Helping farmers help themselves

Lowering fertiliser costs through rice research

In Vietnam Professor Ivan Kennedy from the University of Sydney is finding a way to make fertiliser work more efficiently for rice farmers.

An inoculant biofertilser is being developed, based on an original idea of Hanoi Professor Nguyen Thanh Hien.

Professor Ivan Kennedy likens it to a “booster” which improves the health of the rice root system, “so you get better root growth, and it allows the rice roots to become much more efficient in taking up the nitrogen in the urea.”

Using funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and AusAid, Professor Kennedy has been working on this biofertiliser with Vietnamese project leader Dr Phan Thi Cong.

Last year they entered a World Bank Global Development Marketplace competition and won a major innovation award.

Now the team is aiming to make the biofertiliser commercial, but Professor Kennedy says before it can be put on the market, a quality control test has to be developed.

He has organised for two Vietnamese scientists, Ms Vu Thuy Nga and Ms Tran Thi Kim Cuc to come to Sydney for six weeks, for training in quality control techniques.

Ms Kim Cuc says “When we have finished we have to know how to use this technique in our institute to ensure the quality of the biofertiliser so it can be used by the Vietnamese farmers.”

Professor Kennedy says once the product is made commercial, his aim is to encourage farmer cooperatives to sell the biofertiliser to generate cash flow.

He says this research allows farmers to become resilient to world economic problems.

“The more that they can generate their resources from local materials, the better off they’ll be.”

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