Mang Noel Mauricio, a rice farmer in this agricultural municipality, has seen many rice fields damaged badly by typhoons in the past. However, he has never seen such an occurrence when rice crops did not stoop down amidst a raging typhoon.
“Kung makikita ninyo, yung mga katabing palayan namin, lahat yan nakayuko. Nagtatanong nga ang aking mga kapitbahay kung ano ang inilagay ko daw ba sa palayan ko doon sa tabing-kalsada, ay ang sabi ko ay yung ibinigay sa akin ng DOST (If you will look at the adjacent rice fields, all of their crops are bent. My neighbors have been asking what kind of fertilizer I used. I told them it was from DOST), exclaimed Mang Noel.
Mang Noel is the owner of the two-hectare rice field in Pulilan, Bulacan that was the subject of a product test for a rice fertilizer additive made out of carrageenan developed by experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and National Crop Protection Center-University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB-NCPC).
Carrageenan is a substance mostly made up of carbohydrates bonded together which are extracted from edible seaweeds and commonly used as thickener and stabilizer for food or binder in personal care products.
Mang Noel also noted another difference in his crops as they reach the end of the crop cycle just before harvest when leaves usually become dry: “Makikita nyo, kulay berde pa ang ibang dahon, maganda yan kasi ibig sabihin nyan, patuloy pa rin ang potosentisis o yung paggawa ng pagkain ng pananim (If you will look at the crop, some of it still has green leaves, which is good because it means the photosynthetic activity is continuous.).
The fertilizer additive, called Carravita for carrageenan and vitamins, helps rice crops develop stronger stem structure and stimulate growth. It also gives more grain yields compared to normal planting procedure according to Dr. Gil L. Magsino of UPLB-NCPC. It was initially introduced to more than 100 rice farmers in the municipality recently.
Dr. Magsino added that carrageenan as fertilizer has been used unsuccessfully in the past but through modern technology, experts were able to degrade it into nanoparticle size to make it more absorbable by crops.
He explained further that using Carravita by combining 20ml per liter per hectare and three to six bags of fertilizers, will produce a yield with a grain weight of 65.4% and a panicle length of 3.5 up to 12.5%.
More importantly, Carravita provides crops with more resistance to diseases such as Rice Tungro and Bacterial Leaf Blight (BLB).
Rice Tungro disease is caused by the combination of two viruses, which are transmitted by leafhoppers. It causes leaf discoloration, stunted growth, reduced tiller numbers and sterile or partly filled grains.
BLB on the other hand, caused by the Xanthomonas oryzae pv. Oryzae, results to wilting of rice seedlings, yellowing and drying of leaves.
Because Carravita is made from edible seaweeds, it is safe for humans and is guaranteed to be earth-friendly when sprayed into the crops.
Moreover, Mang Noel Mauricio added that the Carravita has other characteristics that help in the growth of the rice crops. “Mabuti itong gamit sa tingin ko kasi yung mga mabubuting kulisap ay nai-engganyo sila doon sa mga palayan. Meron kasing mga kulisap na nakakatulong sa paglago ng mga pananim na palay (I think this [Carravita] is good because it entices friendly bugs that help in the growth of the rice crop.)”
Currently, UPLB-NCPC is continuously developing the product as positive results are seen on the project’s multi-location trials.
DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo, who was present during the field presentation, was greatly elated by the results. Montejo expressed his hope that after the development of the product, DOST can initially fund its production so that farmers across the country can avail it for free.
“Tinitingnan din natin kung maaari itong gamitin sa iba pang mga pananim gaya ng manga at mga gulay dahil kailangan nating patuloy na mapalago ang industriya ng agrikultura (We are also looking into the possibility of using this for other crops like mango and vegetables because we need to support the growth of the agriculture industry),” said Montejo.
Meanwhile, Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Foods went to see the crops that were ready for harvest. She encouraged farmers to continue producing agricultural products for the country. “The sector that will sustain our food production are not the corporate farms,” the Senator said, “but farmers like you who own family farms.”
Carrageenan’s use as plant promoter was first studied by DOST’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) through a research done several years ago. The research showed that when used as foliar fertilizer, PNRI’s carrageenan-based plant growth promoter can improve plant photosynthesis and enhance nutrient absorption of the roots.
The research and development for the product is supported by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, another DOST agency.