The move towards restoring soil fertility through the Ministry of Agriculture’s initiative of developing, distributing, and installing Bacterium Culture reservoirs at its stations is progressing well.
Agronomist, Dr Tekini Nakidakida who is leading the distribution of the organic initiative says almost all of the Agriculture stations in the Central and Western Divisions have received and installed their 500litre tanks.
“In line with our ambition to promote organic agricultural practices at farm levels in Fiji, we are working on distributing the Bacterium Culture to all our Agriculture stations throughout Fiji, for easy access for farmers,” he said.
He explained the Bacterium Culture was made from Lactobacillus bacteria extracted from raw milk, obtained from the Ministry’s dairy farm, using rice wash water and then fed with molasses for bacteria to feed on during storage.
The mixture, he said, could be stored for two or three months, after which its viability would start to decrease.
“We are looking to enrich soils of used and idle lands through application of organics because whatever chemical fertiliser we are using now will contribute to unsustainable agricultural practices when abused. Sometimes we are using double doses of fertilisers, insecticides and weedicides, it kills micro-organisms in the soil,” he said.
Dr Nakidakida said sometimes farmers wanted to hasten the process of weed control by mixing a cocktail of weedicides that in turn reduces micro-organisms population in the soil.
This is where the Bacterium Culture comes in to enhance microbial activity in the soil, he says. “What we are trying to do now is restore microorganisms to the soil and let them thrive and multiply and gradually reduce our consumption of chemical fertilisers.
“A healthy soil produces a healthy plant which repels pests and diseases, so you apply less insecticide, less weedicide, and it will grow faster suppressing the weeds,” Dr Nakidakida said. Permanent Secretary, Mr. Ritesh Dass said the main objective of the Organic Initiative was to reduce the consumption of synthetic or chemical fertilisers in Fiji.
“Our cultivated soils are degraded due to continuous application of fertilisers which reduces the population of soil microorganisms.
“Farmers encroach into forest lands in search of rich nutritious soil resulting in deforestation,” he said. He said if Fiji restored degraded agriculture land, we would be able to sustain production, reduce the volume of fertiliser applied, reduce costs of production, have healthy crops and food and save our ecosystem for the future.
The Ministry is conducting training and awareness on the use of the bottled bacteria and how it enhances composting contributing to the restoration of soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility.
Farmers need to bring their storage containers if they want to collect their Bacterium Culture free of charge from any agriculture station in the Central and Western Divisions. Arrangements are taking place to also distribute this product to the North as well.