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UP-MSI study reveals promising economic benefit of red algae

Who would have thought that an alga or lumut, which is sometimes being looked upon as an insignificant fishery resource, can be a potential raw material for food, medical, and pharmaceutical industries. Researchers claim that multicellular algae, such as red, brown, and some green algae, are important not only for food use but also as source of industrial products.

Results obtained from a research study conducted by the University of the Philippines - Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) with funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), revealed that a particular species known as Halymenia durvillei Bory de Saint-Vincent can contribute significantly to the fishery sector through research and development.

The project, “Development of Culture Technologies for Halymenia durvillei Bory de Saint-Vincent using Spores,” initiated in November 2011, is being led by Dr. Gavino C. Trono, Jr., professor emeritus and a national scientist from UP-MSI. The research experiment was conceptualized to: 1) obtain temporal and spatial distribution data of fertile thalli of H. durvillei, 2) induce fertile thalli to shed spores on selected substrates in the laboratory, and 3) grow spores in special culture medium in the laboratory.

The growing interest in H. durvillei was brought about by its promising economic benefits. Derived from this high-value natural products are lambda-like carrageenan and phycobilin pigments, r-phycoerythin and r-phycocyanin, which are extensively used in the cosmetic, biomedical, and pharmaceutical industries. In addition, countries like Japan and Hawaii consume the alga as component in their vegetable salads and soup.

To tap the potential of H. durvillei, a culture technology was developed for the species using vegetative propagules (cuttings). As pointed out by Dr. Trono, the production of H. durvillei through culture utilizing spores is very important in the conservation of natural stocks of the species. The continued use of cuttings will definitely lead to the depletion of natural stocks. It is necessary and important to develop an alternative source of germlings/sporelings. The use of spores as seedstocks is seen as a good strategy for resource management.

The studies on the reproductive periodicity in natural population, spores settlement preferences, growth and development of spores were conducted at the UP-MSI Bolinao Marine Laboratory in Bolinao, Pangasinan.

The team of Dr. Trono conducted monthly assessments to evaluate the growth and development, and reproductive periodicity of H. durvillei in natural populations in the three sites in Pangasinan, namely, Santiago Island, Cangaluyan Island, and shoreline of Patar. Fertile materials were collected and releases of spores were induced through desiccation for six hours. Spores were allowed to settle on different substrates (clam, shell, coral blocks, cotton strings, and net). Prior to outplanting, sporelings that developed into branched upright thallus were transferred to 50-L outdoor aquaria in the hatchery until it reached 2-3 cm. Sporelings were then outplanted using a rectangular cage/tray made from PVC pipes and plastic mesh wire and were allowed to grow until harvestable size.

Halymenia grows on coralline rocks at the lower intertidal and upper subtidal zone at a depth of two to five meters. It is quite an adventure monitoring the growth and reproductive periodicity of Halymenia especially during high tide characterized by moderate wave action. One has to be a good swimmer.

The red alga

Halymenia durvillei is a red marine macrobenthic alga with large and bushy thalli that can grow up to 35 cm. It is soft, cartilaginous and slimy when fresh. The species is commonly found in the lower intertidal and upper subtidal zones attached to rocky coralline substrate with its discoid holdfast (Trono, 1997).

H. durvillei is a very common species in the Indian and West-Pacific Ocean, characterized by its branched thallus, multiple surface proliferations, supple cartilaginous structure and evenly colored thallus surface. Despite its distinctive morphology, the taxonomic history of H. durvillei is long and confusing, which can probably be attributed to the rather variable external morphology (degree of branching, thallus width, and degree of dentation). The species was originally described and illustrated from New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.

Research result

The output of this research initiative is targeted towards individuals and group of individuals interested in the sustainable mass production of H. durvillei including, but not limited to, mariculturists, the seaweed industry, coastal populations, resource managers and policymakers.

Results obtained showed intra-annual peaks in fertility among the natural populations of carposporic and tetrasporic plants. Carposporophytes (those with cystocarps) were available during colder months of October until March, and these disappear during summer months when water temperatures are warmer. Dr. Trono suggested that field harvesting of H. durvillei must coincide with its seasonality. Ideally, harvest for spore propagation should be done during fertility peaks of carposporophytes, and harvest for use in the culture using vegetative propagules and biomass for the use in the process of natural products utilization be made after the said peaks. It was further observed that spores prefer to grow and develop into upright thalli in clam shells and coral blocks than in other substrates. The research study demonstrated the feasibility of using spores as source of sporelings for use in the open sea culture system for the biomass production of H. durvillei.

One of the tangible results from the study was the publication of a manual authored by Dr. Trono. The manual, “Mariculture of the red alga Halymenia durvillei Bory de Saint Vincent” discusses the techniques from spores to sea outplanting.

A native of Negros Occidental, Dr. Trono obtained his B.S. in Botany from the University of the Philippines in 1954. His continued interest in the study led him to pursue his M.S. in Agricultural Botany from the Araneta University in 1961. In 1968, he earned his Ph.D. in Botany (Marine) from the University of Hawaii (UH) through an East West Center Study Grant. He became a graduate teaching assistant at the Department of Botany under the advisorship of the late professor, Maxwell S. Doty for the rest of his five-year stint at the UH. His graduate training further enabled his interest in the seaweed resources of the Philippines.

Dr. Trono has been involved in research and development (R&D) works on the biodiversity, biology, and ecology of the seaweed flora and development of farming technologies of economically important species of seaweeds. He has been in this area of research for 47 years and plans to continue working in his field of expertise. His present priorities for R&D work are the genus Sargassum and the biodiversity of the microphytic and macrobenthic groups of the seaweed flora. The latter groups are potentially economically viable but rarely studied. In 2014, President Benigno S, Aquino III conferred the Order of the National Scientist to Dr. Trono for his contribution on seminal and original research on the systematic ecology and diversity of Philippine amphibians and reptiles and marine biodiversity.

Any successfully implemented project on species with economically-important and high-priced natural products will attract business companies. At present, one foreign company dealing with natural products from marine resources has already applied for funding from USAID for pilot-scale production and processing of natural products. Another local but big company has also expressed interest in acquiring the culture technology.

The culture technology is a research in progress and development in process. Methods and techniques presented in this research output are still subjected for refinement according to the project leader. ### (Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca)

For more information, contact:
Dr. Gavino C. Trono, Jr.
Professor Emeritus/Academician
The Marine Science Institute
University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1. Trono, G.C. (2013). Development of Culture Technologies for Halymenia durvillei Bory de Saint-Vincent using Spores. A project terminal report submitted to the Bureau of Agricultural Research.
2. The University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute website.
3. De-Smedt, G., De-Clerck, O., Leliaert, F., Coppejans, E., Liao, L. M. (2001) Morphology and systematics of the genus Halymenia C. Agardh Halymeniales, Rhodophyta in the Philippines. Nova Hedwigia 73 (3-4).

BAR’s researches on rubber help high school students win award

Makati Science HS students with BAr personnel

They were interested in studying the potential of rubber but they have little information on hand. Hence, three junior high school students, Ian Tagle, Alexis Magtibay, and Ellha Nicolas of the Makati Science High School visited the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) to gather information and existing technologies on rubber.

Ms. Jennilyn Castañeto, technical staff from the bureau’s Technology Commercialization Division, discussed to them some of the rubber technologies generated from BAR-funded researches. After that, the students were referred to Dr. Art Castillo, proponent of a BAR-UPLB project on rubber. Dr. Castillo shared his expertise on rubber production and through the course of learning the students were given a chance to actually tap from a rubber tree. The sap collected was utilized in the experimentation of concrete alternatives, which was the students’ project.

The students research paper on rubberized concrete mixture was presented during the Kaohsiung International Invention Exhibition, organized by the World Invention Intellectual Property Associations, on 19-21 December 2014 in Taiwan. The judges were pleased with their research that they bagged the gold medal.

Concrete is a vital constituent in the foundation of any architectural structures (buildings, roads, dams, bridges, skycrapers, among others). To keep up with demand of the 21st century urbanization and with the increasing establishment of high-rise buildings, condominiums, malls in the country, it is deemed relevant to provide technologies to address this global concern.

“The rubberized concrete mixture is incredibly useful in decreasing the manual labor required and the load in interior materials made of concrete,” Ian said.

Ellha Nicolas shared that the addition of rubber tree sap or ‘latex’ in a concrete mixture permits the final product to be much lighter compared to that of the original concrete mixture. “The study was purely experimental but the results we garnered were surprising and extraordinary,” Alexis Magtibay added.

Rubber is one priority industrial crops of BAR under the DA’s High Value Crops Development Program. The bureau, as the tasked agency to lead the R&D component of the DA’s National Rubber Development Program (NRDP), has funded 17 R&D projects in support the development and commercialization of natural rubber in the Philippines. Project activities include expansion of rubber plantations in the country, propagation of rubber clones, establishment and management of nurseries, and conduct of hands-on training on bud-grafting of rubber seedlings for plant propagators. These researches are being implemented by different DA-Regional Field Offices, state universities and colleges, and people’s organizations. ### (Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino)

High-value seafoods undergo Cadmium exposure test to set standards for export

High-value seafoods produced in the Philippines are being subjected to Cadmium exposure assessment to determine if the standards set by Codex Alimentarius can be achieved and likewise to set standards for our fishery products that are for export. The Cadmium exposure assessment is part of the project titled, “Achievable Levels of Cadmium in Philippine Seafoods for Export,” implemented by the National Food Authority-Food Development Center (NFA-FDC) and funded by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).

Among the seafood samples considered in the project were those highly valued for export as identified and cited by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). These are: tuna, prawn, seaweeds (Carageenan), crab, squid, sardines, and milkfish.

Reports showed that Cadmium accumulates in all levels of food chain. In fact, the manner by which marine organisms accumulate Cadmium through metabolic and biosorption process depends on the nature of the organism and the form of Cadmium in aquatic environment. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified Cadmium and its compounds as carcinogenic to human. It can accumulate through consumption of seafoods that are contaminated with this heavy metal. Only a small portion of Cadmium can slowly leave the body through urine and feces others can stay for a long period of years.

Dr. Sales project leader

Unfortunately, the Codex General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food and Feed, the international standard setting body has not established Maximum Levels (MLs) of Cadmium for seafoods except for marine bivalves molluscs like clams, and mussels; and cephalopods like cuttlefish, octopus, and squid. The ML for them is set at 2 mg/kg.

“If there is no ML for Cadmium in fish, the Philippines may have a problem in the export market as importing countries may set very low levels or standards to which the country may not be able to comply,” explained Dr. Jocelyn M. Sales, project leader.

She furthered that there is a need for generation of baseline data on the achievable levels of Cadmium in Philippine seafoods for export to determine if the MLs set by Codex can be met by seafood products produced from the Philippines and it will not cause adverse effects on the consumers’ health. “Through these important data, we can assess the risk of the proposed MLs of Cadmium in fish and seafood products collected throughout the Philippine fishing grounds,” she stressed.

Specifically, the study seeks to: 1) determine the Cadmium levels in Philippine seafoods for export obtained from fishing grounds which are reportedly identified as near natural and anthropogenic or man-made sources of Cadmium; 2) establish the MLs of Cadmium in seafoods that best reflect the position of the Philippines for recommendation, based on risk assessment, to CODEX; and 3) identify the sources that have the greatest impact of Cadmium contamination in selected Philippine seafoods including milkfish, crab, prawn and seaweeds. Results of the study will be useful criteria on the outcome of risk assessment which will be utilized as a scientific tool for the establishment of MLs of Cadmium in seafoods.

Dr. sales oversees the analysis of the seafood samples

“The establishment of MLs will follow the procedure for assessment of the MLs of contaminants as set by Codex. Data will also be valuable for environmental assessment of heavy metal contamination brought about by natural and man-made causes,” said Dr. Sales.

Seafood samples that were considered in the project were taken from 13 identified sampling locations in regions 1, 2, 3, 4A, 4B,5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, and NCR. Sampling locations considered were areas of major fishing grounds reported to have potential cadmium contamination from volcanic activity, mining, intensive agricultural practice of fertilizer application and high rate of pollution in air and water bodies; and areas where bulk of seafood species are cultured for export.

According to Dr. Sales, currently, the study is still on-going and the group is continuing the analysis of 1,191 seafood samples. “We will conduct the exposure assessment to establish the proposed ML for each of the seafood species being studied, based on published consumption data,” she added.

The last stage of the study is the identification of the sources or factors that have the greatest impact of cadmium contamination in selected Philippine seafoods including milkfish, crab, prawn and seaweeds. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz, DA-BAR)

For more information on the study, please contact:
Dr. Jocelyn M. Sales
National Food Authority-Food Development Center
DBP Ave., cor. FTI Ave.,
FTI Complex Taguig City
Tel: (02) 838-4014 or 838-4715
Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Japanese market accepts Fusarium wilt resistant Cavendish banana variety

Fusarium wilt resistant cavendish

“With optimization of harvesting time and ripening protocol, innovative packaging of clusters of 4-5 fingers and differentiated branding, a newly introduced Fusarium resistant banana variety gains acceptance in the Japanese market,” Dr. Agustin B. Molina of Bioversity International-Asia and the Pacific Office reported.

‘GCTCV-219’ (for Giant Cavendish Tissue Culture Variant) is a variety with good resistance to Fusarium wilt (also called Panama disease) Tropical Race 4, and could thus be a potential alternative for the commercial Cavendish variety, which is susceptible to the destructive banana disease.

For the new variety to be accepted in the Japanese market though, some innovations had to be made. According to Dr. Molina, the Japanese market traditionally requires full-hand packaging for which bananas must have compact and uniformly-curved fingers, characteristics of the commercial Cavendish variety. But initial observations showed that ‘GCTCV-219’ has less uniform hand formation and its fingers are more spread than the commercial Cavendish variety ‘Grand Naine’. Hence, a market strategy was initiated that led to small cluster packaging for ‘GCTCV-219’,containing only about 4-5 fingers per cluster. This gave the new variety a good packaging presentation. In addition, it received “sweeter” branding as compared to other varieties, allowing it an initial niche share in the Japanese market.‘GCTCV-219’ is now being sold as premium Cavendish banana under the Miyabi brand and tagged as “elegant taste banana” or “sweet banana”.

Cavendish for export

This endeavor was carried out by the Philippine Fresh Fruits Corporation, owned by Mr. Lucianao Puyod, one of the farmer-cooperators of the Bioversity International-led projects supported by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR). In 2012, the two institutions embarked on two banana projects to provide Cavendish growers an immediate solution to Fusarium wilt that was threatening to wipe out banana plantations. Through the projects, ‘GCTCV-219’was introduced to 20 farmer-cooperators in Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Compostela Valley, whose farms are totally destroyed by the disease. The growers were given more than 30,000 seedlings for piloting in their farms. Many of these collaborators have already harvested their crops. Results of the field trials showed that ‘GCTCV-219’ is significantly more resistant to Fusarium wilt than ‘Grand Naine’ which was totally destroyed by the disease as early as in the primary crop in most farms, while an average of only 1% infection was recorded for ‘GCTCV-219’ even after the ratoon or second crop. The Mauro and Sons Farm in Calinan, Davao has a successful production of ‘GCTCV-219’, the fruits of which are sold in Japan as sweet banana through one multinational company. Other growers sell their fruits to other markets, such as China.

‘GCTCV-219’ is a selection of another Fusarium wilt-resistant variety, ‘GCTCV-119’, developed and shared by the Taiwan Banana Research Institute. In 2002, a National Repository Multiplication Development Center (NRMDC) was established in UP Los Baños, Laguna through Bioversity International and DA-BAR, to serve as repository for improved banana varieties from different countries that are collaborating with Bioversity International-coordinated Banana Asia Pacific Network (BAPNET) of which the Philippines is a member. One of the varieties introduced at the NRMDC was the Fusarium wilt resistant‘GCTCV-119’. Through recurrent selection done in Davao, a more improved genotype was developed and eventually called ‘GCTCV-219’. Initial evaluation of the varieties was conducted in partnership with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) and Lapanday Fruits Corporation, a Davao-based commercial banana plantation.

Fusarium wilt resistant cavendish

“For now, the variety is giving high hopes for the mitigation of this devastating disease threatening the multi-billion peso banana export, an important source of foreign revenue and providing direct livelihood to more than 320,000 people in Mindanao. More than 3,000 hectares were already reported totally devastated by the disease” Dr. Molina said. While he does not recommend ‘GCTCV-219’as a replacement to the current commercial varieties where these are still not affected by the disease and are still economically grown, this variety is a very good option in case the disease goes out of hand and totally destroys a plantation. As the pathogen stays in the soil for many years, a susceptible variety can no longer become productive, leaving banana growers resorting to less-income crops like corn.

Bioversity International and DA-BAR are continuously working with the Bureau of Plant Industry-Davao National Crop Research and Development Center, Department of Agriculture-Region 11-Regional Crop Protection Center, University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding, private partners, and selected smallholder banana growers in Mindanao for the implementation of the projects.### (Anne Camille B. Brion)

For more information, please contact:
Bioversity International-Asia and the Pacific Office
IRRI, Los Baños, Laguna
Tel/Fax: (049) 536-0532/(02) 580-5600
Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Small hive beetle poses threat to bee industry -- Cervancia


“Small hive beetle (SHB) is a major threat to the beekeeping industry as it affects the conservation of indigenous bees and consequently extends to the agriculture and environment sectors by disrupting pollination services,” revealed Dr. Cleofas Cervancia, professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and president of the APIMONDIA Regional Commission for Asia, an international federation of beekeepers' associations.

The concern on SHB, particularly its potential threat to the Philippine bee industry, was one of the issues raised during the conduct of the “Project Review and Planning Workshop on Apiculture in Support to Organic Agriculture” held in Clark, Pampanga. The event was spearheaded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), being apiculture as one of its priority programs.

Dr. Cervancia substantiated that the decrease in the bee population will surely affect food production considering that pollination helps in the reproduction of nearly 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants and 35 percent of the global crop production.

“SHB eats everything in the colony including pollen, brood, honey, dead adult bees, and combs. This causes honey to ferment in the process, thereby rendering the honey foul and considered unfit for human consumption,” Dr. Cervancia explained.

Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida Murray) can easily be detected as it is visible to the naked eye. Adult beetles measure about 5 mm long and 3 mm wide and are dark brown in color. They can be seen on the bottom board, frames and top covers of the honey comb. Larval infestations are commonly associated with foul odor which is caused by the death of bee brood.

SHB is reported to be native to sub-Saharan Africa. Reported cases of SHB incursion were in some parts of the United States, Australia, Portugal, and Italy. “Now, it is in the Philippines,” reported Dr. Cervancia.


An SHB case documented in the country happened in Lupon, Davao Oriental in June 2014 through Mr. Epifanio C. Loyola, Jr. of Beenet Philippines. Samples of the beetles found in the area were sent to UPLB and was confirmed to be Aethina tumida. “The infestation was severe, and majority of the bee colonies collapsed. Through UPLB and DA-BAR initiatives, the UPLB Bee Program Team together with Mr. Loyola and other beekeepers inspected the apiaries in Lupon, Davao Oriental, Bukidnon, and General Santos in November 2014. Except for apiaries in Bukidnon, all the colonies were severely infested by the SHB. The team managed the colonies by collecting all SHB, cleaning the hives, and installing SHB traps with baits,” Dr. Cervancia elaborated.

“The SHB presents a threat to the bee industry. We should streamline government policies on quarantine and biosecurity measures, such as prohibiting the inter-island movement of bees,” Dr. Cervancia furthered.

As of now, the UPLB Bee Program has started studying the distribution patterns of SHB in Visayas and Mindanao, and plans on embarking a project in collaboration with DA-BAR and High Value Crops Development Program on integrated control measures for the insect pest. ### (Anne Camille B. Brion)