PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has approved the Department of Agriculture's (DA) P523-million National Soil Health Program (NSHP) aimed at rejuvenating the country's degraded soils and ensuring increased crop production sustainably.

"On behalf of millions of Filipino farmers, we thank President Duterte for supporting this long-awaited soil rejuvenation program to enable our farmers to produce bountiful crops and earn more income for their families," Agriculture Secretary William Dar said on Wednesday.

The NSHP, which is part of the government's goal of achieving food security, will be implemented by the DA's Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM) starting this year until 2023.

Aside from institutionalizing a national soil monitoring and rejuvenation program, the NSHP aims to establish mobile soils laboratories across the country to monitor soil health through the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment, upgraded laboratory facilities and competent technical staff.

"With these modern soil laboratories, farmers would have their soil samples analyzed in a matter of minutes with the corresponding specific site and crop nutrient recommendations," Dar said.

The NSHP also aims to improve soil analysis for macro- and micro-nutrients, and develop manuals on the use of physical and biological parameters as indicators of soil health through the adoption of a national soil database and monitoring system to rejuvenate degraded soils.

Under the program, the DA-BSWM will be training local government extension workers, farmer-leaders, and other stakeholders on the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils. "Part of this is to empower rural-based organizations, particularly farmers' cooperatives and associations or FCAs (farmers' cooperatives and associations), which will serve as partners in implementing the national soil health program," Dar said.

Moreover, the Agriculture chief said the NSHP will work to strengthen partnerships between the DA-BSWM and relevant agencies and organizations to sustain food security efforts.