surrounding an agricultural area should be given incentives to sell fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen content. For example, if the suppliers can be rewarded for selling lesser nitrogen fertilizer, the impact on the environment can be lowered as farmers might use lesser nitrogen fertilizer, as recommended by their supplier.

The above-mentioned ways to reduce the usage of nitrogen fertilizer may be difficult to be applied as farmers would tend to stick to their routines of fertilizing their crops using nitrogen fertilizer. Therefore, more research should be done to create a fertilizer that is not only cheap and beneficial to the plants but is also less or totally not harmful to the environment.

Here’s How to Target Your Borate Fertilizer Application

Borate is an important micronutrient or secondary nutrient for all plants. Many articles on the internet have described the reasons why you need the element. In short, Boron and other micronutrients are essential for:

  • The formation of plant cell walls and other structures by transporting Calcium
  • Balancing sugars and starches and facilitating their transport to all parts of the plant
  • Transporting water through the plants system
  • Forming proteins essential for the plant’s metabolism by breaking down nitrogen in the ground.

As such, plantation owners should always take care to ensure their plants get the correct amount of Boron at any given time.

Why should we target Borate fertilizer application?

Ensuring the correct level of Boron

Targeting your borate fertilizer means applying it where it is needed the most. The ideal average rate of Boron at any given time should be between 0.5 to 2.0ppm.

The plant does not regulate the uptake of Boron and it’s something that happens passively. This is why it’s up to the farmers and planters to keep the level of Boron in the soil at its optimal level. Too much of Boron in the soil is toxic to the plant, but too little and the plants will suffer from malnutrition and start showing unhealthy symptoms. Oil palms are particularly sensitive to B deficiency and it will affect their productivity in a significant manner. Targeting Borate fertilizer application eliminates the problems of you applying too much or too little at one time.

Saving resources

Targeting Boron application also saves a lot of resources. Borate fertilizers tend to leach out a lot and when they travel beyond the reach of the palm’s roots, they become useless to the plant.

Knowing where to place your Borate fertilizer at any given time will mean that less of it leaches out into the soil.

How to Target Your Borate Fertilizer Application

Know Your Soil

Certain types of soil leach Boron faster than others. These include soil that is alkaline and soil that is sandy. Sandy, non-irrigated soil with very low organic matter, especially those near coastal areas or near the sea, tend to leach out nutrients faster as they allow more water to flow through. Soil that can’t hold water well also can’t hold on to nutrients well. If your plantation has either one of these, you have to be extra vigilant to know when to apply more.

Perform regular soil assessments

Test your soil at least once every month for Boron levels. That way you’ll know for sure which area is low in this micronutrient. This strategy works better than applying it blindly everywhere at the same time, with the same volume.

Look out for deficiency symptoms

Symptoms like orange or brown spots, dying leaves and others are clear signs that something is wrong with the soil. Follow these foliar symptoms up with a soil strip test to know whether the level of Boron is adequate or not.

 

Targeting your Daebak Borate Fertilizer needs a bit of effort, where you’ll have to know your whole plantation status at every moment. However, it’s definitely possible if you combine various testing and assessment methods and do these tests at regular intervals.

 

 

Ways to Protect your Plants during Extreme Weathers

Every region around the globe faces extreme weathers once a while. Some days will be too hot while someday will face violent rain and storms. In these extreme weather, it is very easy for young plants to be uprooted or damaged in the heavy rain and wind, and to dry up and die off in the extreme heat.

In these weathers, it is important to take good measures to look after your plants. Shared below are some tips to ensure your plants’ good health in extreme weathers.

Heavy Rains

Protect the roots

To protect the roots of a young plant, spread mulch around the roots of the plant. A three-inch layer of mulch can protect the plant for after rain cold damage. Some examples of mulch include grass clippings or wood chippings.

Coverage

To protect the plant from getting damaged due to strong winds, you can simply cover the plant using a pail or bucket. This will prevent the strong wind from ripping off the tree leaves and fragile branches of young plants.

Hot weather

Provide sufficient hydration

On hot days, your plants can easily dry up. One easily noticed the sign of dehydration in plants includes softened leaves. In order to help your plant stay hydrated, place some mulch about three inches around your plant. The mulch will store water once you water your plant and will allow the plant to obtain water from it.

Next, place some shade cloth over your garden. This will help block out extra sunlight but enough to enable your plants to carry out their vital processes for a living. Be careful not to place the shade too close to your plants. They need space to breathe too.

The Effects of Fertilizer on the Environment if used Irresponsibly

Fertilizer plays a very important role in today’s world. For instance, fertilizer helps to ensure that the food source is adequate for the world. Other than that, we are also able to enjoy larger, and more delicious produce that results from fertilizer usage. Economically viewing the issue, fertilizer usage has also created a vast variety of jobs and also sustained the global economy.

With the correct handling, fertilizer undoubtedly brings lots of positive effects. However, what happens if the fertilizer industry is handled irresponsibly? What if farmers started to misuse fertilizer?

For one obvious effect, if fertilizer usage was abused, the less developed countries could face starvation. If the more developed countries decided to manipulate the fertilizer business, less developed countries will not have enough food to sustain their population, and thus, causing starvation.

On the environmental view, it can be very dangerous if fertilizer was used irresponsibly. One of the main effects of over usage of fertilizer is the depletion of the soil quality. Though we may think that using more fertilizer makes the soil more fertile, it is actually the opposite. When too much fertilizer is used over the long run, the acidity of the soil increases, making it infertile for growth of plants. Over the years, the soil would not be able to grow any plants and would become barren.

Other than that, when fertilizer is used at a higher dosage than it should be, there is more runoff of fertilizer into the neighbouring lakes and ponds. This phenomenon is known as eutrophication. The runoff contains nitrates and phosphorus which promotes the growth of algae on the surface of the water. With the algae covering the water surfaces, oxygen either reaches the aquatic life at a very low rate or none at all, slowly killing the fauna. Other than that, sunlight also has trouble reaching the base of the water bodies, thus killing the flora which is the source of food for many living organisms under the water surface.