Agriculture innovations for ‘Smarter Philippines’-A A +A
Sunny Side Up
Friday, September 13, 2013
TISSUE-CULTURED, high-quality banana varieties that are resistant to diseases such as bunchy-top and Fusarium wilt, high-yielding coconut varieties, and a tool that can easily detect the white-spot syndrome virus in shrimps—these are only a few of the technologies and innovations geared towards SMARTER Philippines.
SMARTER Philippines is Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) contribution towards attaining the key result areas of President Benigno Aquino III’s Social Contract with the Filipino people.
It envisions a sustained and inclusive growth that is focused on creating more jobs and new opportunities to achieve additional employment, and on significantly reducing poverty.
These DOST-led innovations—new and better products, processes, services and systems—help spur the country’s economic development.
The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), an agency under DOST, has produced several innovative technologies and world-class products that can contribute to achieving DOST’s commitment in support to the President’s social agenda.
These innovations are aimed at improving agricultural productivity and industry competitiveness.
One of these agriculture-related innovations is on producing high quality banana for export.
The banana shoot-tip culture, better known as tissue culture, is a rapid micro-propagation technique that produces disease-free plantlets at minimum cost.
One banana sucker can produce a maximum of 1,500 plantlets in eight months.
It is a reliable means of mass-producing planting materials for commercial banana farms.
Tissue culture is a good way to mass produce superior planting materials of varieties resistant to diseases like banana bunchy top disease and Fusarium wilt.
It can also produce a significant number of planting materials with relatively uniform traits.
Such uniformity is important in producing quality planting materials needed to advance the competitiveness of the industry both in the local and international market.
Another agriculture-related innovation is for the coconut industry.
Coconut is one of the country’s major agricultural commodities. There is an estimated 3.4 million hectares in the Philippines planted with coconuts, giving an added income to farmers.
At present, the coconut industry is being confronted with major problems, among which are meager farmers’ income and low palm productivity due to old and senile palms (75 M), limited supply of high-yielding varieties (deficit of 6.4 nuts/year), pests and diseases, non-application of fertilizer, and rampant cutting of palms (1,465 hectares/year).
Science and technology (S&T) interventions aimed at addressing these problems have been implemented. Collaborative efforts have led to the development of various key information and technologies.
One of these is the identification, characterization, and improvement of tall coconut varieties such as San Simon Tall and Baybay Tall.
San Simon Tall is a superior and prolific coconut breeding variety developed by the scientists of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)-Zamboanga Coconut Research Center.
This coconut variety can bear 60-150 nuts/tree/year and copra per nut of 280-440 grams.
The Baybay Tall is another outstanding local tall coconut variety which bears medium to large nuts with a potential of 108 nuts/tree/year and copra per nut of 295 grams.
This variety has relatively thin husk, generally good uniform stand, fast germination rate, early flowering, and robust stand.
It is also one of the varieties being recommended by PCA for the national coconut replanting program.
With the improved coconut varieties, the problem of low productivity is addressed by replacing senile palms and planting new areas, particularly in coastal areas.
Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (Lamp) is another innovation in the aquatic sector.
It is a novel tool for detecting the White-spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) in shrimps.
Viral pathogens are the major causes of shrimp diseases and WSSV is on top of the list.
This disease continues to cause serious economic losses due to massive mortality of the cultured stock.
Successful shrimp farming operations require efficient diagnosis of WSSV in order to implement appropriate interventions to prevent heavy infection and avoid mass mortality.
One intervention is the polymerase chain reaction or PCR, a molecular technique that is accepted because of its specificity and sensitivity and its ability to detect the presence of the pathogen even in extremely low amounts.
However, the need for expensive equipment limits the wide use of PCR for WSSV detection in the Philippines.
Lamp is a new molecular technique which can equal the PCR in detecting WSSV in shrimps.
It is 10 times more sensitive for the detection of WSSV than the conventional PCR and test results can be obtained within one hour.
Lamp is convenient to use compared to PCR since it does not require complicated and expensive equipment like a thermocycler.
Reaction can be detected within one hour and results can be seen by the naked eye.
Because of its convenience, simplicity and speed of detection, Lamp can be used for on-site detection of WSSV in shrimp.
Its practicality makes it an effective tool for routine diagnosis for early detection of WSSV or any pathogen, thus, proper health management procedures can be implemented to prevent mortality and avert economic loss.
These DOST/PCAARRD-initiated innovations are aimed at helping the country’s banana, coconut and shrimp industry more competitive in the world market and eventually lead to SMARTER Philippines.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 13, 2013.