The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) said developers of the carrageenan plant growth promoter (PGP) are looking into expanding its use to other crops aside from rice.
Dr. Joy Eusebio, director of PCAARRD Crop Research Division, said the agency will meet with the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) and other partners to come up with a concept proposal to experiment on the use of the growth promoter for other crops.
“We need to meet with the PNRI and other partners to discuss what will be our priority crop and which regions will be involved in the study,” Eusebio said in a phone interview.
She added that PCAARRD and the PNRI are considering the application of the PGP to corn and vegetable crops.
The plant growth promoter was developed by the PNRI in cooperation with the National Crop Protection Center of the University of the Philippines-Los Banos and the Philippine Rice Research Institute. It was formulated from radiation-processed carrageenan—an extract from seaweed processed into powder.
Carrageenan PGP was tested for three years in rice farms in Nueva Ecija, Laguna and Bulacan, according to PCAARRD, an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Field tests showed that PGP can strengthen the rice plant’s resistance against natural disasters, and help the crop grow stronger and healthier with longer panicles, compared with crops applied with commercial fertilizers.
The field testing in Bulacan showed that the application of 9 liters per hectare of carrageenan PGP, in addition to chemical fertilizer, led to a 65.4-percent hike in grain weight and in panicle length, from 3.5 percent to 12.5 percent.
PCAARRD said Bulacan farmers are keen on PGP’s strengthening properties.
Leonardo Ignacio, a 65-year-old farmer from Bulacan, said in a recent famers’ forum that technologies, like carrageenan PGP, could be “very helpful” to rice farmers in the country.
“I am interested in carrageenan fertilizer since it is a safer alternative, more usable in small-scale farms and more affordable,” Ignacio said.
Mario Valero, another Bulacan farmer, also expressed interest in the technology, saying it would be helpful in increasing his yield.
The PCAARRD said PGPs were distributed to 650 farmers for testing in Pulilan, Bulacan, and will be field tested in 2,000 hectares of rice in the province.
Last year the Department of Agriculture and the DOST signed a memorandum of agreement to upscale the testing of carrageenan PGP in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4A, 9 and 11.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala earlier said some P50 million has been set aside for the project. He added that the production of the fertilizer additive will be expanded if its efficacy is further proven.