CAN a marine plant nurture the growth of another plant? Scientists from the National Crop Protection Center at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (NCPC-UPLB) conducted a research on the seaweed or carrageenan and employed innovative technology. It boosted rice yield by more than 65 percent.
The project by Filipino scientists was funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
“The DOST invests in research and development in agriculture that leads to ensuring food security. Not only do we find ways and means to increase farm yields and make crops pest-resistant, but we also use science and technology to benefit the common tao, to put food on the table of Mang Juan and Aling Maria,” Science Secretary Mario G. Montejo said.
Carrageenan is an indigestible carbohydrate (polysaccharide) extracted from edible seaweeds. Seaweed is commonly used as thickener or stabilizer by the food industry and also used as a binding agent for domestic products, such as toothpaste and shampoo, and are found in selected pharmaceutical products. Some studies showed that when polysaccharide or carbohydrate is degraded or reduced to tiny sizes by a safe technological process called irradiation, it can be an effective growth promoter and makes rice resistant to major pests.
In fact, at very small doses, it is an effective organic fertilizer. Carrageenan, as a growth enhancer, offers an array of benefits that result in improved productivity. Used properly as prescribed, it makes the rice stem stronger, thus, improving rice resistance to lodging. It also promotes resistance to rice tungro virus and bacterial leaf blight, therefore, giving farmers increased harvest.
The seaweed additive is compatible with the traditional practice on fertilizer application, thereby allowing easy acceptance and less resistance from farmers.
It also promotes sustainable agriculture since it is environment-friendly and enhances the presence of natural enemies that fight major pests in rice fields. Moreover, it supports more efficient absorption of plant nutrients that enables improved growth. In a field trial using irradiated carrageenan conducted in Bulacan by the research team led by Dr. Gil L. Magsino of the NCPC-UPLB using carrageenan, rice yield was significantly increased from 63.6 percent to 65.4 percent.
The treatment provided higher grain weight (of 450 grams and 455 grams, respectively) compared to traditional farmers’ practice of applying nine bags of fertilizer per hectare that yielded only 275 grams. Application of six bags of fertilizer per hectare plus 200 ppm (or 20 milliliters) of carrageenan is more or less comparable with the application of just three bags of fertilizer per hectare with the same mixture.
“This innovation of applying seaweed as fertilizer empowers our farmers to have access to cheaper but highly effective plant-growth enhancers that boils down to improved harvest and increased income, and this is the essence of what the DOST is doing” Montejo said.
Marita A. Carlos/S&T Media Services