Researchers from UPM Bintulu Campus (UPMKB) Sarawak branch have won gold medals at the 32nd innovation and design exhibition organized by the International Invention, Innovation, and Technology Exhibition (ITEX) which took place virtually from 20 to 21 November 2020 in the Agriculture category.

The innovation competed by UPMKB researchers at ITEX2020 entitled 'Organic amendment: A promising approach for high crop yield and soil health restoration' emphasizes the restoration of soil fertility through the use of natural fertilizer is under the leadership of Prof Dr Ahmed Osumanu Haruna as Chief Researcher (IEB, UPMKB) and Joint Researchers namely Dr Latifah Omar (IEB, UPMKB), Dr Ch'ng Huck Ywih (Faculty of Agro-based Industry (FIAT) Universiti Malaysia Kelantan Jeli Campus, Dr Maru Ali (University of Ghana, Legon), Dr Adiza AL Hassan Musah (Department of Business Management and Law, Faculty of Business Management and Professional Studies, Management and Science University, Shah Alam), Dr Palanivell Perumal (PPB Oil Palm Berhad, Sandakan, Sabah), Mr. Ng Ji Feng and Mrs. Tracy Saptu ( UPMKB).

The presentation on the innovation (product) of natural fertilizer at the ITEX2020 competition was conducted virtually through a nine-minute video recording. Video content includes the purpose of innovation development, the function of innovation in helping to increase farmers' income through high crop yields due to fertile soil, innovative product features, target users, product marketability, product manufacturing costs, potential for commercialization, environmental impact, and end once the uniqueness and specialty of the product.

The purpose of the innovation highlighted is to improve soil fertility through the process of soil rejuvenation to preserve soil fertility. Fertile soil is living land which can accommodate various forms of life including as a medium for growth and crop formation. The function of the soil as a medium alone does not guarantee high agricultural yields because naturally the soil does not contain sufficient nutritional elements to support crop growth from germination to harvesting.

Soil in Malaysia has a low pH and is categorized as acidic soil which is only suitable for some crops such as pineapple and sago (sago). The acidic nature of the soil inhibits the growth of most food crops and restricts movement.

PRESERVE THE SOIL: nutrients in the soil due to the presence of elements such as aluminium and iron that bind phosphorus makes phosphorus unavailable in the soil. Furthermore, the lack of organic matter as well as key elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil does not guarantee a lucrative agricultural yield. As a result, many farmers use chemical fertilizers in large quantities with the aim of doubling their agricultural output.

The approach in innovation competed in encouraging farmers to minimize the excessive use of chemical fertilizers was found to have caused various problems to the environment such as soil, water, and air pollution. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers has not only caused soil acidity, greenhouse gas emissions, and algae growth as a result of soluble residues of phosphate and nitrate fertilizers, but excessive use of chemical fertilizers is a waste because fertilization is an expensive input in crop production costs.

Natural fertilizers produced by UPMKB researchers are formulated according to a certain ratio and tested scientifically in terms of the release of plant nutrition elements. The natural fertilizer produced takes into account the use of materials that have a high nitrogen and carbon content which when reacted and stabilized over a period of time depending on the material and manufacturing techniques will produce high quality products in terms of agronomic characteristics.

Comparisons in terms of the effectiveness of natural fertilizers and chemical fertilizers in improving crop yields such as leafy vegetables, corn, rice, sorghum, and papaya have shown the ability of natural fertilizers as a substitute or complement to chemical fertilizers. Innovations produced by natural fertilizers are used at the stage before and during the preparation for the purpose of detoxifying and avoiding the binding of phosphorus by aluminium and iron so that nutritional elements are available in the soil and can be taken by plants during the growth period up to harvesting.

The innovations we highlighted have proven to provide a balanced plant nutritional element namely nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for rice growth (study crop). In this regard, according to paddy growers in Pekan, Pahang, the income from the paddy harvest using natural fertilizer competed in ITEX2020 has increased their income from RM2,000 to RM5,000, according to Increase soil fertility for the next planting season and reduce the frequency of fertilization because fertilization was done before planting.

The cost of making natural fertilizer produced is inexpensive and can be produced by farmers themselves. This is because the materials used in the manufacture of natural fertilizers are from agricultural waste, harvesting process as well as waste from processing such as palm oil. From an economic point of view, the use of natural fertilizers is much cheaper than chemical fertilizers due to the low manufacturing costs and the use of waste materials. Adiza Al Hassan Musah from the Department of Business Management and Law Faculty at Business Management and Professional Studies Management and Science University, Shah Alam as a responsible researcher in terms of management, production costs and economy, stressed the socio-economic impact of natural fertilizers is much more significant than fertilizers existing chemicals that are often practiced by rice farmers to increase their rice production yields.

Although the innovations in the use of natural fertilizers produced by UPMKB researchers have been featured and won awards in several exhibitions and competitions before ITEX2020, the manufacture of natural fertilizers has been diversified in terms of materials used, manufacturing processes and techniques as well as emphasis on different plant nutrition elements. The uniqueness of innovation in the manufacture of natural fertilizers that are highlighted is the combination of materials high in carbon and nitrogen content that reacts through various processes to be stable and produce high quality natural fertilizers and suitable as fertilizers.

In line with the theme of World Soil Day which is celebrated annually on 5 December, with this year's theme 'Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity', which promotes living soil by protecting the diversity of life in the soil, natural fertilizer from the innovations competed in ITEX2020 proved to promote diversity underground life by supplying organic matter to underground life for survival and the food chain and more importantly ensuring the soil to survive.

In the minds of most fertilizer users, the more fertilizers used the higher the agricultural yields proved wrong because such practices are not only detrimental in terms of fertilization costs but also pollute the soil, water and air. In the bitter moments of the COVID19 pandemic, since the movement control order was enforced, water, soil, and air have shown signs of recovery as water becomes clearer and air becomes freer from gas accumulation. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers is one of the factors contributing to the accumulation of gas in the atmosphere and water pollution caused by the leaching of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.

Involvement in ITEX2020 is an attempt to encourage more farmers to use natural fertilizers to ensure sustainable agriculture without compromising environmental quality. The target is also to stakeholders involved in the fertilizer manufacturing industry to strengthen the manufacture and sale of natural fertilizers. The findings and methods of making natural fertilizers by UPMKB researchers have been patented and awarded copyright by the governments of Malaysia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United States.

In prestigious competitions such as ITEX, UPMKB researchers want to take further steps in empowering agriculture based on natural fertilizers. ITEX2020 which is the Asian leader in design, innovation and technology exhibitions attracted participation from various countries such as Australia, Canada, China, Croatia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam. Participation in ITEX2020 consists of researchers, investors, capitalists, producers, entrepreneurs, distributors and the corporate sector who specifically want to explore new inventions, discoveries, and business ventures.

ITEX provides the infrastructure for the discovery of prototypes or products as well as obtaining feedback from investors and suitability for commercialization. ITEX2020 has built an excellent culture known for its highly prestigious award recognition and attracting entries from within and outside the country which records as many as 500 entries per year. In his speech during the inauguration of ITEX2020, Minister of Higher Education Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad stated that in unforeseen circumstances, forward thinking such as digital skills is a passport to open opportunities to help attract investment, innovation and new job opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Organizer of ITEX2020, the Founder and President of Academician Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Datuk Dr Augustine S.H. Ong states that there is no limit to the creativity and ingenuity of the human mind. With digital advances, though unprecedented, virtual exhibitions and competitions are relevant to presenting p new designs and designs for the future. Participation in prestigious competitions such as ITEX2020 is to establish cooperation with the industry as well as the farming community in the manufacture and use of natural fertilizers.

The technology of using fertilizer based on natural fertilizer is still being intensified in Pekan which involves farmers under the supervision of the Integrated Agricultural Development Area (IADA). Innovations in the manufacture of natural fertilizers are not only based on materials from agricultural waste but also using waste from industry. Collaborative in the manufacture of natural fertilizers from industrial waste with industries such as Pertama Ferroalloys Sdn Bhd, Humibox, Luxurious Empire Sdn Bhd, Sarmag Resources Trading Sdn Bhd, Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad, Ta Ann Plantation Sdn Bhd, FCA Capital Sdn Bhd, Omnia Solution, and Omya Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd is also still active.

Technology transfer in natural fertilizer modification also involves government departments such as Pahang State Agriculture Department, Pekan Integrated Agricultural Development Area (IADA), Malaysian Pepper Board, Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority, and Sarawak Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The innovations featured in ITEX2020 aim to share knowledge with farmers and fertilizer factories to use all the cheap and easily available natural resources in natural fertilizer manufacturing.

This approach not only reduces waste from agricultural harvesting as well as industrial manufacturing waste, but also reduces the excessive use of chemical fertilizers. The cost of expensive chemical fertilizers and the adverse effects of the use of chemical fertilizers on the environment are factors that need to be considered and give an advantage to the use of natural fertilizers. Natural fertilizers do not release plant nutrients quickly but release plant nutrients slowly throughout the growth period of the plant. The frequency of fertilizer use can be reduced.

Paddy growers in Pekan emphasize the effectiveness of the use of natural fertilizers compared to chemical fertilizers when the paddy grown in their paddy fields does not show symptoms of aluminium and iron toxicity. While monitoring the use of natural fertilizers in paddy fields in Pekan, Ahmed Osumanu shared his knowledge on the mechanism of soil fertility recovery through natural materials found in natural fertilizers which are able to detoxify aluminium, especially on acidic soils.

Although the use of natural fertilizers is not new, the scientific approach in determining the release of plant nutrients, experiments in improving the yield of various types of food crops (study crops), and the economic capacity of natural fertilizers in some laboratory and field studies proved to be better than chemical fertilizers existing and enable the use of natural fertilizers to be an innovation in the process of soil fertility restoration. - (This article was prepared by Dr Latifah Omar, Senior Lecturer / Associate Researcher of the Faculty of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, UPMKB).


Date of Input: 09/12/2020 | Updated: 08/01/2021 | lanz



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