Australia, Philippines Collaborate to Boost and Improve Safe Vegetable Production

Philippine farmers will soon have a better, healthy, and safe vegetable production.
Philippine farmers will soon have a better, healthy, and safe vegetable production. (Judgefloro/WikimediaCommons)

Vegetable production in the Philippines is a crucial sector of the country’s economy. That’s why it collaborates with Australia to help boost and improve safe vegetable growing.

Vegetable Farming in the Country

Farmers in the Philippines mainly plant tomatoes, eggplant, cabbage, pechay, onion, squash, beans, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, and more. Consumers are more aware of the issues regarding pesticide residues and are more inclined to buy vegetables that are safe to eat.

These are vegetables mostly grown in the Philippines. (Vo Thuy Tien/Pexels)

Generally, Filipinos consume less than 25% of the World Health Organization’s suggested vegetable consumption. Why? It’s due to the affordability, availability, and cultural and dietary factors. Moreover, some consumers have a negative impression of vegetable safety and quality.

In the Philippines, it’s common for vegetables to contain pesticide residues and microbial contamination beyond authorised limits. Most vegetable farmers have poor training in the relevant application of pesticides. It also includes continuous harmful pest control practices, such as broad-spectrum and constant use of insecticides.

This unsafe persevering dangerous practice results in significant pesticide residues on harvested crops. Likewise, farm workers are at risk of toxic chemical exposure, which can lead to poisoning. Additionally, beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs die because of pesticides and insecticides.

Advancing and Improving Safe Vegetable Production

One of the primary environmental threats the country’s agricultural sector faces is soil degradation. Nearly 70% of the country’s land area suffers from soil erosion, fertility decline, and soil acidification.

The new agricultural research partnership between the Philippines and Australia will reflect on promoting the feasible understanding of heavy metals and soil contaminants to enrich vegetable farming. This four-year project the University of Queensland conducted will look to identify soil constraints. These constraints impede proper plant development and lower crop production.

”The information that will be generated by the project will be of real value to a range of stakeholders including, farmers, policymakers, scientists, researchers and farm advisors from the public and private sector,” said Dr James Quilty, ACIAR Research Program Manager, Soil and Land Management.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) Soil and Land Management Research Program funded the research for A$1.8
million, which will run until 2027. Partnering organisations involve the University of Queensland, Visayas State University, Benguet State University, UPLB, University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines, and DOST-PCAARRD.

Management of Heavy Metals and Soil Contaminants in Vegetable Production

Heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and lead are some of the most toxic metals found in soil and water. Managing these elements appropriately can help ensure that consumers eat safe and healthy vegetables.

Generally, vegetable production in the Philippines is practised on extremely weathered upland acidic soils best for planting vegetables. The upland acidic Ultisols account for around 40% (12 million hectares) of the country’s total land area. This is the main soil type used for agriculture.

Ultisols came from the Latin word ultimus, meaning “last.” This is an intensely leached, acid forest soil with adequately low native fertility. It’s usually found in countries with humid and temperate climates, including the Philippines.

The team began working with farmers and stakeholders in the upland vegetable production locations in Misamis Oriental, Leyte, and Benguet. They will analyse crop limitations of plant-essential micronutrients in these vegetable farming areas.