Sustainable Food Production Through Fertigation System

Fertigation is an agricultural technique that maximizes crop yield through controlled application of water and fertilizers. This application also ensures that negative effects of fertilizer leaching to the roots, soil and groundwater are avoided. When applied in a soilless system, where substrates and media such as rockwool, perlite, vermiculite or peat are used, cultivation of food crops can be done on infertile lands or urban areas. Elimination of soil also improves yield through prevention of soil-borne diseases and increases multiple growing cycles without the need to replenish nutrients and soil conditioning. Furthermore, fertigation under a rain-shelter system allows cultivation of crops in areas where excessive rain, sunshine or wind inhibits conventional cultivation of the required food crops.

In Malaysia, fertigation of vegetables such as chillies, cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as high-valued fruits such as rock melons are widely practiced. Crop yields of up to five times per unit area have been achieved and this has contributed to its increasing public interest and appeal. MARDI plays an important role in generating innovative techniques that are tailored to suit requirements of local food crops, as well as utilizing the advantages of fertigation system to expand into cultivating non-local food crops that would otherwise be difficult to grow through conventional methods.

One of these advantages is in addressing the needs to avoid soil-borne diseases and nomadic cultivation in limited highland areas that continue to negatively affect production of high-value local ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). MARDI developed a technique to cultivate ginger rhizomes in lowland areas with an increase in yield from 0.9 kg to 5.4 kg per clump. Furthermore, research was also done to develop techniques to substitute locally available by-products such as coconut husk (coco-peat) and rice husk as growing media. These alternative media are not only relatively cheaper, but also provide solutions for utilizing unused agricultural wastes.

MARDI has also been actively involved in extension programs to increase the appeal of agriculture, especially towards youth. Programs such as MARDI’s Youth Agropreneur that targets youth between 18 to 40 years old, provides training, consultations and access to grants and loans. MARDI has also developed many mobile applications (apps) that provides vital information for fertigation of many crops, as well as groups on social media platforms to provide access for the public to directly engage with experts in MARDI.

In order to achieve sustainable food security, fertigation can be leveraged as one of MARDI’s various strategies. Therefore, MARDI will continue to support this effort by increasing its research and development activities in this field. Up to extension activities supported by researchers and officers that are au fait with current technological trends will ensure stakeholder needs are met as well as building a comprehensive mindset of thrusting africulture as a nation builder.

By: Dr. Ahmad Safuan Bujang, Technology Promotion Centre – MARDI

More at: Scientia MARDI – Vol. 009

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