The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is upbeat in announcing a new fertilizer additive that can significantly boost rice yields.
It is called Carravita which is derived from seaweeds and vitamins. It is a product of research by experts of DOST and the National Crop Protection Center at UP Los Baños.
Seaweeds have been used as plant growth enhancer for many years now. We remember a farmer from Pangasinan who applied seaweeds in his rice farm many years ago, when we were editing an agriculture magazine in the 1960s. He reported good results. Then Pat Acosta of Benguet has been incorporating seaweeds in his growing medium for salad greens. He is also very satisfied with his system.
In the case of the report from DOST, the Carravita is very effective in improving growth and yield in rice because the formulation is more easily absorbed by the plants. Dr. Gil Magsino of UPLB-NCPC says Carravita is more absorbable because through nano technology, the seaweeds have been reduced to very minute particles.
A very small amount of Carravita is combined with three to six bags of fertilizers per hectare. At this rate, in trials in farmers’ fields, grain weight increased by 65.4 percent and panicle length increased 3.5 to 12.5 percent.
Carravita was initially introduced to more than 100 rice farmers in Pulilan, Bulacan this year. One farmer, Noel Mauricio, reported that when a strong typhoon passed through Pulilan, his rice plants did not lodge at all whereas those of the neighbors were flat on the ground. That’s because the stems of his rice plants became sturdier with Carravita.
Moreover, the DOST report said that the rice plants treated with Carravita were observed to be more resistant to diseases such as tungro and bacterial leaf blight (BLB). Tungro is a disease caused by a 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, causes wilting of rice seedlings, yellowing and drying of leaves.
Being derived from seaweeds, Carravita is very safe to handle and is guaranteed to be environmentally friendly when sprayed on the rice plants. Noel Mauricio also observed that Carravita seems to attract beneficial insects that fight the harmful ones.
DOST Sec. Mario Montejo was excited during the field presentation of Carravita in Pulilan, Bulacan. He expressed hope that after the development of the product, DOST can initially fund its production so that farmers across the country can avail themselves of the product for free.
Montejo added that DOST is also looking into the possibility of using this product for other crops like mango and vegetables.
Meanwhile, Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, visited the treated crops that were ready for harvest. She urged the farmers to continue producing agricultural products for the country. “The sector that will sustain our food production are not the corporate farms,” she stressed, “but farmers like you who own family farms.”
The use of carrageenan as a plant growth enhancer 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 improved plant photosynthesis and enhanced nutrient uptake by the roots.
The research and development is supported by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), another agency of DOST.