Rio Tinto Borates (RTB) has joined an ongoing partnership between the “Cocoa Care” program of PT Community Solutions International and the International Plant Nutrition Institute – Southeast Asia Program (IPNI SEAP) to support sustainable development of smallholder cocoa farming in Indonesia.
The main focus of this work is to further promote Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), responsible use of fertilizer nutrients, including the micronutrient boron, by implementing on-farm research and demonstration with smallholder farmers.
Boron is an essential nutrient for all plants, and vital to maximizing crop yield and quality. It is a critical building block for cell growth, aiding in the transfer of sugars and other plant nutrients from roots to leaves and reproductive organs, helping in pollen tube elongation, and fruit and seed development.
Typical boron deficiency symptoms in cocoa include pale, twisted and brittle leaves, death of the growing point of branches, splitting of the bark, profuse flowering but incomplete formation of cocoa pods and seedless fruits.
The Rio Tinto Borates supported program will involve 15 cocoa farmers in the Soppeng District of South Sulawesi, Indonesia in a three-year collaborative study to demonstrate the yield and quality benefits of boron inclusive fertilization, in the cocoa farm.
Cocoa plays a dominant role in the livelihoods of as many as 500,000 smallholder farmers in Sulawesi, which produces a large proportion of Indonesia’s cocoa. However, over the past 15 years, productivity and quality have been seriously affected by pests, disease and poor farm management.
Total Indonesian production has fallen from approximately 700,000 tonnes per annum in the late 1990s to as little as 400,000 tonnes (est.) in 2015. Assisting cocoa farmers with training and resources to manage these new challenges would help reverse the trend of decreasing productivity and family income.
This new partnership will further strengthen an ongoing process of change to help struggling cocoa farmers to become more professional in managing their farms and involve them directly in on-farm research to fill critical knowledge gaps about cocoa tree nutrition and sustainable soil management.
The Rio Tinto Borates supported program covers formal training in GAP, including appropriate sustainable soil management practices, provision of necessary farming tools and in-field support in practical cocoa farm management by the smallholder family unit.
“Rio Tinto Borates is excited to be working with Cocoa Care, IPNI SEAP and the cocoa farmers in Sulawesi on a collaborative research approach to demonstrate the benefits of boron, in the sustainable management of smallholder cocoa farms” explained Mr. Weng Kee Ch’ng, Regional Agronomist, Rio Tinto Borates. “The program has started with all of the farmers receiving formal training in September, and the in-field work will start in December after the “mid-crop” harvest,” he added.
About “Cocoa Care”
“Cocoa Care” has been helping cocoa farming families achieve long-term economic, environmental and social sustainability since 2012 and joined forces with IPNI SEAP in 2013, significantly increasing their focus on scientific research and the role of soil nutrition and sustainable soil management in cocoa farming sustainability.
About Rio Tinto Borates
Rio Tinto Borates is a global leader in industrial mineral supply and science. It provides 30 per cent of the world’s supply of refined borates, remarkable minerals that are essential to life and to modern living. It serves more than 1,000 customers worldwide. Rio Tinto Borates distinguishes itself through cutting-edge research and development; world-class safety, environmental and community practices; and a commitment to constant innovation and improvement. For more information, visit: www.borax.com.
The International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) is a not-for-profit, science-based organization dedicated to the responsible management of plant nutrition for the benefit of people. Through cooperation and partnerships with respected institutions around the world, IPNI adds its strength to agronomic research, education, demonstrations, training, and other endeavors. Best management practices for nutrient stewardship encourage the concept of 4Rs – applying the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. To learn more about IPNI, visit: www.ipni.net
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Dr. Thomas Oberthür, IPNI Director of Southeast Asia Program