The Carrageenan PGP Team: (top photo, left to right) Fernando Aurigue, career scientist of the PNRI Agriculture Research Section; Francis Cyril Valdez of the PNRI Irradiation Services Section; Dr. Lucille Abad, career scientist and chief of the PNRI Atomic Research Division; and Patrick Jay Cabalar of the PNRI Chemistry Research Section. Dr. Gil Magsino (bottom photo), director of the UPLB National Crop Protection Center, is also part of the team.
Plant growth promoter team wins Lingkod Bayan Regional Award
For developing the radiation-processed Carrageenan Plant Growth Promoter (PGP) that helped increase the harvests in farmlands across the country, scientists and researchers from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) won the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award at the regional level.
The award is part of the Civil Service Commission’s 2020 Search for Outstanding Government Workers.
The Carrageenan PGP team includes Career Scientists Dr. Lucille Abad and Fernando Aurigue, and PNRI researchers Patrick Jay Cabalar and Francis Cyril Valdez. Also in the team is Dr. Gil Magsino, currently the director of the National Crop Protection Center of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños.
The team developed 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 was processed using electron beam into a foliar fertilizer sprayed at certain stages in the plant’s life.
The PGP has been proven to increase rice yields by an average of 20 percent versus the yield from average farmer practices, while also making the crops more resistant to blight and infestation caused by tungro virus. Further, the PGP also strengthened the crops' extensive root systems to better withstand the effects of lodging during typhoons. Not only does the PGP increase the number of cavans, but it also made each cavan heavier and fully-laden with rice. With the PGP, farmers could earn up to an additional Php 16,000, or more than $300–an increase in income by over 19 percent.
The PGP also helps to drive away harmful pests without harming insects and arthropods that are naturally beneficial to crops.
The development of 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), with funding from the Department of Agriculture (DA) for multilocation trials.
The Carrageenan PGP team will also be among the candidate semi-finalists for the national level of the Presidential Lingkod Bayan award.
The annual award is conferred for exceptional or extraordinary contributions resulting from an idea or performance that had nationwide impact on public interest, security and patrimony, whether in the form of a suggestion, an innovation or a superior accomplishment, according to the CSC.
In 2017 and 2019, PNRI researchers received the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award, namely the Mango Weevil Research Team for the development of the quarantine treatment against the mango pulp weevil, and the Irradiation Services Section, for the operation of PNRI’s state-of-the-art irradiation facilities used in radiation processing services and advanced radiation research applications.
The radiation-processed Carrageenan PGP formula (above photos, in two packaging designs) increases the yield and improves the quality of many food crops. Photo below shows that rice field sprayed with PGP has healthier, more typhoon-resilient rice (left side) than those not applied with PGP (right side).