Indonesia: Special treatment to boost farming output

Arya Dipa The Jakarta Post 22 Aug 16;

Most of the nation’s rice fields require special treatment to boost productivity because the organic content of the soil is below ideal, an official from the Agriculture Ministry has said.

The ministry’s agriculture research and development agency head, Muhammad Syakir, said special treatment or therapy was needed to help increase rice production, as not all existing agriculture areas were fertile.

Speaking at a seminar at Padjadjaran University in Sumedang, West Java, on Friday, Syakir said half the country’s existing agriculture areas, amounting to 8.1 million hectares, was sub-optimal and needed organic fertilizer.

“The organic content is below 2.5 percent, therefore they need special treatment, especially because the production gap is still high,” Syakir said.

He said the fertility of soil could be measured from its organic C content. “Ideally the content should be above 5 percent,” said Syakir.

According to Syakir, the use of organic fertilizers is the most rational way to increase carbon (C organic) content or the content of elements determining soil fertility. Similarly, the ministry’s fertilizer and pesticide director Muhrizal Sarwani said carbon content of less than 2 percent in soil indicated that improvement was needed.

He said the contribution of fertilizers in the growth of crops was between 15 percent and 30 percent. “Our policy is to have balanced fertilizer use,” Muhrizal said.

Quoting ministry data, Muhrizal said most farmers in Indonesia used chemical fertilizers for rice, corn and soybean.

Twelve percent do not use fertilizers at all. Sixty-eight percent of rice farmers use non-organic fertilizers,” he said.

Food science and field resource professor Hidayat Salim of Padjadjaran University said the use of organic fertilizers was important to fix soil, as organic fertilizers improved the soil’s chemical, physical and biological characteristics.

Meanwhile, PT Petrokimia Gresik’s human resources and general affairs director, Rahmat Pribadi, said his side had implemented the use of balanced fertilizers on 650,000 hectares of fields.

“There has been a 15 to 20 percent increase. That equals to between a 1 ton and 1.5 ton per hectare increase,” Rahmat said.

On organic fertilizer production, Rahmat said his company had a production capacity of 2.2 million tons, but until now it had been producing below capacity at 700,000 tons.

House of Representatives lawmaker Herman Khaeron of Commission IV, which is overseeing the matter, said intensification was a strategy for food security, self-sufficiency and sovereignty.

“I believe that [soil] has its limits. This seminar will offer input for us going forward to issue policies,” Khaeron said.

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