Who would have thought that farmers can still extract profit from residues?
An innovative, environment-friendly technology to convert sweet sorghum bagasse into bio-organic fertilizer has been developed by researchers from the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research (BIARC).
Bio-organic fertilizer is compost from any organic material that has undergone rapid decomposition through the action of introduced homogeneous microbial inoculants. It is different from fresh organic fertilizer where natural decay process is brought about by the action of heterogeneous microbes present in the organic matter. Compared with the traditional composting method, the introduction of microbial inoculants shortens composting time from three months to just 3-4 weeks.
Inoculants are commercially available in selected areas in the country but could be easily accessed. One of these are the Compost Fungus Activator (CFA) often used is Trichoderma harzianum, a single celled fungus that hastens the decomposition of organic materials high in lignin and cellulose like bagasse.
Bagasse is the pulp or dry refuse left after the juice is extracted from sweet sorghum or sugarcane stalks in the process of production for sugar, ethanol production and other sweet sorghum products.
For this particular technology, the researchers used sweet sorghum bagasse and make use of the bagasse produced from sweet sorghum plantations that ordinarily would be treated as farm waste that need to be disposed.
Why go bio-organic?
The use of bio-organic fertilizers is promoted as inexpensive alternatives to restore the fertility of poor degraded soils. Poor soils are the result of intensive agriculture, slash and burn methods, extensive use of pesticides and chemicals, mining, and urbanization. These practices degrade the quality of our soils and result to low yields and low productivity.
When applied to crops, bio-organic fertilizers can supply specific nutrients to plants, thus these are also known as microbial fertilizers. Their effects include enhancing the supply and total volume of plants’ nutritional elements, stimulating of plant growth, or stimulating of the plants’ absorption of nutritional elements.
They facilitate the continuous and long-term soil improvement, recycling and availability of nutrients and minerals essential for the survival, growth and fruit bearing of a wide variety of plants and trees.
Recycling sweet sorghum bagasse
BIARC implemented a collaborative project on the commercialization of sweet sorghum through a collaborative undertaking with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU). This resulted to the successful field tests of sweet sorghum varieties that were found suitable in Bicol’s agro-climatic condition. From this, BIARC proceeded to the region-wide commercialization of sweet sorghum including the development of village-level technologies.
Following the Four F’s Crop strategy for sweet sorghum, representing Food, Fuel, Feed, and Fertilizer, BAR urged its regional partners to continuously develop technologies to promote not only high agricultural productivity but making use of available resources for other farm uses.
According to Romulo C. Cambaya, head of the Soil and Water Research Unit of BIARC who also leads this initiative, conversion of bagasse from sweet sorghum after juice extraction into bio-organic fertilizer is one of the region’s initiatives.
Cambaya said that a one-hectare plantation of sweet sorghum will yield about 50-75 tons of stalks and produce from 22,000 to 35,000 tons of bagasse. Given the technology developed by BIARC, the bagasse can be converted to approximately 88-151 bags of bio-organic fertilizer with value from P22,000 to P37, 750.
There are six basic steps in producing bio-organic fertilizer from sweet sorghum residues according to Ambaya. These are: 1) collecting leaves after stalk stripping; 2) gathering sweet sorghum bagasse; 3) shred sweet sorghum bagasse using machine shredder; 4) composting the shredded bagasse (combining the CFA with bagasse, chicken dung, kakawate) ; 5) turning over the compost after two weeks; and 6) harvesting well-decomposed sweet sorghum bagasse.
In composting the shredded bagasse, the Rapid Composting Technology (RCT) involves inoculating the substrate along with small amounts of animal manure with Trichoderma, a cellulose decomposer fungus. Using this inoculant, referred to as compost fungus activator (CFA), the composting time is reduced. Specifically, the RCT combination used is 80% sweet sorghum bagasse, 15% chicken dung, 5% kakawate leaves, and 8 packets of CFA (per one ton mixture). The bagasse is soaked in water before adding the chicken dung after which the kakawate leaves are mixed in.
After harvesting the well-decomposed sweet sorghum bagasse, it is dried, sieved, weighed and packed ready for market.
Profit from near zero capital
There is more advantage to bio-organic fertilizers over the commercial chemical counterparts. It involves recycling of nutrients from waste material, it is a cheap alternative or supplement to inorganic fertilizers thus leading to increase in yield and profit, and is environment-friendly. Soil tilth and fertility are also mentioned and even enhanced.
According to reports, with decreasing input price, bio-organic fertilizers can increase farmers yield and profit by as much as 30 to 200 %. Agricultural and industrial wastes if processed into biodegradable fertilizers and enhanced with microorganisms can continuously improve the growth, protection, and productivity of the plants/crops.
A 25,000 kg of sweet sorghum bagasse can produce 125 bags of the bio-organic fertilizer which can be sold at P230 per bag, with a gross value of P28,750.
– Rita T. dela Cruz, Bardigest January-March 2009 Volume 11 Issue No. 1
Photo by RDELACRUZ
Source: “Sweet Sorghum Residue Recycling Bio-organic Fertilizer Production” by Adante, AR, AC Baylon, AG Rafer, RC Cambaya, and EB delos Santos of the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC), Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit 5 (DA-RFU 5), San Agustin, Pili, Camarines Sur.
For more information on this technology, please contact Romulo C. Cambaya of the Soil and Water Research Unit, BIAR), DA-RFU 5, San Agustin, Pili, Camarines Sur or contact him at telephone no. (054) 361-1944.
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