URBAN FARMER | Sustainable plant genetic resources for Filipinos

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BY JULIO P. YAP JR.
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Monday, April 10, 2017
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A RESEARCH and development (R&D) program entitled “Restoring Crop Diversity at the National Germplasm Repository” is expected to address the challenges of climate change by increasing biodiversity and securing the supply of plant derived products.

The completed R&D program initiated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCAARRD-DOST) enables the agency to fulfill its task of ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and the agriculture sector.

A total of 3,988 new accessions of vegetables, food legumes, cereals, feeds, and industrial crops and fruits were initially collected under the research program.

At least 96 vegetables and 833 legumes germplasm were repatriated from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC).

Moreover, 5,160 accessions of vegetables (654), legumes (1,593), cereals (1,166), rootcrops (799), and herbal and medicinal plants (948) germplasm were regenerated and conserved in the cold storage and field genebank.

The new collections, which include 115 species, are being maintained as seedlings at the nursery, for eventual establishment in the field genebank.

The field genebank, which is located in Pasong Kipot, Bay, in the province of Laguna, covers some 16 hectares, and currently stores 77 different fruit species.

To fully realize the importance of the germplasm, morphological characterization and evaluation were done on 3,843 and 3,670 accessions, respectively.

Morphological characterization is a means of studying plant materials with desired traits and is considered as an essential step for effective use of crop germplasm.

The plant breeders of the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (IPB-UPLB) were able to identify a total of 275 promising accessions which comprises of 76 vegetable, 81 legumes, 78 cereals, 40 rootcrops and medicinal plants.

These have been selected for their special traits, pest and disease resistance, and high antioxidant properties.

The promising accessions are currently undergoing advance screening trials and these will be used as parental materials for breeding purposes.

The selected and validated fruits and rootcrops can be clonally propagated and directed towards production of the planting materials.

The program also developed in vitro minimal growth protocols for conservation of banana, sweetpotato, yam, and taro.

Using the in vitro culture, 23 accessions of cassava, 300 for yam, 56 for taro, 310 for sweet potato, 164 for banana, and eight for abaca were introduced and re-introduced.

To ensure drought tolerance for sweet potato, 107 accessions were evaluated using the optimized in vitro screening protocol.

Of this number, 27 promising sweet potato accessions were further screened under greenhouse condition.

At least 15 of these accessions showed better performance compared with the released varieties.

One of the major outputs of the program is the development of the National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory (NPGRL) Database Management System, now known as the National Plant Genetic Resources Information and Data Management System (NPGRIMS).

The NPGRL makes sure that plant varieties’ genetic resources can be conserved for breeding new improved varieties in the future. ([email protected]/PN)

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