The Philippines, being a tropical country, is well-known for its coconut trees. Although abundant with coconut plantations, this does not necessarily amount to high productivity level. Studies showed that productivity level remains low in majority of the coconut planting areas in the country. This, according to earlier studies, was attributed to the lack of information on appropriate technologies for coconut farming, continuing land transformation of agricultural areas into industries resulting to an urgent need to produce more on less available land hence, higher cost of production due to expensive chemical inputs.
In a bid to reinvigorate the coconut industry and to provide farmers with better income, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), in collaboration with the experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (UPLB– ) and with funding from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research ( – ), implemented the project, “Observing the Efficacy of Mykovam on Coconut Seedling in Coconut Farm Development Program (CFDP) Anchor Farms”.
The project, implemented in November 2008, was specifically aimed to document the effectivity of Mykovam on coconut seedlings and trees under field conditions in various parts of the country and to engage organized farmers in methodical crop-related experiments for future farm trials.
What is Mykovam
Mykovam is a fungi-based bio-fertilizer developed by UPLB– . This mycorrhizal innoculant is composed of spores, infected roots and other infective propagules of endomycorrhizal fungi.
When applied, it is estimated to replace 60-85 percent of the plants’ chemical fertilizer requirement. Results of laboratory tests have also showed that Mykovam is an efficient bio-fertilizer input for high value crops, ornamentals, fruit crops, and forest trees. But how does Mykovam work?
According to Dr. Jocelyn T. Zarate of UPLB BIOTECH, when innoculated to seedlings the fungi infect the roots and help absorb water and nutrients, particularly phosphorus, which is needed by the plant. The fungi also prevent root infection by pathogens and increase plant tolerance to drought and heavy metals.
Although, there has been earlier studies shown on the efficacy of Mykovam to crops, ornamentals, and forest trees, none has been scientifically established on its effect to coconut trees, hence this project.
How the FFF project came about
A national organization of small farmers, the FFF together with the Coconut Industry Investment Fund Oil Mills Group (CIIF-OMG) joined to implement the Coconut Farm Development Program (CFDP). The program aimed to establish coconut nurseries that will be ready for transplanting. From this program, 21 anchor farms are due to transplant 100,000 seedlings each for the 1,000 hectares for each anchor farm site. This totals to 2,1000,000 seedlings planted to around 21,000 hectares of farm. The coconut nursery component of this ongoing program of FFF was used for the implementation of the Mykovam project.
With the assistance of experts from BIOTECH, 54 farmers representing 17 CFDP anchor farms in 10 provinces nationwide were oriented and trained on the nature and characteristics of Mykovam and on-site demonstration on its application.
From the 17 anchor farms which were used as trial farms to determine the efficacy of Mykovam in coconut, 14 are farmer-managed while three are scientist-supervised. Likewise, a field testing procedure using indicators was designed to regularly monitor the efficacy of Mykovam on the growth and development of the coconut trees.
The three scientist-managed trial farms were established in:
Calape, Bohol; and
Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Meanwhile, the 14 farmer-managed trial farms were established in: Quezon (Agdangan and Unisan); Camarines Norte (Daet); Occidental Mindoro (San Jose); Negros Oriental (Bacong); Southern Leyte (Bontoc); Bohol (Talibon and Sagbayan); Cebu (Barili and Bobon); Compostella Valley (Nabunturan), Agusan del Sur (San Francisco); and Zamboanga Sibugay (Alicia and Imelda).
The owner of the farmer-managed trial farms attended the training-seminar organized by BIOTECH on the appropriate use and application of Mykovam to their coconut plantation. Based from the observations of the farmers during the training, they designed their trial farms.
An experiment including grown coconut trees was added to the farm trial in Calape, Bohol to complement the experiment with the coconut seedlings which will not reach production stage during the duration in which the project was being implemented.
To determine the effectivity of Mykovam, a farm technician regularly records the changes on the growing plants using a monitoring sheet provided by BIOTECH.
Among the indicators that must be noted and monitored included: leaf growth, increase in girth, and increase in height. To validate these observations, meetings in the field were also conducted.
Dr. Zarate of UPLB BIOTECH, who also served as the supervising scientist for the project, conducts quarterly monitoring of these trial farms.
Benefits: The Bohol farm trial
As farmer-cooperator for the project and manager of their trial farms, 300 kg of Mykovam was distributed to the 17 CFDP anchor farms, and 50 kg of another farm supplements were used.
According to Ms. Amihan M. Jonos, project coordinator from FFF, “initially, the project was borne out of a need to help farmers, particularly in Bohol, by introducing to them Mykovam in enhancing the growth of their coconut plantation and thereby improve their production. Another is to help them ease the burden on buying expensive chemical fertilizer.”
“Our first goal is to determine how we can lower the price of fertilizer for our coconut farmers and improve their productivity and profit, and second is for coconut farmers to become less dependent on chemical fertilizer given its environment impact and its implication on climate change. We want to teach the farmers the importance of going back to basic,” she explained.
In Bohol three Mykovam trial farms were established: Calape, Talibon, and Sagbayan. The Calape Mykovam trial is scientist-supervised. Each trial farm was introduced with different interventions like Mykovam only, Mykovam with chicken manure, and Mykovam with salt fertilizer.
According to Jonos, “in three years of the project we saw the effect of Mykovam with salt fertilizer and comparing it with the control farm, we can say to our farmers of the good result of combining Mykovam + salt fertilizer to coconut plantation particularly here in Sagbayan, Bohol. Meanwhile, in Calape, Bohol we introduced several interventions. Aside from Mykovam we also determined its effectivity with complete fertilizer, urea, and sodium sulfate and bokasi (compost fertilizer combining guano, chicken manure and worms).”
This was affirmed by Dr. Zarate. She said, “although it’s only been three years, the result in Calape is promising both for the seedlings and the trees. Before we applied Mykovam, the coconut trees do not even have flowers, after three years, the trees are bearing nuts.”
Significant findings showed that after three years, the best interventions in Sagbayan is Mykovam + salt while in Calape, the best combination is Mykovam + bokasi.
The project is on-going in Bohol. Particularly in Talibon, farmers continue to apply Mykovam and Mykovam + chicken manure and in Calape. Mykovam are applied both to the seedlings and grown coconut trees. Farmers in Sagbayan also use Mykovam in fruit trees andfield as they have witnessed the efficacy of the biofertilizer in terms of production. According to farmers who have used it, Mykovam is much safer and cheaper than using chemical fertilizer.
Jonos also reported that in Calape, the farmers are not only using Mykovam but they are also distributing it to other municipalities for them to try it.
Mr. Rufino Buladaco, a farmer cooperator in Calape, noted how the Mykovam project was able to help them, “were provided with the inputs and technical assistance from the project. Through this, we were able to profit financially.” Buladaco added that, “we hope that there will be more training that we could attend on various agricultural techniques so that we could improve further our production and increase our income.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Norberto Bague, manager of the Catmonan Coconut Farmers Cooperative, explained how the project was able to help their members not only in terms of learning new techniques in coconut production but also improving their income and source of livelihood.
Source: Rita T. dela Cruz, Bar Chronicle February 2012 Issue (Vol. 13 No. 2)