Experts at UP Los Baños are urging farmers reeling from the high costs of petroleum-based fertilizers to use Biogroe, a biofertilizer developed by the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
Biogroe is a solid-based microbial plant-growth promoter that contains plant growth promoting bacteria that is effective in boosting palay growth.
PGPB is a root-associated bacteria which influence root growth by producing plant hormones and provide nutrients in soluble form.
Lilia Fernando, a university research associate at UPLB-Biotech, says Biogroe already enjoys brisk demand and has been used in rubber, black pepper and sugarcane plantations.
"Sa sugarcane, mataas yung cane yield saka sugar yield niya," she said.
Fernando started working as a chemist at Biotech in 2001 and done much work on plant hormones and plant growth promotion.
She stressed that it was actually Dr. Erlinda Paterno, a professor and microbiologist, who discovered the technology involved in Biogroe.
The bacteria in Biogroe was isolated way back in the 1970s, and the technology and packaging started in 2000.
Fernando said that Biogroe's PGPB contents serve as an alternative to rooting hormones like hormex for ornamental and flowering plants.
"Parang vitamins din po ng tao. Vitamins for plants. Parang ganoon po. For all crops po yan, may vegetables, may ornamentals, mga plantation crops, sa rice. Marami po siyang gamit, parang vitamins nga po yan ng tao na kailangan nating lahat. Ganoon din po sa plants," she stressed.
She described how their research process went. "So una po muna sa laboratory stage yan. Inalam namin if nagpo-produce po siya ng mga hormones na ito, tapos to what level, tapos test po sa crops."
"Nag-try muna kami sa lab scale sa growth room. Sinubukan namin yung crops like seed pepper, tomato, nakita namin ano talaga, in terms nung growth ng plants, compared doon sa mga uninoculated crops or plants, mas mataas yung plant height. Nag-test din kami sa greenhouse then sa field, using the same crops. Convincing po ang yield," she continued.
She said that they also employ the so-called farmers' practice.
"Tine-train po naming yung farmers' practice. Yung full-recommended rate ng fertilizers niya, tapos naglagay kami ng Biogroe plus full recommended, saka may half ng recommended rate. May three-fold increase sa ampalaya, in terms of yield, doon sa Biogroe plus half ng fertilizer rate. So nare-reduce yung fertilizer application."
"Kapag full Biogroe, walang significant difference doon sa farmers' practice. Halos pareho lang. Tapos, ano po, di ba yung mga farmers ginagawa niyan seedling muna then ita-transplant sa field. Nakita namin na earlier yung seedling growth kapag inoculated ng Biogroe, so parang one week earlier pwede na nilang i-transplant sa field yung seedlings."
In ornamentals, she said that they have observed that rooting is faster when inoculated with Biogroe.
According to Fernando, so far UPLB-Biotech has been the sole promoter of Biogroe. Like Nitro Plus, Biogroe still does not have a prívate taker.
She added that they still want to test Biogroe on other crops because the formulation differs for every crop.
"Kasi may four formulations po kami for Biogroe. Iba-iba po yung laman niyang plant hormones, parang iba-iba yung composition. Bawat crop iba-iba yung amount ng plant hormones na kailangan niya. So may, iba-iba kaming formulation. Tapos tine-test din namin sa crops kung ano ba talaga yung mas effective. Tapos tumitingin din kami ng, halimbawa po sa iba-ibang soils. Ano ba yung mas effective na formulation?"
Fernando likens the improvement of their product to a powdered detergent brand. "Parang Tide Ultra, ini-improve din naming yung product."
Fernando said that the Philippines still uses imported synthetic materials for Biogroe, and she explains why.
"Mas mura actually kapag isi-synthesize siya ng lab than ipo-produce siya. Kasi karamihan po ng mga plant hormones na ito ay ini-extract nila from plants. Mas matrabaho po iyon mas magastos. So, usually yung mga chemist from foreign labs mas madali kung synthetic na. Tayo bibilhin natin kasi wala naman tayong facilities."
Asked if they still intend to develop a synthetic variety, she answered: "Hindi na po. Ang gagawin natin environment-friendly pa siya."
She said that the success rate would be comparable to the synthetic kind. "Wala naman pong gaanong difference tingin ko in terms of rooting, sa hormex, except na cheaper, syempre hindi tayo mag-i-import." biolife news service