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Role of Healthy Soil-Plant Interactions Towards Achieving Resilient Agriculture in the Asian and Pacific Region



The soil-plant interaction is a synergistic relationship that benefits both partners. An innovative strategy to improve current agricultural systems to a resilient agriculture practice that can sustain farm productivity with minimum soil degradation and negative impacts on the environment is urgently needed. In crop production, effective ecosystem management, including the study of soil-plant interactions, is vital to sustainable and profitable crop production and enhances the development of more resilient agriculture. As a result, plants can grow and produce in the face of environmental stress, pests, diseases and competition. One strategy that will fulfil these holistic aims is the optimization of the soil-plant interactions.

Optimization of healthy soil-plant interaction strategy for agriculture production is coherent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set up by the United Nations, especially with zero hunger (SDG 2) and life on land (SDG 15) goals. The healthy soil-plant interactions will contribute to food security enhancement and improve nutrition, help protect, restore and promote sustainable use of soil, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.  Efficient crop production heavily relies on soil performance, such as nutrient cycling, soil suppression against the pathogen, phytoremediation of contaminated soil and mitigating the drought effects.

Reduction in the use of agrochemicals will improve the quality of natural water sources where the contamination of nitrate, heavy metals and pesticide residues can be reduced and provide water with better quality for consumption of human, animal, and industrial usage. 

The workshop symposium prioritizes the FFTC theme on increasing productivity by strengthening agriculture R&D and goes in line with FFTC’s Strategic Action Plan for 2021-2024 on promoting climate-smart agriculture and green technologies. This workshop would also foster the advanced technologies through research and development to strengthen resilience to natural disasters and to support agro-biodiversity in Asian and Pacific agriculture.


  • Share knowledge and experiences on the current state of soil and plant health and their interactions towards achieving resilient agriculture.
  • Establish an efficient network among participants from all member countries for future research and technical collaboration.
  • Foster advanced technologies through research and development which could help strengthen resilience to natural disasters and support agro-diversity in Asian and Pacific agriculture.


  • Soils and plants and their synergistic interactions.
  • Practical management to improve soil-plant interactions for agricultural productivity.
  • Advances in soil-plant management to boost productivity, sustainability and resilience in agriculture.

Workshop highlights

Eleven speakers from eight countries (Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam) were invited to present the status of their soils in their respective countries, the production constraints, cultural practices and technologies related to soil-plant interactions. The presentation materials include 11 PPTs, 10 papers, and 11 videos. Key takeaways were summarized by the presentations delivered:

Keynote session

Dr. Ganisen Krishnen (S1): Years of soil use and abuse and some traditional agricultural practices had caused heavy soil degradation not just in Malaysia but in a lot of countries in Asia. This led to declining agricultural productivity which resulted to food insecurity while the world population continued to increase. Principles of soil health as well as soil restoration were discussed in the context of increasing agricultural productivity and building agricultural resilience. The speaker said that rehabilitation of arid soil such as desert and sand tailing could give new hope to crop production and food security.   

Dr. Toru Fujiwara, Japan (S2): For many years now, the Soil Department of the University of Tokyo, has been doing work on plant adaptation vis-à-vis the changing nutritional conditions in soils. This include works on splicing and magnesium regulation, plant root system, nutrient stress tolerance, boron sensing and “nutritropism,” which basically describe how the nutrients in soil conditions affect plant cells, and the way plants change its behavior. The speaker emphasized that we need more connection between soil science and plant nutrition.

Session 3: Practical management to improve soil-plant interactions for agricultural productivity

Dr. Pearl Sanchez, Philippines (S3): Nanotechnology has been explored for its potential in enhancing agricultural productivity and ensuring environmental sustainability. Nanofertilizers containing the macronutrients N, P and K were formulated, characterized and their production and application on selected agricultural crops were optimized. Crop yields increased and the rates of application were reduced. In their experiments in the Philippines, nanotechnologies and nanofertilizers increased the yields of crops like rice, corn, cabbage, cacao and banana by as much as 20 to 40%. With increased yield and reduced rates of application, she said the net income of Filipino farmers also increased. The improvement in yield at lower rates of application indicates that the slower release of nutrients improved nutrient uptake, increased nutrient use efficiency and reduced nutrient loss.

Mr. Wen-jiang Jiang, Taiwan (S4): In Taiwan, the shallow buried pipe technology can replace the action of washing salt and helps increase soil aeration, promotes root growth, reduce humidity accumulation in the greenhouse, and helps control and manage pests and diseases. The function of washing salts in the shallow underground pipe affects the salt discharge and becomes more improved through time. With the rapid salt washing function of the shallow hidden pipe and with the increase of use time, the effect of salt discharge has been improved. After three months, the sodium concentration of the drain water from the hidden pipe has reached a maximum of 11.1 mmole/L, which is 5 times the sodium concentration of irrigation water. The flat border drip irrigation can save manpower and achieve precise fertilization, which can improve the yield and quality and even prolong the harvest season of crops like cucumbers.

Ms. Faridah Binti Manaf (S5): Acid sulfate, Beach Ridges Interspersed with Swales (BRIS), tin-tailings, peat and steep land soils are problematic soils with severe limitations for crop cultivation in Malaysia. Agronomic challenges, particularly low cation exchange capacity (CEC), high acidity, intensely leached, low nutrient status and low water holding capacity are the main problems encountered by farmers in managing these groups of marginal soils for productive agriculture. These agronomic challenges need to be addressed to enhance crop production with efficient resource utilization and improvement in soil fertility. Agronomic practices like the use of either organic or inorganic soil amendment or their co-application, improved drainage system, fertilization schedules, crop selection and an upgraded irrigation system are just some of the soil fertility management practices employed in Malaysian farms.

Dr. Kanokkorn Sinma, Thailand (S6): Sugarcane trash could be utilized to improve soil fertility. As one of the important economic crops in Thailand, sugarcane is a raw material in the sugar industry and animal feeds, and is also used as an energy crop for ethanol production. Sugarcane leaf burning is a common management practice in sugarcane harvesting process that results in dust and small particles which affects and impacts both the environment and human health. Burning also leads to loss of plant nutrients and soil organic matter which eventually leads to the loss of soil fertility. The utilization of bio-products from microorganisms including living cells and enzymes leads to acceleration of sugarcane trash especially leaf degradation. Experiment results indicated that both microbial cells and enzymes affected plant nutrients accumulated in soil especially total N and Humic acid content. The utilization of microbial cells and microbial enzymes for sugarcane trash management could be an alternative to avoid the burning process and improve soil fertility. This information can be integrated with fertilizer management for sugarcane production.

Session 4: Advances in soil-plant management to boost productivity, sustainability and resilience in agriculture

Dr. Arief Hartono, Indonesia (S7): One way to increase efficiency in fertilizer application is to use Controlled-Release Fertilizer (CRF) NPK. CRF is a fertilizer that gradually releases and provides the right amount of nutrients for plants. In a recent experiment, three types of CRF NPK fertilizers, namely CRF NPK coated with polyacrylic acid, CRF NPK coated with 7% polyurethane and CRF NPK coated with 12% polyurethane were evaluated for their solubility and compared to conventional NPK compound fertilizer. The results showed that in general, NPK compound fertilizers coated with polyurethane had a lower maximum release of N, P and K.  NPK fertilizer coated with 12% polyurethane had the lowest maximum release of N, P and K compared to other NPK fertilizers. The results suggested that polyurethane was better coating material for NPK compound fertilizer to have controlled-release fertilizer.

Dr. Shin-ichiro Mishima (S8): Sustainable intensification is vital to ensuring food security in Japan in view of the low food self-sufficiency rate (37% on a calorie basis, 66% on a price basis in 2020). As a result, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) launched the initiative known as “Strategy for Sustainable Food Systems.” However, data on the application of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) for different crops are insufficient. In this study, NPK production and application rate were estimated from statistical data and national scale surveys conducted by MAFF from 1989 to 2012, and the NPK balance and use efficiency were evaluated. There is a framework for vegetable fertilization and optimization of fertilizers that could help in increasing the sustainability of crop production in Japan.

Dr. Nguyen Van Hien, Vietnam (S9): A study at the Soils and Fertilizers Research Institute in Hanoi, Vietnam evaluated the role of biochar on soil quality, carbon storage, and crop yield (tea and rice) in Northern Vietnam. Three biochars, including wood biochar (WBC), rice husk biochar (RBC), and bamboo biochar (BBC), were produced under limited oxygen conditions using Top-Lid Updraft Drum technology at temperatures around 550oC. After that, the three biochars were mixed well with ratio of weight (1:1:1), and added into FYM (Farm Yard Manure) for composting (0.5% biochar). Then, the field trials (three replications) were conducted for tea and rice with three treatments including NPK (T1 = control), 80%NPK + 2 tons biochar/ha (T2), and 10 tons of compost + NPK (T3). The results indicated that the biochar products had positive impact on soil quality, carbon storage, and crop yield. Higher carbon sequestration was also observed for the subsoil compared to the topsoil in rice paddy. It was also found that biochar products had positive effect on crop yield especially on tea crop.

Dr. Chang-Hoon Lee, Korea (S10): The Soil Carbon 4 per mille was launched to increase global soil organic matter sticks as a compensation for emission of Green House Gases (GHG) by anthropogenic sources. Specifically, soil organic carbon was treated as important due to soil productivity and soil health as well as carbon cycling. A study at the Korea National University of Agriculture and Fisheries used the spatial prediction of soil organic carbon and its application in arable lands to find out the optimum soil organic matter management for sustainable productivity. Soil test database was used to Kriging model for organic carbon prediction and its application. Ordinary Kriging model using soil test database was beneficial to predict overall soil organic carbon and N requirement in regional arable land. The result indicates that soil test database would contribute to establish strategy of best soil management for soil health and climate changes control.

Dr. Yu-Wen Lin, Taiwan (S11): Taiwan has adapted steps to adapt to extreme weather caused by climate change and reduce agricultural Green House Gas emissions to improve agricultural resilience. They include the application of field sensors and automatic control devices for AWD water management in rice paddy, use of laser leveling technology to save irrigation water, and introduction of microorganisms to control soil-borne diseases and insect pests as well as the adoption of conservation tillage and crop rotation to improve productivity in farmlands. The COA of Taiwan has announced to reach the net-zero emissions target for agriculture by 2040. In the future, in addition to developing cultivation techniques to adapt and mitigate climate change (e.g., improving nitrogen use efficiency), the agricultural machinery required for these cultivations will also be developed to reduce agricultural labor and provide incentives for farmers to participate.

Session 5: General Discussion

The one-hour session was moderated by Dr. Ganishen Krishnen, Senior Research Officer of MARDI’s Soil Science & Water Fertilizer Research Centre. All speakers were invited to join and participate on the following topics: 1) Future challenges and R&D directions for healthy soil-plant interactions; 2) Contributions to zero carbon emissions; 3) Policy support to sound field practices; and 4) Recommendations and conclusions. The key discussion points were summarized below:

Point 1. The first challenge is how we can enrich our soil carbon. We can all work for healthy plant growth. The root system in the soil could be a good carbon source. A combination of organic and inorganic proper soil fertilization could meet the nutrient requirements of the plants. We could also employ the proper cultural practices like crop system rotation, cover crops, conservation tillage, carbon sequestration, etc. Using a combination of cultural practices could help solve a lot of problems in the soil.

Point 2. It is very important that we know our soil. We should ask ourselves:  What is the current status of our soil? What do our soils need? What are the production constraints? If we know this, we would be able to recommend the proper intervention strategies. Fertilizers are the key factors that are driving the increase in agricultural production. There is a need to improve nutrient and water efficiency. Considering the economic constraints brought about by the continuous increase in the cost of fertilizers, we should look for alternative sources like the use biofertilizers and organic fertilizers. Experiments on how to further speed up the composting process should also be encouraged.

Point 3. There is a need to improve our cultural practices and efficiently utilize nutrients in order to strengthen the resilience to the impact of extreme weather conditions. Cultural practices like the alternate wet and dry irrigation system could help a lot to cope with drought to reduce available water and improve the aeration condition of rice paddies and reduce methane emission. Growing legumes could also serve as a good source of nitrogen.

Point 4    . Policymakers should consider the continuous encouragement of farmers to grow their crops and maintain their soil in the proper way. There is a need to study the best practices of countries like Taiwan on how they adapt measures to contribute to the target goal of net zero carbon emissions set up by the United Nations.

Suggestions and conclusions
  • Know your soil. Find out the current status of your soil and its production constraints. If you know your soil well, it would be easy to recommend the proper intervention measures or strategies.
  • Enrich soil carbon through proper cultural practices like crop system rotation, cover crops, conservation tillage, carbon sequestration, etc.
  • Examine and improve existing cultural practices to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions to become more resilient to the impact of extreme weather conditions. Use a combination of cultural practices to solve existing soil problems.
  • Study ways to efficiently look for alternative sources of nutrients like using biofertilizers and organic fertilizers.
  • Encourage farmers to grow crops and teach them the principles of intercropping and growing legumes to serve as nitrogen source.
  • Improve nutrient and water use efficiency and soil organic matter content through changes in cropping system, root system, carbon farming, building of metro forests, foliar applications, deep fertilization, rotation of legume crops, culturing of sea algae, promotion of green energy, etc.
  • Share, exchange information and learn from the policy measures of other countries on how they adapt measures and best practices to reach the net zero carbon emission goals set by the United Nations.


There were 730 people who registered for the workshop, including participants from the Philippines (84%), Malaysia (6.2%), Vietnam (2.1%), Japan (1.6%), Taiwan (1.1%) Indonesia (0.8%), while the rest were from Burma, Qatar and Tunisia. Among the registrants, 45% were males and 54% were females. 590 were from the public sector, 74 from the private sector, and 25 were self-employed. Others were from research institutes, universities and international organizations. The semi-hybrid online workshop was livestreamed and broadcasted on two platforms, the Zoom platform (close to 300 participants) and the FFTC Facebook page where the video stream reached close to 600 views during the workshop, showing the successful promotion of this international workshop activity. The Feedback form was sent by MARDI to the registered participants immediately after the workshop. Majority of the respondents were very satisfied with the workshop in all aspects (content, relevance and logistics).

Workshop videos can be watched at:

English Channel:

More information can be viewed on the workshop website:

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Healthy soils for resilient agriculture towards enhancement of food security in Asia
Dr. Ganisan Krishnen
Senior Research Officer, Soil Science & Water Fertilizer Research Centre, MARDI, Malaysia
Plant adaptation to changing nutritional conditions in soils
Dr. Toru Fujiwara
Professor, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan
Enhancing agricultural productivity through nanotechnology
Dr. Pearl B. Sanchez
Professor, Agricultural Systems Institute, College of Agriculture and Food Science, University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Philippines
Effects of shallow hidden pipes on soil salinity of greenhouse cucumber
Mr. Wen-jin Jiang
Researcher, Tainan District Agricultural Research and Extension Station, Taiwan
Soil fertility management for sustainable plant production in Malaysia
Ms. Faridah Binti Manaf
Senior Research Officer, Soil Science, Water and Fertilizer, MARDI, Malaysia
Utilization of sugarcane trash to improve soil fertility
Dr. Kanokkorn Sinma
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Soil Science Faculty of Agriculture, Kasetsart University, Thailand
The use of polyacrylic acid and polyurethrane in controlling the release of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium of compound fertilizer
Dr. Arief Hartono
Coordinator, Soil & Plant Laboratory Analysis, Faculty of Agriculture, IPB University, Bogor, Indonesia
Recent trend in nutrient use, balance and efficiency for sustainable intensification in Japan
Dr. Shin-ichiro Mishima
Principal Researcher, Agro-Environmental Informatics Group, NARO, Japan
Effect of biochar on soil quality, carbon storage and crop yield: a solution for carbon farming
Dr. Nguyen Van Hien
Soil/Plant Nutrition Specialist, The Soils & Fertilizers Research Institute, Vietnam
Case study on the prediction of soil organic carbon and fertilizer requirement using legacy data in Korea
Dr. Chang-hoon Lee
Assistant Professor, Korea National University of Agriculture & Fisheries, Korea
Measures adopted in Taiwan to strengthen healthy soil-plant interactions for resilient agriculture
Dr. Yu-Wen Lin
Associate Researcher, Agricultural Chemistry Division, Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute,Taiwan
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