Balanced Fertilization Strategy (BFS) is a site-specific nutrient management (SNMM) technique that aims to improve the efficiency of fertilizers. In practice, BFS is the application of both organic and inorganic nutrients, as well as other farming strategies to optimize fertilizer input while maintaining soil fertility.
Due to the rising costs of fertilizer, the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) has been promoting BFS to cut down on production costs for farmers. Part of their recommendations includes varied forms of alternative fertilizers.
In applying any type of fertilizer, the Department of Agriculture (DA) advocates the use of accredited brands in the optimum amount applied at the right time and right frequency. A full list of accredited brands, including information on the crops they were made for, is available on the site of FPA.
Prior to the application of any fertilizers, it is crucial for farmers to identify the needs of their soil in order to know which fertilizers to use. The DA has developed apps to help farmers with soil testing. Such technologies include the Rice Crop Manager app, Minus-one Element Technique app, and the Leaf Color Computing app.
Bio-stimulants include humic substances, protein hydrolysates, seaweed extracts, chitosan, biopolymers, and microbial inoculants.
They are substances or microorganisms that when applied to plants or soil enhance physiological processes of plants such as photosynthesis, respiration, and plant growth. Bio-stimulants also enhance nutrient efficiency, crop quality, and a plant’s tolerance to abiotic stresses such as unideal or extreme levels of temperature, moisture, and salinity.
Controlled release fertilizer
Plants are not able to absorb all the nutrients in fertilizers. Highly volatile fertilizers, like those that contain nitrogen, evaporate into the atmosphere. Controlled release fertilizers remediate this by slowly providing nutrients throughout the growth cycle of a plant.
This kind of fertilizer is usually produced through the condensation of urea and aldehydes. This also includes traditional fertilizers coated with sulfur, polymers, and nitrification inhibitors.
Foliar fertilizers are water-soluble fertilizers that are applied on the aerial parts of the plants, usually on the leaves. Foliar fertilizers are mostly used in the application of micronutrients such as boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.
Inoculants are substances that use microbes with symbiotic relationships with certain crops in order to improve plant health. Examples of inoculants include effective microorganisms activated solution (EMAS), indigenous microorganisms (IMO), and lactic acid bacteria serum (LABS).
Plant growth regulator
Plant growth regulators are natural or synthetic compounds which in low concentration can modify the physiological response of plants. There are currently only three products registered under FPA as plant growth regulators. The three products use compounds such as gibberellic acid, flumetralin, and paclobutrazol.
Soil conditioners are natural or synthetic materials that are applied to soil to modify soil properties such as structure, moisture-retaining capacity, and resistance to crusting. It also improves the chemical and biological conditions of the soil.
Examples of soil conditioners are polyelectrolytes such as complex vinyl and acrylic gypsum, diatomaceous earth, vermiculite, perlite, and lime.
Other fertilization techniques
Besides the application of fertilizers, BFS includes the use of natural fertilization techniques such as green manuring and other natural farming inputs.
Green manuring is the practice of incorporating live green plants by growing them on the soil. Legumes are mainly used for this technique because of their nitrogen-fixing capability. Green manuring not only enhances soil nutrients but also improves soil drainage and its moisture-retention capacity.
There is also a wide range of natural farm inputs which includes compost, fermented plant juice, fermented fruit juice, and fish amino acid.
Amid rising prices of fertilizers, a balanced approach to organic and inorganic fertilizers may help farmers reduce their production costs. More importantly, such measures can help keep food on the tables of Filipinos amid various challenges to global food security.
The information provided here was taken from the Balanced Fertilization Strategy Program Orientation organized by the Department of Agriculture – Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (Region 5) held on May 16, 2022.