By Dhel Nazario
Greater harvests are forthcoming for Filipino farmers with the availability of the radiation-processed Carrageenan Plant Growth Promoter (PGP) formulated by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
According to Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) Scientist Dr. Lucille Abad, the formula has been proven to increase rice yields by as much as 30 percent versus the yield from average farmer practices, while also making the crops more resistant to blight and infestation caused by tungro virus, and strengthening the crops’ extensive root systems, which can better withstand the effects of lodging during typhoons.
The PGP also had the effect of driving away harmful pests without harming insects and arthropods which are naturally beneficial to crops.
The Carrageenan PGP is already being launched nationwide by various technology adopters, distributing it through various dealers, cooperatives and other possible arrangements. For an optimal amount of 9 liters per hectare, farmers could use the PGP along with conventional fertilizers.
Not only will the PGP increase the number of cavans, but it will also make each cavan heavier and fully-laden with rice. With the PGP, farmers could earn up to an additional P16,000, or more than $300 – an increase in income of over 19 percent.
Scientists from the DOST-PNRI developed the PGP from carrageenan, a natural polymer extracted from red seaweed. Using the fabricated liquid handling system at PNRI’s Electron Beam Irradiation Facility, the carrageenan solution is processed using electron beams into a foliar fertilizer sprayed at certain stages in the plant’s life.
The PGP was funded by the DOST – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) and tested in cooperation with the University of the Philippines – Los Baños National Crop Protection Center (UPLB-NCPC).
The formula was set for field trials by the Department of Agriculture (DA) from 2015 to 2019 to cover several provinces in Luzon, Panay Island, Zamboanga and Davao, for a total of around 35,000 hectares of farmland. Farmers can maximize the potential yield of their crops when using PGP in conjunction with more efficient farming methods and proper timing.
Other food crops such as mungbean, peanut, leafy vegetables, corn, sugarcane, and banana are also being subjected to PGP field tests, where results showed an increase in yield by around 35 percent for mungbean and around 40 percent for peanut.
More than just improving the yield and agronomic traits, scientists are also pushing the limits of the PGP’s beneficial effects, particularly whether it can help crops survive in adverse conditions, which become increasingly likely due to climate change as well as natural disasters.
The Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) has certified the PGP for commercialization in rice, with plans to widen its coverage to include other crops in the near future.
The Carrageenan PGP exhibit, along with other marvels of nuclear science and technology, are being showcased during the 2019 National Science and Technology Week celebration from July 17 to 21 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.