Advances in crop biotechnology have led to novel applications of FND-based marker technologies in identifying superior planting materials and preserving genetic diversity. For instance, molecular marker technologies can be used to study percentage and population structures, determine effective population size, identify population-specific makers, test hybridity and accurately assess genotypes of individuals or genetic purity/variability of different populations.
The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) recognizes the potentials of biotechnology. It recently awarded a research grant to the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) in UP Los Banos entitled “marker-Assisted Identification and Utilization of Outstanding Tall Populations and Hybrids for Accelerated Coconut Replanting,” a project that utilizes and explores the possibilities of this new paradigm in agriculture.
The replanting scheme
Coconut is undoubtedly the Philippines’ most important crop. It is the country’s top commodity earner, with an annual average contribution of US$800 million. These earnings come form exports of both traditional and non-traditional products. From 1995 to 1997, coconut products were valued at 30 billion pesos, accounting for 10% of the total value of agricultural crops.
While the Philippines still remains the largest exporter of coconut products, it must address the problem of declining productivity through a massive replanting or rehabilitation program. For this program to be effective, replanting initiatives must utilize improved varieties of coconut , which include hybrids and outstanding open-pollinated tall populations.
However, with an estimated 600,000 hectares of coconut area targeted for replanting program, there is just not enough supply of superior planting material available. To meet the enormous challenge of replanting at the shortest time possible, the identification and production of superior palnting materials have to be fast-tracked. Furthermore, the replanting program must ensure the superiority of the planting materials and preserve the genetic diversity inherent in the target areas.
The IPB projects has two major components: identification and utilization of outstanding tall populations and development of DNA markers for the identification and utilization of tall population and hybrids, headed by Dr. Consorcia Reano and Dr. Desiree Hautea, respectively.
The other agencies collaborating on the project are Philippine Coconut Authority_albay Reseach Center (PCA-ARC) and Zamboanga Research Center (PCA-ZRC) visayas state College of Agriculture (VISCA) and Aurora State College of Technology (ASCOT) with IPB as the lead Agency.
Source: BAR TODAY July-September 2000, Joey U. Carcallas