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Nuni Gofar: Promoting organic farming - Jakarta Post
Last modified: 2010-11-15 18:31:50

 

Chemical fertilizers are excessively used in plantations and farms throughout Indonesia, damaging the environment and leading to the emergence of various diseases.

In addition, the use of these fertilizers need huge subsidies from the government, reaching Rp 10 trillion in 2008.

Is there any solution to the problem? There is only a single answer: by applying organic farming. That is the conclusion after many years of research from Professor Nuni Gofar, 45, a lecturer at the School of Agriculture, University of Sriwijaya (Unsri) in Palembang.

Organic farming opens up the door to opportunity for the solution to deal with ecological destruction caused by the use of chemical fertilizers, according to Nuni, who was born on Aug. 4, 1964. What is more encouraging, it is also not difficult to manage organic fertilizers.

The raw materials to make organic fertilizers, the waste of agricultural and farming activities, are abundant, cheap and environmentally friendly. Organic fertilizers have many substances needed by plants, such as calcium (ca), magnesium (mg), zinc (zn), sulfur (s), iron (fe) and mangan (mn).

The use of chemical fertilizers diminishes the rich substances of agricultural land due to the lessening of the C-organic content. Each chemical fertilizer itself only has one element, which is Nitrogen that is found in urea fertilizer, Phosphate in TSP (Triple superphosphate) fertilizer and Calcium in Kcl (potassium chloride) fertilizer.

"To deal with this problem, a cross-sectoral solution is needed and this should involve all relevant parties," Nuni said in a recent interview in her house in Bukit Lama, Palembang.

Bio organic fertilizers can also be developed by utilizing potential sources found in the nature. The role of nature-based land biotechnology is believed to be able to prevent land and environmental destruction and reduce the production cost of plants.

In terms of productivity, organic fertilizers cannot outperformed by the chemical ones, but the yields are of better quality. The also have better nutrition like the products that are cultivated using compost organic fertilizer made of dried rice stalks, which has a lot of potassium.

"Therefore, the rice that is produced will be rich in potassium, which is good for health," she said.

Beside organic fertilizers, microbe fertilizers can also be developed by utilizing the indigene microbe potencies as the source of bio fertilizers. A research on this kind of fertilizers needs to be conducted, especially regarding the possibility of the synergy or even competition among bio microbe that enriches organic fertilizers. The application on different plants and soils requires a further research.

"This [research] is very important to decide the best dose in improving the fertility of soil and yields," added Nuni, who is an expert in soil biology and biotechnology.

One of the microbe potencies in bio organic fertilizers is the bacteria that ties up nitrogen (Azotobacter), which can fix N2 and produce phytohormones that can enhance the growth of plants and improve the soil porosity.

According to Nuni, with the abundant organic waste from the agricultural and non-agricultural activities, farmers are actually familiar with organic fertilizers and bio fertilizers. Based on this fact, she came up with the idea to combine both of them into a kind of fertilizer product.

"Enriching organic fertilizers with microbes will bring a lot of advantages such as blocking N2, protracting fostat, the substance which aborts nutrients, and boosting the growth from the soil with the potency to replace anorganic fertilizer," she said.

A research on the enrichment of organic fertilizers with bio fertilizers is being carried out by the School of Agriculture, Unsri, in cooperation with PT Pusri (Sriwijaya Fertilizer), which plans to produce it.

In South Sumatra, the use of organic fertilizers has been conducted in the rice production center in Belitang District, Ogan Komering Ulu Timur Regency and Pulau Rimau District, Banyuasin Regency. The growing public interest on organic rice, according to Nuni, has much to do with their awareness about the potential environmental pollution due to the use of chemical fertilizers.

"Besides, the economic crisis that started in 1997 and the withdrawal of subsidy on fertilizers in 1998 also triggered [the use of organic fertilizers]," said the mother of two children.

The classical problem of research, the limited funding and efforts to find it, does not discourage her. She always moves forward and refuses to retreat as she believes that "failure is the best teacher".

"It is not easy to gain success. We should learn from our failures," she said.

Nuni graduated from Sriwijaya University in 1987 and gained her master's and post-graduate degree from the Padjadjaran University in Bandung respectively in 1993 and 2003.

She said that initially her parents did not support her choice to continue her study in agriculture in Bandung as they wanted her to be close all the time. But they became proud of her, especially after she became the professor of the Faculty of Agriculture in January 2010.

Results of her research on biology and soil biotechnology have been published in many scientific journals in the country and abroad. Among them is the variety of chemical and biological characteristics of soil on the different applications in swamps.

Nuni, who was awarded a prestigious medal, Satyalancana Karya Satya X, in 2007, admitted that women still had little interest in studying agriculture, possibly due to the misleading perception that agriculture is thought be be a dirty job and one associated with living in rural areas.

"That is not entirely true. Agriculture has developed rapidly and provides the opportunity to produce outstanding work. Not all agricultural school graduates become farmers, such as me," she said.

Khairul Saleh, The Jakarta Post 08/06/2010

Keywords: Nuni Gofar: Promoting organic farming, Jakarta Post, organic, farming, organik, pertanian, chemical fertilizers, pestisida kimia
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