Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Fertilizer could be a boon to farmers

AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION The nation is importing NT$200 million in time-release fertilizers every year, but now there is a domestically developed variety available

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Farmers and domestic green thumbs troubled by soaring fertilizer prices will be happy to know that a domestically produced time-release fertilizer has been developed, with the potential to help save money, the environment and a lot of labor, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

“A lot of traditional fertilizers are either overdosing their treated plants or are washed off by rain, therefore creating waste,” said Lin Chin-ching (林晉卿) of the COA’s Tainan district agricultural research and extension station at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Because fertilizers used to be extremely cheap — about NT$7 per kilogram — the waste was not widely addressed before, Lin said. However as prices increase, it is now a concern for many farmers.

Different amounts of nutrients are needed at different stages of a plant’s life cycle, Lin said, adding that traditional fertilizers risk smothering plants because all of the nutrients are absorbed at one time.

Overdosing plants with fertilizer not only reduces productivity, but the remnant fertilizers also cause soil acidification, salination and pollution, she said.

In addition to fertilizer waste and soil damage, traditional fertilizing methods also require a lot of labor. Depending on the type of produce, some farmers may have to apply fertilizer as often as once a month, Lin said,

Although time-release fertilizers are capable of releasing nutrients over a period as long as six months and have long been imported into the nation, they haven’t been widely used because they cost about 10 times as much as their traditional counterparts, she said.

“However, our station thought that profits could be made if we developed domestic versions of time-release fertilizers, since the nation currently spends NT$200 million a year on the imported varieties,” she said.

The station yesterday touted the success of its patent-pending results, which Lin said would only cost two to three times as much as traditional fertilizers. Farmers could come out ahead though, because they will only need to “use half as much and they’ll save a lot of time on labor,” she said.

“Farmers can now fertilize their farms once every six months, and know that their plants are getting exactly the correct amount of nutrients at every stage of their life cycle,” she said.

Since labor costs a lot more than fertilizer, the savings could be significant, she said.

Another advantage the made-in-Taiwan fertilizers enjoy lies in their coating capsules, Lin said.

“Because our fertilizers are enclosed within biosynthesized capsules instead of chemical ones, they are very environmentally friendly. Also, by controlling the thickness of the coating, we can custom-make fertilizers to fit the needs of local farms, which significantly improves productivity,” she said.

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