On the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, production of sorghum is being trialed to supplement domestic corn for livestock feeds, and tests are also underway to improve soybean cultivation.
Growing domestic demand for meat and other animal proteins in the Philippines has stimulated interest in the cultivation of crops suitable for inclusion in livestock feeds, with a recent initiatives focusing on sorghum and soybeans.
Building on the country’s existing national Corn Production Program, a field day was held recently in the Caraga region in the northeast of Mindanao on the cultivation of these two crops, reports the Philippine Information Agency.
Originating in Africa, sorghum is regarded as a potentially valuable feed ingredient for livestock and poultry in the Philippines. Not only is it a good source of energy and protein, sorghum is more tolerant to drought than corn, and requires less water. Average yields are around 10 metric tons (mt) per hectare (4.46 tons per acre). Furthermore, three harvests can be achieved each planting season because of the crop’s ability to grow again from the base of the plant after the above-ground parts are harvested in a practice known as ratooning.
Individually or in combination, sorghum and corn make up 50-60% of a feed, according to Nestor Burgos, technical director for the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the Caraga region, and demand for feed ingredients is growing as the result of in the Philippines’ expanding livestock sector.
“Although sorghum may be used for food, it is basically used for feeds especially for ruminants like goats, sheep and cows,” he said. “Its stalk also may be used for silage.”
The area is starting with the cultivation of 35 hectares (86 acres) of sorghum under the DA project, but this is expected to expand to 1,500 hectares next year.
The DA is providing not only the sorghum seeds and fertilizer, but also a small-scale feed mill so that nearby livestock and poultry farmers can access more affordable feeds from locally grown materials.
Also being tested in the Caraga region are different varieties of soybeans for improved yields and functional properties. Part of the Soybean Research and Development Program, it is hoped the tests will lead to more soybeans being cultivated in the area for the production of high-quality protein.
The National Sorghum Development Program was launched by Agriculture Secretary Manuel Piñol, in November 2018 to complement a government initiative for sustainable corn production to support the growing poultry and livestock industry in the Philippines, according to the DA. At the time, DA’s regional directors were urged to carry out pilot studies to ascertain the potential for sorghum cultivation in their respective areas.
Grain imports help ease food inflation in the Philippines
Increased imports of wheat, rice and corn since the end of 2018 have helped alleviate food price inflation in the Philippines, according to a recent report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).
Filipino corn production in the marketing year ending June 2019 was 7.7 million metric tons (mmt), according to USDA estimates, on an area of about 2.5 million hectares. Production was down from the 7.98 mmt for the previous 12 months, with average yield almost 3.1 mt per hectare. A further 900 mt corn were imported, and 6.65 mmt were used in for animal feed.
In 2017 — the most recent year for which figures have been published — the country was 94% self-sufficient in corn, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The Philippines does not grow a significant amount of wheat, but the country imported 7 mmt in the last marketing year, and the FAS reports that 2.9 mmt of this was used for animal nutrition.
After allegations that agriculture in the Philippines has been in decline since 2016 when he was appointed Agriculture Secretary, Piñol tendered his resignation to President Rodrigo Duterte last week. The president has not reacted to his resignation so far, and Piñol retains his Cabinet role, reports the Philippines Inquirer.