A biofertilizer made from coconut that helps crops to yield
more was developed by scientists at the National Institute of
Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the University of the
Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB).
Dr. Lorele Trinidad of UPLB says the biofertilizer, called
Cocogro, could replace inorganic fertilizers, reduce carbon
emissions and mitigate the effects of nitrogen and other elements.
“It’s a crude mixture of growth hormones. There
are growth hormones good for rooting, good for shooting, so
if you have vegetable seeds, the shooting is good, as well as
the germination. If the germination is good, more plants are
expected to grow because they already have a headstart,”
Trinidad said, describing the product.
Trinidad, a member of the team that developed Cocogro, said
the biofertilizer was a result of an effort to use coconut water
as culture medium to cut costs.
“We found out that coconut water has many nutrients,
it has ceased to be a mere culture medium and has become the
focus of our study,” she added.
Trinidad noted that a lot of coconut water goes to waste and
utilizing it will avoid contamination of the environment.
“We extracted the most important of the nutrients, that
which costs most. And we thought of getting growth hormones,”
she said. “You deal with the coconut wastewater. You no
longer have to pay for the treatment and you get an economic
return because you have a high-value product,” she added.
Trinidad said that coconut water used in backyards for growing
orchids and flowering plants was later shifted to seed germination
and tissue culture.
According to her, they have used Cocogro as a substitute growth
hormone for banana-tissue culture. She said that it was a most
profitable substitute since imported growth hormones are expensive,
sometimes reaching P1,000 per milligram.
Trinidad added that research on Cocogro was stopped in the
mid-1990s when Dr. Juanita Mamaril, Trinidad’s former
superior and pioneer of Cocogro, retired. Trinidad herself went
on a study leave.
“When I returned, the demand was great because it was
already tested, though not really on a commercial scale. Those
who bought Cocogro to be used on orchids came back repeatedly,”
Due to demand, she and the rest of the team continued the research.
“We need to go through the next phase, which is purification,
because the first is a crude mixture.”
Trinidad said that as of this writing, Cocogro does not have
a Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) license yet since
the research is still concentrated in the laboratory and going
large-scale requires a bigger budget.
“We need the FPA’s approval. Testing from an accredited
researcher costs P80,000 per run five years ago. We need two.
We don’t have the money,” she added.
According to her, they have been getting inquiries from coconut
growers from Mindanao and the Visayas.
“Many desiccated-coconut factories that throw their coconut
water away are looking for a technology in which the wastewater
can be used because of the high cost of wastewater treatment,”
She admitted, however, that much work still has to be done
to produce Cocogro on a commercial basis.
“We need to study more range of the product’s effectiveness.
We have used it on vegetables and the seeds germinated fast.
Lately, we have been testing it on recalcitrants, low-germinating
seeds that companies find hard to market. That’s our target,”