Filipino-developed plant food supplement wins Japanese excellence award

27 September 2017 Philippines

A research team from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) recently bagged the 2017 Excellent Research Team of the Year Award by the Japan-based Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA).  The team was awarded for developing the Plant Food Supplement (PFS) through the successful use of radiation technology.

The Japanese government recognized the project for its great potential in helping spur the development of Philippine agriculture and attaining food security. It is also eyed to help mitigate the effects of El Niño and climate change that ravage farmlands in the countryside.

The research team is led by Career Scientist Dr. Lucille Abad who heads DOST-PNRI’s Chemistry Research Section. With just 3.2 liters per hectare of water mixed with the right proportion of the PFS, the formulation was proven effective in increasing the yield of rice, mungbean, and other crops by over 20 percent.

Field tests also showed that rice applied with PFS had improved resistance against tungro bacilliform virus and bacterial leaf blight. Further, fields sprayed with PFS had higher survival rate after a violent storm compared with nearby fields that had no PFS.

PFS are developed from natural polymers such as carrageenan, a common industrial ingredient extracted from seaweeds. Irradiation degrades polymers to form natural bioactive agents that can improve the health and increase the growth and yield of various crops. The carrageenan used for the PFS was irradiated at PNRI’s state-of-the-art Electron Beam Irradiation Facility in Diliman, Quezon City, the first facility of its kind in the country dedicated to semi-commercial services.

After successful field experiments on rice which proved the advantages of and benefits from FPS, the PFS project was officially launched in November 2015. The following month, DOST started the widespread testing of PFS in Luzon, Panay Island, Zamboanga, and Davao.

As such, PNRI produced several tons of PFS for field test purposes and these were applied to thousands of hectares of rice fields in selected provinces of Regions 2 and 3, specifically in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, Ilagan, Isabela and in Pulilan, Bulacan.

The development of the formula began under a cooperative project with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) back in 2009. The PFS project was funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources while the field trials were co-implemented under Dr. Gil Magsino of the National Crop Protection Center of the University of the Philippines – Los Baños.

The research team’s achievements will be presented at the 18th FNCA Ministerial Level Meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan on October 11this year. The FNCA is a Japan-led cooperation framework for the peaceful applications of nuclear technology. Among the participating countries in the FNCA are Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.