By Zac B. Sarian

At the recent Urban Agriculture trade show in Quezon City, UP Los Baños displayed samples of their so-called biofertilizers. These are microbial inoculants that boost the growth and productivity of various crops.

One of them was MykoPlus which is said to be the latest biofertilizer to be developed at the Biotech or the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. The team that developed the same was headed by Dr. Jocelyn T. Zarate.

What makes MykoPlus different from earlier inoculants from Los Baños is that it is made up of various strains and species of microbes. It contains different species and strains of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria that include nitrogen fixers, phosphorus solubilizers and growth hormone secretors.

MykoPlus comes in powder form and it has been proven to work wonders on corn. It is also very easy to apply. The corn seeds before planting are simply coated with the powder. And what is the result? The plants are able to take up and assimilate nutrients in the soil more efficiently.

In field trials in farmers’ fields in Isabela and Cagayan, the corn plants treated with MykoPlus had better or at least comparable yield to crops that received 100 percent recommended rate of chemical fertilizers. By using MykoPlus, only 70 percent of the recommended chemical fertilizers is applied. This means 30 percent savings by farmers on the use of recommended chemical fertilizers, according to the report from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

The report added that in Manaoag, Pangasinan, farmers observed that their corn plants treated with MykoPlus produced more roots that were also longer compared to the untreated plants. This means they can take up more nutrients faster and they could also be more resistant to drought because of their deeper roots. At the same time, the farmers observed that their plants had better survival from the prolonged flooding brought about by typhoons.

MykoPlus has also been observed to work equally well on other crops that include rice, cassava, sorghum and vegetables. In rice, the grains are fully filled and thus, heavier.

Continuous use of MykoPlus and other biofertilizers help build up a diverse population of beneficial organisms in the soil. Soils that had been degraded by prolonged excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides become healthier for sustained productivity.

When we write about new products from UP Los Baños and our readers from the provinces ask us where they can buy the same, we could not direct them to a supplier near their place. What we only know is that they have to buy from Los Baños. Of course, we could be wrong, but we really don’t know where else the biofertilizers are available. Can somebody tell us?

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2016 issue.