Microbial inoculants are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to chemical fertilizers for enhancing soil health and promoting plant growth. Microbial inoculants are an effective and sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizers for enhancing soil health and plant growth. In the Philippines, there are several types of microbial inoculants available that can help reduce the dependence of farmers on chemical fertilizers.
One type of microbial inoculant is mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots, enhancing their ability to absorb nutrients and water from the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi are known to improve soil structure and fertility, and to enhance plant growth and resistance to diseases and pests. They are particularly useful for crops that have high nutrient requirements, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
UPLB Mykovam is a product developed by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) that contains a mixture of mycorrhizal fungi species. Mycorrhizal fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots, providing them with nutrients in exchange for carbohydrates. UPLB Mykovam has been shown to improve crop yield and nutrient uptake, particularly in poor soil conditions.
Another type of microbial inoculant is nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These bacteria have the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use, thereby reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizers. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are commonly used for leguminous crops such as soybeans, peas, and beans, which have a high nitrogen requirement.
Azolla Biofertilizer is a product developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) that uses the aquatic fern Azolla as a host for nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Azolla grows rapidly in rice paddies and can accumulate large amounts of nitrogen, which can then be transferred to rice plants. Azolla Biofertilizer has been shown to increase rice yield and reduce the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria
Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria are also commonly used to enhance plant growth and root development. These bacteria can produce plant growth hormones, fix nitrogen, and solubilize phosphate, all of which can contribute to healthier and more robust plants. By using plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria, farmers can reduce their reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, while still achieving high yields and quality produce.
The PGPR (plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria) is promoted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD). The PGPR contains a mixture of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria species that have been shown to improve crop growth, nutrient uptake, and disease resistance in various crops.
Biocontrol agents are another type of microbial inoculant that can be used to reduce the need for pesticides. These agents are natural enemies of soil-borne diseases and pests, and can suppress their growth and development. By using biocontrol agents, farmers can reduce the amount of pesticides needed, which can save them money and reduce the negative impact of pesticides on human health and the environment.
Trichoderma microbial inoculant is a biocontrol agent developed by the National Crop Protection Center (NCPC) of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Trichoderma harzianum is a fungus that has been shown to suppress plant pathogens and promote plant growth in various crops, including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants.
Using microbial inoculants can have several benefits for farmers. First, they can help reduce the dependence on chemical fertilizers, which can be expensive and harmful to the environment. Second, they can improve soil health and fertility, which can lead to higher crop yields and better quality produce. Third, they can enhance the resistance of crops to diseases and pests, reducing the need for pesticides.
However, it is important to note that microbial inoculants are not a one-size-fits-all solution. The type of inoculant needed will depend on the crop, soil type, and environmental conditions. It is still recommended to consult with experts to determine the appropriate inoculant for their specific needs.
Microbial inoculants are a promising alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides for enhancing soil health and promoting plant growth in the Philippines. By using these inoculants, farmers can reduce their reliance on harmful chemicals, improve the sustainability of their farming practices, and produce healthier and more sustainable crops.
(This article, written by James Tababa, was originally published in the Manila Bulletin website on 28 April 2023)