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Philippines: Strawberry production through tissue culture

Benguet StateUniversity (BSU) researchers are set to revolutionize the country’s fledgling strawberry industry that could spread to other high elevation provinces.

They are doing it through tissue, or "test tube", culture of strawberry planting materials. Tissue culture is a technique of growing plant tissues in sterile conditions to eliminate viruses.

Given the right cultural management, researchers have increased by 500 percent the number of runners, or planting materials, to 500 from tissue culture planting materials compared to 50 from traditional runners.

They have also increased the number of large-sized, 30-gram berries up by 30 percent compared with traditional materials that yielded 90-percent small (5-gram) berries per runner.

All these mean an increased yield of up to 20 metric tons per hectare, or a 38 percent increase compared with the traditional 14 MT per hectare. The tissue culture strawberry planting materials are also free from plant viruses.

At 14 MT per hectare traditional yield in 77 hectares of strawberry farms in La Trinidad alone, the industry is worth P54 million annually. With tissue culture, the yield per hectare is worth P75 million each year – a 30 percent increase.

"With the right climatic conditions, tissue culture of strawberries can potentially increase the farms planted to strawberries nationwide," Dr. Julia A. Solimen, BSU Vice President for Research and Extension, told Malaya Business Insight.

Solimen is the project leader of the research team composed of tissue culturist Milagros R. Dumasian and horticulturist Sergio T. Gayao.

"Strawberry can be grown in highlands with average temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and elevation of at least 1,300 meters above sea level such as in the Cordilleras, Quezon, Negros, Bukidnon and Davao," said Gayao.

"Continuous planting of runners from old mother plants for five or more years that are prone to diseases and viruses and the lack of ideal planting materials were the main causes of the very low productivity of strawberry farms in Trinidad Valley, the country’s main source of strawberries," Dumasian said.

"A sub-tropical plant, strawberry is generally adaptable in the highlands of Baguio-Benguet, Mountain Provinces, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya with cool climates ranging from 10-25 degrees Celsius.," she said. "The 77 hectares of strawberry farms in La Trinidad, Benguet accounts for the widest strawberry production in the country."

The tissue culture strawberries is a big boost considering that the 14 MT yield per hectare is very low compared to 50 MT in temperate countries.

The tissue culture strawberry will also answer future needs. About 4.620 million pieces of planting materials now required could increase to 5.371 million in the next five years if hectarage expands to other areas.

"An increase of productivity would directly create job opportunities and livelihood and contribute in the stability of our dollar reserves by supplying fresh berries to food industries and quality planting materials to growers instead of importing these materials," said Solimen.

With the support of BSU President Dr. Rogelio D. Colting, the planting materials are now available to farmers at P50 per tissue culture mother plant or P3 per runner. Imported runners, in comparison, cost P25 per runner.

Since the tissue culture materials were available starting 2007, over 200 farmers have availed of the new technology.

In 2005 Solimen proposed the tissue culture research to then Commissioner on Higher Education Dr. Saturnino M. Ocampo. The P1.28 million research grant approved included the construction of a tissue culture laboratory and greenhouse.

Researchers continue to use tissue culture to reinvigorate planting materials of the Sweet Charlie, the variety that originated from the United States and which is used in 99 percent of strawberries now grown in the Philippines.

Source: malaya.com.ph

Publication date: 2/16/2010


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