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Phone Call About Fertilizer Could Be a Big Help to Philippine Rice Farmers

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from | Advice on how much fertilizer to use will soon be just a phone call away for rice farmers in the Philippines. The Philippine Department of Agriculture and the International Rice Research Institute plan to launch a free service in September. Farmers will call a number and a recorded voice will ask them simple questions in Tagalog or other languages including English. For example, to get fertilizer guidelines for the wet season, they press one. For the dry season, they press two. Farmers will be asked about the size of their field and how many bags of rice it produced last year. What about natural sources of fertilizer? Does the farmer return rice straw to the field? Is the field near a lake or river that floods, or in a low area collecting soil and other material from nearby hills?About ten minutes later the farmer will get a text message. The message will advise what kind of fertilizer to use and how much. The grower will also get suggestions about when to plant and harvest the rice. Roland Buresh at the International Rice Research Institute helped developed the system. Mr. Buresh says fertilizer represents about one-fifth of the cost of inputs for rice production. He says the service could help farmers in the Philippines increase their yields and their profits. Danielle Nierenberg at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research group, says the system could also help reduce pollution.She said in the Philippines and all over Asia, fertilizer has been overused and misused because no one explains to farmers how much they need or how to use it.The technology could also be copied for crops in other places. Danielle Nierenberg has been traveling across sub-Saharan Africa. She says the cost of a cell phone there is low enough that most farmers have their own or borrow someone else's. In Zambia, for example, farmers without bank accounts can use their phones to buy seeds and fertilizers. They can also get information on how much their crop is selling for in city markets. She said they can decide whether they want to travel from their village to the city, because sometimes farmers get there and prices are too low.And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. You can post comments on our website, You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 17Aug2010)
Length: 03:59


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