SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture

SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture
SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture
MAYOR JONATHAN DE LARA (second from left) is showing the operation of the mechanical shaker-strainer to Ronald Costales(right), a visitor.

Solsona is a third class town in Ilocos Norte with a population of about 23,000 many of them farmers who grow rice, corn and vegetables. Most of them are smallholders so they don’t really earn much from their farms.

But many of them are better off now, thanks to the earthworms they are culturing to produce organic fertilizer. Solsona has now become the number one producer of vermicompost in Ilocos Norte produced by more than 500 farmers who are members of a cooperative.

In 2013, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management of the Department of Agriculture gave the town an award that included cash for having been the No.2 producer of vermicompost in the entire Philippines. The No.1 was a town in Nueva Ecija.

SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture
Photo shows the vermi bins beside the municipal hall as a showcase to Solsona farmers and visitors from other places.

Vermicomposting started in earnest in 2011 under the leadership of former Mayor Joseph de Lara. It happened that the year before, Mayor De Lara visited the Philippine Carabao Center in Nueva Ecija where he came to know about vermicomposting. He thought that if the technology could be adopted by his constituents, they will no longer have to buy expensive chemical fertilizers for their crops.

SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture
MAYOR JOHATHAN DE LARA checking the consistency of the vemricompost that passed through the mechanical shaker-strainer.

What he did was to have the farmers trained on the technique of vermicomposting although not a few of them were not easily convinced. The farmers were given starter kits of one kilo of earthworms, teaching them to prepare the vermiculture bins and preparation of the farm wastes to feed the earthworms.

It did not take long for the farmers to realize that vermicomposting was good for them. They were able to produce the fertilizer they applied to their farms and also had extra to sell. In a culture period of 45 days, the one kilo of earthworms would have produced five bags of vermicompost worth P1,250 plus additional five kilos of earthworms which the farmers could either sell or use for their own operations. A kilo sells for as much as P500 in the market.

SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture
ENGR. Ranison Narciso checking vermitea brewer used to transform vermicompost into a liquid spray on the leaves of plants.

According to Mayor Jonathan de Lara who succeeded his father in 2013, they formed a cooperative that is supervised by the local government. The co-op buys all the excess vermicompost production of the farmers. But to make sure the vermicompost meets quality standards, it passes through a mechanical shaker-strainer provided by the local government. That’s to make sure the particles are small, more or less uniform and of the right moisture content.

As Solsona has become known as a producer of vermicompost, the organic fertilizer has been sold to farmers or cooperatives in other towns of the province and even outside Ilocos Norte. The Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) has also become a big help in demonstrating the efficacy of organic fertilizer in farming through its Expanded Modified Rapid Composting Project (EMRCP).

The BSWM put up demonstration farms in farmers’ fields using vermicompost bought from the cooperative. During the first season, BSWM bought 1,000 bags of vermicompost from the co-op worth 250,000 for use in the demo farm of 100 hectares. In the succeeding season, the BSWM increased the demo area to 200 hectares which means using P500,000 worth of vermicompost.

SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture
ROBUST coffee seedlings fertilized with vermicompost at the coffee nursery of Piddig under Mayor Eddie Guillen.

At harvest time, farmers are invited to a field day to see the good yield from fields fertilized with vermicompost. According to Mayor De Lara, there is not much difference in the yield of organically fertilized rice fields and those fertilized with chemicals. The big difference is that the farmers made much bigger profit because the cost of production was reduced. It was also observed that the grains of the organically fertilized rice were heavier.

SOLSONA, ILOCOS NORTE: Tops In Vermiculture
Rice fertilized with vermicompost produce heavier grains.
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