By Zac B. Sarian

It is always educational and rewarding to talk to people who have hands-on experience in good agricultural practices. Just like Michael Batayola of Bantayan Island in Cebu, who has been growing food crops that don’t have to be sprayed with chemical pesticides.

His approach is to provide the plants with balanced nutrition so that they will grow fast and healthy without the need to spray them with expensive and dangerous synthetic chemical pesticides. In his own farm in Bantayan Island in the last couple of years, his eggplant did not suffer from any damage by fruit and shoot tip borers. He has also helped many other farmers improve their farming by teaching them to feed their plants with the right nutrients for balanced nutrition.

His approach in farming is very scientific. First, he has to know the pH of the soil so he can give the right recommendation. He has the latest pH meter that can give him immediate information on the pH of the soil. If the soil is acidic, say 4.5 pH, he will tell the farmer not to apply chemical fertilizer in the soil because that would be useless. The plants will not be able to absorb the fertilizer applied in the soil. Instead, Mike would recommend foliar spraying of urea to provide the nutrients needed by the plants. Meanwhile, the soil should be improved with the application of biochar like carbonized rice hull or soil conditioner and pH enhancer like Green Cal which contains calcium sulphate dihydrate, calcium, and sulfur.

A close-up of chemical-free cabbage.

Just like many other farmers, Michael started planting hybrid vegetable seeds from East-West and Allied Botanical the conventional way. While he got good harvests, he had to resort to buying medicine for headaches and other ailments brought about by his use of chemical pesticides.

Then he came to know about Zetryl Chem Philippines during a trade fair in Cebu. From the Zetryl representative, he came to know about growing food crops with biostimulants which are seaweed and plant extracts that promote plant growth, higher yield, better quality harvest with longer storage life.

That’s what he adopted in 2015 and discarded the use of chemical pesticides. He has been so successful in his use of biostimulants and soil conditioners that it became his advocacy to transfer the technology to other farmers. That way, farmers can produce safe harvests for human consumption while getting higher incomes.

Mike has observed that biostimulants are very effective in improving the performance of various crops. Calbit C, for instance, is a biostimulant that treats or prevents calcium deficiencies. It prevents or treats apical rot/bruising, drying of leaves, tip burn, and fruit rot. Boron, on the other hand, is also needed by plants, especially in producing high quality fruits with long storage life. For this, Mike uses Boro Plus to prevent or cure boron deficiencies.

There are several biostimulants developed by the Valagro company from Italy which can address various farming problems. One is called Megafol and it works like magic on plants that are suffering from stress. The stresses could include flooding, drought, cold temperatures, pest infestations, strong winds, and weeds stealing the nutrients intended for the main crop. Megafol enhances the uptake of nutrients from the soil so plants can recover fast. When the farmer is using fungicides, insecticides and herbicide, Megafol heightens the efficacy of the said inputs, explained Mike.

Today, Mike is busy disseminating his techniques in pesticidefree farming. Among those who have consulted him include a 20-hectare dragon fruit plantation in Angeles City and a large scale farm planted with hybrid rice in Nueva Ecija.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July 2018 issue.