Fertilizer, International Agriculture News

Development of organic fertiliser key to VN’s future agriculture

Vi?t Nam has identified organic agriculture as the way forward, and why the development and promotion of the product is key to achieving their goals.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguy?n Xuân C??ng has said that Vietnamese agriculture must “tune in to the signals of the market, which is not solely the domestic market, but also the 180-country and seven-billion-people global market.”

One signal is the growing demand for environmentally friendly and organic production, which makes organic fertiliser “an inevitable trend”.

The current demands for fertiliser in Vi?t Nam reached somewhere around 11 million tonnes a year, with as much as one tonne of fertiliser (mostly chemical varieties) being used on one hectare of farmland, nearly five times the average amount used 10 years ago.

According to the agriculture ministry (MARD), the efficiency rate is around 45-50 per cent, meaning only half of the fertiliser used helps the plants, the rest is wasted and has dangerous implications to the soil.

Despite the benefits of chemical fertiliser, long-term use not only deteriorates the quality of the soil but also the agricultural products themselves.

Chemical fertilisers work fast as nutrients (almost exclusively nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) are released almost immediately, while natural components-based fertilisers take time to reach to the plants but bring plenty more kinds of nutrients and minerals.

The arability of soil applied with organic fertilisers has also been shown to improve over time, as it retains the capacity to hold water and air, as well as fosters microbial activities.

The development of organic fertiliser would not just help better the quality of soil in the long-term, but also propel the growth of organic agriculture.

Production and Use

Currently, according to MARD, Vi?t Nam produces an average of 2.5 million tonnes of organic fertiliser a year — a tenth of its chemical fertiliser output (26.7 million tonnes) and 8.5 per cent of total fertiliser output.

However, the import figures show the trend of using organic fertiliser has risen in the last few years: Vi?t Nam imported a total of 220,000 tonnes of organic fertiliser in 2017, twice the amount from 2016.

In 2017, 617 tonnes of microbial fertiliser were imported, up six times compared to 2015 and twice compared to 2016, while 117,000 tonnes of biological organic fertiliser were imported, up eight times compared to 2016. Last year also witnessed the first time Vi?t Nam imported soil-improvement organic fertiliser products (105 tonnes).

The imports keep rising while the domestic potentials for organic fertiliser production remains largely untapped, as huge amounts of ‘by-product’ generated by our existing agriculture activities such as plant matters and manure are not fully used and could pose a serious environmental threat if left untreated.

Therefore, alongside application, promotion of production is critical in the country’s grand scheme towards green agriculture.

Lê V?n Tri, chairman of the Vi?t Nam Bio-fertiliser Association, said there must first be a series of factories that can produce microbial fertiliser commercially. Without a sustained supply of these essential ‘probiotics,’ any hope for promotion of organic fertiliser would not be possible.

“The production of microbial organic fertiliser depends largely on local availability. The manufacturer must be located at the microbial source, in addition, the fertiliser produced must be based on a firm understanding of the characteristics of the soil and the plants there,” Tri said, adding that “We can’t produce organic fertiliser at this province and bring it to use in elsewhere in the country.”

To further consolidate the need for local-based fertiliser producers, experts have pointed out that unlike chemical fertilisers, the quality of which do not diminish too much even after long-distance transportation, its organic counterpart’s quality suffers heavily.

“We must first command the technology, grasp the potentials for organic fertiliser in each locality and build a suitable planning based on this knowledge,” Tri said.

“Otherwise, rampant and ill-considered production would flood the market with questionable quality products, causing nothing but headaches to the farmers and concerned authorities.”

Nguy?n V?n B?, Director of Vi?t Nam Academy of Agricultural Studies, argued that enterprises might be the ‘locomotive’ in the production of organic fertiliser but their output is limited to a few dozens of tonnes a year, and the ‘main carrier’ of the production must be the farmers or farm owners.

“We must devise policies to target these groups, encouraging millions of Vietnamese farmers to produce organic fertiliser, or it’d be difficult to reach our goal,” he said.

Aside from production plans, currently in Vi?t Nam there is still no technical standard for fertiliser and only four out of 12 laboratories in the country can examine and evaluate microbiological criteria.

The Plant Protection Department said they were working to introduce a complete standards code for quality of organic fertiliser, biological and microbial products within the year.

According to the latest report from the Government, 100 enterprises – including big names with large financial resources – have pledged investment into development of organic fertiliser. A growing number of enterprises who collaborate with farmers have also switched to the use of organic fertiliser as customers’ demands for organic fertiliser is mounting.

With exhaustive policies from the authorities, commitment from the business sector, and the support from the public in both production and consumption, “we could count on a future where Vi?t Nam could boast serious use of organic fertiliser, helping to build a clean, high-quality, efficient, and sustainable agricultural production, to participate in the global value chain,” agriculture minister C??ng said.