Friday, June 19, 2009

Brief history and current state of soil science in the Philippines

First published June 2009. Revised November 2016.

Philippine soil science owes its early development to the Americans. The first soil survey was conducted by C. W. Dorsey an American soil surveyor in 1903. In 1921 a Division of Soil and Fertilizer was created under the Bureau of Science which in 1934 was renamed as Division of Soil Survey. In 1951, the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act No. 622 organizing the Bureau of Soil Conservation with Dr. M. M. Alicante as its first director (BSWM, 2008). Teaching of soil science to students of agricultural science started as early as the 1920s at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA). R. L. Pendleton an American from California was one of the pioneer soil science instructors who taught from 1923 to 1935. Dr. Pendleton was also an outstanding researcher as reflected by the about 50 scientific papers he published (Pendleton, 1942; Carter, 1958).

Until about the 1960s, much of the work of soil scientists in the Bureau of Soil Conservation (which became Bureau of Soils in 1957) was on soil survey and mapping of soil series in the entire archipelago as well as in promoting soil conservation practices. Because of the major role that soil science played in the green revolution, Philippine soil science enjoyed rapid development in the 1970s and 1980s ("golden age") primarily due to the massive faculty development at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) wherein young faculty members were sent abroad primarily to the U.S.A. for graduate studies, and to the world class soil research that was at the time brewing at the nearby International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) thanks largely to Nyle C. Brady.

N.C. Brady (Source:
NC Brady of Cornell University who taught at UPCA (now UPLB) as Cornell visiting professor after the war returned to Los Banos in 1973 as the third director general of IRRI and remained there until 1981. During Brady's time (and until now), many leading soil scientists from around the world visited or conducted research at IRRI. Some of the internationally well-known soil scientists who worked at IRRI included P.A. Roger (France), H.U. Neue and H.W. Scharpenseel (Germany), F.N. Ponnamperuma (Sri Lanka), T. Yoshida and I. Watanabe (Japan), N. van Breemen and F. Moormann (Netherlands), D.J. Greenland and G.J.D. Kirk (U.K.), R. Bloom and P.A. Sanchez (USA), and S. Sombatpanit (Thailand). By establishing a world class soil research at IRRI and through his soil science textbook (Nature and Properties of Soils), NC Brady has undoubtedly had a major impact on the development of Philippine soil science.

At UPLB, some of the soil scientists who represented, or were product of, the "golden age" and who became influential teachers included: R.B. Badayos (genesis, survey and classification); I.J. Manguiat  and E.S. Paterno (soil microbiology); G.O. San Valentin (soil mineralogy and soil chemistry); A. A. Briones (soil physics) and E.P. Paningbatan (soil physics and soil conservation); A.M. Briones, D.A. Carandang (soil chemistry); and C. P. Mamaril, H.P. Samonte, W.C. Cosico (soil fertility). Two foreigners also spent a few years teaching soil science at UPLB: Dr. S. Srinilta (soil physics) and Dr. U. Jones (soil fertility).

A special mention must be made of Nicolas L. Galvez, a highly trained and outstanding soil scientist who took charge of developing the Soils Department and of training future Filipino soil scientists at UPCA after the war. N.L. Galvez was the head of the Soils Department from 1948 to 1961 and served UPCA for 42 years. Without doubt, Dr. Galvez had the greatest contribution to Philippine soil science. For this reason, he is widely considered as the "Dean of Filipino Soil Scientists". (A museum has recently been established in his honor at UPLB).

Outside UPLB, examples of soil scientists who also stood out during the 1980s and 1990s were J.B. Dacayo of Central Luzon State University (CLSU), S.S. Magat of Philippine Coconut Authority, R.G. Escalada of VSU who advised more than a hundred undergraduate thesis students in agronomy and soil science (including this writer), and N.B. Inciong of BSWM.

At present, there is a new generation of well-trained soil scientists, many of whom have obtained advanced degrees from prestigious universities in Australia, Japan, Europe, and North America, who are working at various universities, research centers, government agencies, and private organizations throughout the country. Undergraduate/graduate degree programs in soil science are now offered by several universities throughout the country the most important of which are UPLB, CLSU, Benguet State University, Tarlac Agricultural University, and Central Bicol State University of Agriculture in Luzon; Visayas State University or VSU (formerly called ViSCA and LSU) in central Philippines; and University of Southern Mindanao and Central Mindanao University in the southern part of the country. Survey, mapping, and soil fertility evaluation of soils throughout the country are carried out by the Bureau of Soil and Water Management based in Quezon City.

The soil science program at VSU in Baybay, Leyte, deserves a brief mention. Started in the late 1970s, the program has produced graduates who are now successful academics and scientists not only in the Philippines but also in the USA, Europe and Japan. VSU soil scientists have also produced high quality papers which have been published in various international journals. On November 5, 2014, the VSU administration under President Jose L. Bacusmo created the Department of Soil Science from the existing Department of Agronomy and Soil Science. In terms of faculty strength, facilities, and scientific publication, VSU's Department of Soil Science is widely considered as the country's leading soil science department at the moment.*

Finally, Philippine soil science has clearly made major strides in the last three decades but it lags very much behind those in other countries in terms of scientific outputs and professional activities. This is even true for the ASEAN region alone. Regarding scientific outputs, very few papers have been published by Filipino soil scientists in peer-reviewed international journals. In terms of professional activities, the Philippine Society of Soil Science and Technology (PSSST) has not yet been fully recognized by the International Union of Soil Sciences, the global organization of soil scientists. So it cannot be seen in the global map of soil science. There is an increasingly popular view among young soil scientists that basing the PSSST at the BSWM, a non-academic entity, has stifled the development of the organization and of soil science in the country.

* The two soil scientists included in the top 450 scientists in the Philippines in 2016 based on scientific citations & h index by Webometrics ( are from VSU.

(Note: The article is based on the available historical materials that I have gathered so far. I will revise it when new information becomes available.)


Jill said...


I am happy to see this write up. But I couldn't find the names of Dr. Santiago N. Tilo and Dr. Igmidio T. Corpuz in the list. Both were former heads of the Department of Soil Science. Dr. Tilo taught soil microbiology while Dr. Corpuz taught soil conservation and management.Former UPLB Chancellor Ruben Aspiras(Soil Microbiology) was also with the Soil Science Department in early 70's. How about Dr. Sam-arng Srinilta and Dr. Ulysses Jones? They spent few years at the department teaching soil physics and soil fertility respectively.


Victor B. Asio said...

Thank you Maam Jill for your comments and for the vital information you have shared. I will incorporate these information in the revised version of the article. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Mano Vic,

Nice material. I will incorporate this in my Intro Lecture for the Fundamentals of Soil Science course.


Victor B. Asio said...

Thanks a lot Junjie. It would be very nice if you could contribute to this blog a short article on any soil science topic especially on soil/environmental physics.

Victor B. Asio said...

I thank Dr. Samran Sombatpanit (Thailand), Immediate Past President of the World Association of Soil and Water Conservation (WASWAC),for his kind words about the blog and for the information he provided about the country of origin of FN Ponnamperuma. Dr. Sombatpanit was a postdoc researcher at IRRI under Dr. Ponnamperuma.

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Good Article About Brief history of soil science in the Philippines