Hope for abaca exports rests on disease-resistant varieties
by Biolife News Service
Manila — The country’s top researchers are working to develop disease-resistant abaca strains to increase fiber production and maintain the country’s edge in the global market.
Leading the campaign for the rapid development of stronger abaca is the Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO).
At least 85 percent of the abaca fiber supply in the world trade comes from the Philippines and the economy derives $76 million per year from the market.
To maintain this edge, the country has to battle three deleterious pests like Bracht Mosaic, Mosaic, and Bunchy-top.
Dr. Anton Lalusin of the University of the Philippines Los Baños Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB) is conducting research on breeding abaca plants that are Bunchy-top virus-resistant. “I chose to focus on the bunchy-top virus because it is the deadliest among the three viruses.”
Once an abaca plant is infested by the Bunchy-top virus, the plant will no longer be able to produce fibers, since this particular virus stops plant growth.
Lalusin’s study focuses on breeding Bunchy-top resistant abaca plants by developing molecular markers to acquire the virus resistance it needs and at the same time the superior quality of the fiber.
The first phase succeeded in making the plants resistant from the Bunchy-top virus, however, they needed to conduct a second phase since the fiber produced from the plants were of poor quality.
The study is now on its second phase, back crossing the plants from phase one to a pure-bred abaca plant. (biolife news service)