INDONESIA: Natural Fertiliser from Microbes Boosts Crop Yields

  • by Kafil Yamin (bogor, indonesia)
  • Inter Press Service

Agricultural entrepreneur and researcher Ali Zum Mazhar found 18 species of microbes in the forests of the Indonesian territory of Kalimantan while doing his doctoral studies in 2000.

He eventually developed a technology that converts the microbes into liquid form, which he calls Bio P 2000 Z. Successful experiments have proved their capability to increase crop yields by as much as threefold.

Wardi (who goes by one name), head of Tani Sadatani Farmers’ Association in Serang, West Java, said he harvested 3.5 tonnes of soybeans per hectare after using the Bio P 2000 Z in June 2009.

'Before, we only produced less then one ton per hectare,' he was quoted as saying by a local media organisation called ‘Rukun Tani Sejahtera’ (‘Farmer Prosperity Forum’), which is run by a network of farmers’ cooperatives in West Java.

Dian (who similarly goes by one name), head of Toba Samosir Farmers’ Association in North Sumatra, said his regular harvest of four tonnes of corn per hectare increased to nine tonnes in the last harvest after using the Bio P 2000 Z.

Mazhar said the microorganisms collectively produce natural fertiliser. They have been successfully tested on sandy lands and former mining sites in Indonesia that had been rendered unsuitable for agriculture use. These include a mining area in Kalimantan, which, according to Mazhar, was restored to full recovery after three years of infertility.

'What is unique with this natural fertiliser is that the microbes will develop themselves in the soil but will die naturally' when they have served their purpose, said Mazhar. 'So it is safe for human and the environment,' he added.

Five years after his discovery, Mazhar developed a technology called bio- perforation, which transforms the microbes into a liquid substance. Mazhar said Bio P 2000 Z stands for Bio for ‘biological’, P for ‘perforation’, 2000 for the year he discovered the microbes, and Z for Zum, his middle name.

The following year he secured a patent for his technology and the liquefied microbes from the World Intellectual Property Organization, a specialised agency under the United Nations.

Mazhar explained that when released into the soil, the microbes work together to produce fertiliser using available soil nutrients such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur and zinc, thus 'bringing the (infertile) environment to life.'

The agricultural mentor to village farmers in Kalimantan and West Java said anyone could adopt the technology he developed to produce fertiliser out of the microbes he has discovered. 'It is a simple and user-friendly technology,' he said.

In March, bio-perforation was introduced in the Middle East, said Mazhar. Nabil Kurashi, who teaches Community Medicine at the King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia, learned about Mazhar’s discovery and the ensuing technology during his visit to Indonesia last year. Mazhar recounted that Kurashi saw for himself how his innovation worked in the South-east Asian country’s sandy soils. The latter then decided to introduce the technology to his country on his return.

Mazhar, who has since been hired as an agricultural consultant by King Faisal University, is now working on a 300-hectare desert land in Jeddah, the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia, and 20 hectares in Bahrain, using the technology he developed.

The Indonesian agriculturist said it takes around six months to convert deserts into farming areas. 'So by the end of the year, we’ll see various trees and plantations growing there,' he told IPS.

Mazhar explained that the liquefied microorganisms work on sandy lands or deserts by taking minerals from the sand and energy from sunlight. In the morning, the microbes absorb water from the mists. Through photosynthesis, this process produces organic materials. With sands functioning as non-organic medium, the organic matter produces natural fertilisers that bring life to the deserts.

According to Edhie Sandra, senior lecturer at Bogor Agricultural University in West Java, the process is actually simple: 'We have various kinds of microbes, some of them have superb capability. While they produce hormones and enzymes, they can also break down inorganic matter into organic ones,' he said. 'Some microbes can also survive in extreme environments.'

He added that such microbes could take energy, minerals from sands and water from the air for their survival. They can also be reproduced and cloned using various techniques.

Fachrudin Mangunjaya, an executive at the Indonesia office of New York- based Conservation International, said Mazhar’s discovery would also make forest recovery easier. 'In the near future, we can restore wide areas of damaged forests more efficiently in (terms of) cost and time,' he said.

But while Bio P 2000 Z has proved effective as natural fertiliser, making it affordable to farmers remains a concern.

'For many of them, Bio P 2000 Z is still hardly affordable,' said Ir. Lystianto, head of the non-governmental Farmer Association for Technology Innovation.

At present, Bio P 2000 Z sells for 90,000 Indonesian rupiah (about 9.72 U.S. dollars) per litre, three times higher than the subsidised price of traditional fertilisers.

'At such a price, farmer would be more inclined to use the more affordable and government-subsidised inorganic fertiliser,' Listyanto told IPS.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service