As a farmer who cares deeply about nature and the environment, I’m always looking for ways to farm more sustainably. One method I’ve been exploring lately is biofertilizers. Biofertilizers are natural fertilizers made from living microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and algae. They help provide nutrients to plants and improve soil health without the need for chemical fertilizers. In this article, I’ll explain what biofertilizers are, their benefits, and how Thai farmers can use them for more sustainable agriculture.
What are Biofertilizers?
Biofertilizers contain living microorganisms that fix nitrogen, solubilize phosphorus, enhance plant growth, and control diseases in the soil. Some common types of biofertilizers include:
- Nitrogen-fixing bacteria – Help fix atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into forms usable for plants like ammonia and nitrates. Examples are rhizobium, azotobacter, azospirillum.
- Phosphate solubilizing microorganisms – Help make insoluble phosphates in the soil available to plants. Examples are pseudomonas and bacillus.
- Potassium solubilizing bacteria – Make potassium in the soil more soluble and available to plants. Examples are bacillus and burkholderia.
- Mycorrhizal fungi – Form symbiotic associations with plant roots, increasing their ability to absorb water and nutrients like phosphorus. Examples are glomus and acaulospora.
- Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria – Colonize plant roots and promote growth by producing plant hormones and suppressing disease. Examples are pseudomonas and bacillus.
Biofertilizers are prepared by growing desired microorganisms in a suitable substrate like compost. The microbial inoculant is then mixed with a carrier material like lignite or compost and applied to seeds, soil, or other planting material.
Benefits of Using Biofertilizers
Switching to biofertilizers offers many benefits over chemical fertilizers:
- Improve soil fertility – Biofertilizers introduce beneficial microbes into the soil that fix nutrients, make them more available to plants and improve soil organic matter. This enhances long-term soil fertility.
- Increase nutrient availability – Biofertilizers make key nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium more available to plants, reducing the need for external application of fertilizers.
- Promote plant growth – Microbes in biofertilizers produce plant hormones and growth-promoting substances. This directly enhances plant growth and vigor.
- Protect plants from diseases – Biofertilizers contain bacteria that suppress soil-borne diseases and also induce systemic resistance in plants. This reduces disease incidence.
- Environmentally friendly – Biofertilizers do not have harmful effects associated with chemical fertilizers like soil acidification and water pollution. They are a natural, eco-friendly option.
- Cost-effective – Biofertilizers are cheaper compared to chemical fertilizers. Once applied, they can multiply and have residual effects for several seasons, reducing the need for repeat applications.
How to Use Biofertilizers
Many types of biofertilizers suitable for different crops are available commercially in Thailand. Here are some general guidelines on how Thai farmers can effectively use them:
- Select suitable biofertilizers – Consider factors like soil conditions, crop type, nutrients required, and prevalent diseases. Consult agricultural experts on the right biofertilizer formulations for your needs.
- Treat seeds/planting material – Coat seeds or roots of seedlings with liquid biofertilizer or mix with carrier material before planting. This helps establish the microbes in the soil.
- Apply to soil – Mix biofertilizer formulations into the soil before sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings. Spread near plant roots for uptake.
- Apply as foliar spray – Foliar sprays introduce beneficial microbes directly into plant parts and supplement soil application. Spray in the morning or evenings.
- Use proper dosages – Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dosage rates. Underdosing will not give the desired results while overdosing can damage plants.
- Store biofertilizers properly – Store inoculum in cool, dark places away from sunlight and extremes of temperature to maintain the viability of microbes. Use freshly supplied batches and avoid old stock.
Biofertilizer Production on Farm
Thai farmers can also produce their own biofertilizers on farm using organic materials and beneficial microbe cultures which are inexpensive and freely available. Later, I will write about this how-to.
Biofertilizers offer a sustainable solution to enhance Thai agriculture while reducing reliance on chemical fertilizers. Their multifaceted benefits make them an attractive option for farmers to improve soil health, plant nutrition and productivity. Correct selection, application and storage of biofertilizers is key to harnessing their full potential. Localized production also empowers farmers to create ideal biofertilizers based on site conditions. Adoption of biofertilizers aligns perfectly with the principles of sustainable agriculture that values environmental protection and self-sufficiency.
Home Made Biofertilisers from Bat Manuer
Frequently Asked Questions
**Q: What crops can benefit from biofertilizers?**
A: Biofertilizers are suitable for a wide range of crops like cereals, fruits, vegetables, plantation crops, spices, pulses, fiber crops etc. Specific biofertilizer formulations are available for different crop types.
**Q: How long does it take for biofertilizers to show effects?**
A: Benefits of biofertilizers are usually seen within 2-3 weeks of application. However, long term improvements in soil health and plant growth can be observed over months or years.
**Q: Can biofertilizers fully substitute chemical fertilizers?**
A: While biofertilizers can reduce chemical fertilizer use by 50-60%, they may not fully replace chemical fertilizers in intensive agriculture. Integrated nutrient management using both is recommended.
**Q: What organic materials can be used to produce biofertilizers on farm?**
A: Rice bran, wheat bran, pulses flour, oilseed cakes, fruit and vegetable wastes make good substrates for on-farm biofertilizer production due to their nutrition and bulk.
**Q: How do biofertilizers interact with native soil microbes?**
A: Biofertilizers contain microbes specially selected to enrich and complement native soil microbial populations. They establish synergistic interactions with native microflora.