ACEF-supported banana tissue culture labs establish partnerships with farmers’ group

Funded under the DA-Agricultural Competitive Enhancement Fund (ACEF) which aims to strengthen institutional capacities, two of the upgraded banana tissue culture laboratories have established partnerships with farmer organizations in the regions. This was presented during the Completion Review of ACEF-RFDG Projects on 21-22 February 2023 via Google Meet.

Mindanao State University (MSU)- General Santos and University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP) Tagum-Mabini Campus upgraded their respective R4D facilities to provide accessible, affordable, and disease-free banana planting materials, thereby helping farmers address the increasing demand.

Through DA-ACEF, MSU-GenSan Tissue Culture Laboratory will serve as an institutional response to the increasing demand for saba seedlings in SOCCSKSARGEN through an upgraded and redesigned facility that would allow efficient and high-yielding production of tissue-cultured banana plantlets for farmers and plant biotechnology research facility for undergraduate and graduate students.

“Outputs of the upgraded facility would leverage the local farmers to having disease-free and good quality saba planting materials at their disposal hence optimizing yields of premium quality, which may translate into higher profit margin,” Dr. Jaime A. Namocatcat, project leader said.

Once fully operational, the upgraded facility will produce a minimum of 200,000 disease-free and hardened tissue-cultured banana seedlings per year for commercial and smallholder farmers, banana farmer’s cooperatives, particularly in indigenous and Bangsamoro communities whose access to virus-free planting materials is limited. They are now into initial discussions with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity and the Leadership of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on the design of an economic package for Normalized MNLF ex-combatants in exchange for arms decommissioning.

“To sustain its operation, the facility will also be host to R&D on plant biotechnology for researchers and students in the region. Integral to its functions would be the commercial production of tissue cultured saba that would eventually expand to other banana cultivars, rice, and ornamentals,” Dr. Namocatcat added.

Further, knowledge offshoots of R&D will be developed into training modules revolving on laboratory production processes, enhancement of field vitality of tissue-cultured saba, and banana cultural management. The training program will be targeting the local banana farmers and enthusiasts as audience-participants.

Meanwhile, USeP has recently upgraded its banana tissue culture laboratory building and procured new equipment led by Nelvin A. Villason, to ensure the continuous supply of quality banana seedlings at affordable price for banana growers in Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, and other nearby provinces. This development is an important step forward for the banana industry in the Philippines, as it is one of the country’s top agricultural exports.

Newly-procured equipment like the laminar air-flow, electric autoclave, benchtop pH meter, analytical balance, beads sterilizer, among other things will enhance laboratory processes and research activities by providing a sterile environment, measuring pH and mass with high precision and accuracy.

Further, these can save time and effort, improve accuracy and reproducibility, enhance the safety of laboratory personnel, and increase the capacity of the laboratory.

The upgraded facility is now fully operational with very minimal contamination rate and high proliferation rate of cultures compared to the old facility. It has a capacity of producing 240,000 disease-free banana planting materials per year.

Farmers in Davao region particularly in Davao de Oro and Davao del Norte are expected to benefit. Recently, Maragusan Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, with some of its 480 banana grower-members, attended the training-seminar on banana tissue culture production organized by the university.

Topics include explant selection, media preparation, inoculation, managing of contaminants, acclimatization of seedlings, and maintaining the good explants in the field.

The said cooperative is one of the beneficiaries of the tissue culture laboratory that will be receiving 40,000 rooted meriplants this May-June 2023 at a lower cost. In addition, the Corporate Enterprise and Development Office, the income generating project of the university which also creates employment, directly benefited the product of the upgraded laboratory. The USeP tissue culture laboratory is aiming to cater more cooperatives and banana growers with disease-free, vigorous, and affordable banana planting materials.

Further, instruction classes on tissue culture or micropropagation related subjects were taken by undergraduate and graduate students of the university. (### Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino)