Inventions that actually aid farmersBy Ernesto M. Ordoñez |Philippine Daily Inquirer
There are true and false prophets. Unfortunately, some true prophets who have invented something useful are not even recognized in their own country. Here in the Philippines, some agricultural inventions have been rejected by our people, but farmers of other countries find these same inventions to be useful and even profitable.
We need to separate the true from the false prophets. Then, the valid inventions should be disseminated to benefit our own Filipino farmers.
One such invention—a soil conditioner—has been featured several times in a government-run radio station.
About 25 years ago, Dante Dizon left a large chemical trading firm and struck out on his own with one of his own inventions, which was sold by Shell Chemicals.
The first generation of his soil conditioner, called Trikombi, was officially endorsed by the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) and Philrice. Since then, he has been working on a second-generation soil conditioner.
In his radio interviews, Dizon talked about Trikombi and how it would benefit different kinds of farmers.
The marginal farmer, who constitutes 85 percent of the palay-growing population, usually cannot afford the recommended six bags of chemical fertilizer because of the high costs. Thus, using only two to four bags (currently costing an average of P1,200 a bag), the marginal farmer may expect a yield of 60 to 75 cavans per hectare.
The typical farmer, who uses the recommended six bags of chemical fertilizer, can produce 80 to 100 cavans per hectare. But the progressive farmer, who uses 8 to 12 bags of chemical fertilizer, plus 10 to 20 bags of commercial organic fertilizer, may expect an average yield of 100 to 120 cavans per hectare.
Dizon claims that, with the help of a 3.5-kilogram bag of Trikombi organic soil conditioner costing P1,975, both the marginal and typical farmer can significantly cut chemical fertilizer costs by limiting their purchase to only three bags.
Also, the marginal farmer may increase his yield by 15 to 20 cavans, while the typical farmer may expect an additional four to six cavans.
On the other hand, the progressive farmer may only expect a significant decrease in costs. He may no longer increase the yield of his farm because he has already applied a balanced agro-chemical fertilization method. That farmer is in a position to take the balanced approach further by going completely organic.
Dizon further claims he has proof that Trikombi is specially suited to counter the ill-effects of climate change.
He cited an instance when 30-day-old palay had been completely submerged with no oxygen for 60 hours. In areas where Trikombi had been applied on the soil, there was 100-percent recovery of the crops, while only 60 percent had been recovered in parts with no soil conditioner.
After observing the effects of Trikombi for 2 ½ years, a former associate of Dizon during his Shell Chemical days is now distributing Trikombi to 10,000 hectares. The Kapampangan Development Foundation has also embarked on Trikombi free trials in all the rice-producing towns of Pampanga.
But because there is now independent investigation of the product, there is still not enough justification for a thorough endorsement of Trikombi.
In our own research on Trikombi, we learned of an unsuccessful trial. Is this failure an exception? Or is it indicative of false claims? Independent credible sources are needed to answer these questions before any more endorsements can be made.
On the other hand, if no such investigation is undertaken, agriculture experts of another country may conduct their own study. If the results favor Trikombi, foreign farmers would once again benefit at our expense.
After 10 years of monitoring, we have discovered that gullible farmers are losing hard-earned money for inventions that do not work. But there are many inventions that actually work.
We can only recognize the good prophets in our own country through independent credible investigations. For the sake of our technology-starved farmers, the government should respond immediately. Only then can our little-known inventions benefit our farmers.
(The author is chairman of Agriwatch, former secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former undersecretary for Agriculture, and Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telefax (02) 8522112).