Filipino scientists developing novel way to boost disease resistance in abaca

May 13, 2015 5:31 am 

By Cielito M. Reganit

MANILA, May 12 (PNA) — Researchers at the National Abaca Research Center (NARC) in the Visayas State University may have found a way to induce disease resistance in abaca and substantially increase fiber yield by exploring abaca’s innate resistance to fungal diseases such as Fusarium wilt.

NARC Director and project leader Dr. Ruben Gapasin said that the center intends to develop a new and effective disease management strategy against the Panama disease that also has the potential to increase the abaca plant’s resistance to a broad spectrum of other diseases.

The Filipino scientist said that the project has the full backing of the Biotechnology Program of the Department of Agriculture.

He said that the long-term sustainability and viability of the Philippine abaca industry has always been challenged with diseases.

“The ongoing study makes use of the abaca’s innate resistance to the disease by stimulating the plant’s defense systems using various compounds — a method called Systemic Acquired Resistance (SAR) Induction,” Gapasin said.

According to the NARC chief, preliminary results have shown promise in delaying the onset of the disease for up to three weeks.

“Furthermore, the method is ecologically friendly, relatively low cost and requires only two to three days to implement,” he said.

The potential of fully understanding SAR Induction stands to open new and promising horizons in plant protection.

Several studies show that the income derived by abaca farmers was only about 50 percent of the potential because of low quality and quantity of abaca produce.

Also known as Panama disease, Fusarium wilt afflicts abaca with up to 65 percent disease severity in major abaca-growing areas.

Gapasin said that the project ultimately aims to further strengthen the abaca industry as a major economic pillar.

The Philippines supplies 80 percent of the total abaca fiber in the world market with the United Kingdom and Japan as two of the country’s major clients.

Abaca fiber is being used for paper bills in Japan and ropes or cordages in the United Kingdom.

“Ultimately, the hope is to keep the Philippine abaca industry viable and continue to sustainably generate employment and income to abaca farmers and to the Filipino as a whole,” Gapasin said. (PNA)

SCS/CMR

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