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Philippines
DOST to save native orchids from extinction
by DOST to save native orchids from extinction

The Department of Science and Technology (DoST) is funding a P6-million biotechnology project that would fast-track the propagation of native orchids that are already "at risk" of extinction due to massive exportation.

DoST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD - DoST) is funding the project on the "Conservation, Regeneration and Re-introduction of Indigenous Orchids in Selected Natural Habitats," in collaboration with the University of the PhilippinesLos Baños Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB-UPLB). Project leader Nestor Altoveros, who is also a professor at the IPB, said the project, worth P6 million, is now on its second year.

It is expected to be finished by next year.

Under the project, embryo in-vitro culture will be used to reproduce thousands of orchid plantlets in three to five months’ time after planting. Altoveros said that in nature, orchids need mycorrhiza to germinate. Mycorrhiza is associated to a particular type of fungus.

However, plant survival is low.

Thus, orchid in-vitro culture will be used.

This involves culturing orchid seeds in the laboratory, sterilizing them and letting them grow in small bottles for sometime before transferring them in pots.

The objective of the project is the produce 26,000 orchid plantlets from 52 native orchid species.

Currently, about 30 species have already been collected. Altoveros said that since the project began, about 2,000 native orchid plantlets have already been distributed in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Palawan and the Makiling Botanic Garden in Los Baños, Laguna. Over 1,000 orchid plantlets have also been potted out.

Among the native species distributed, potted out and being propagated are Aerides, Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium, Vanda, Renanthera and Grammatophyllum. All of which are well-known in the international orchid trade and cost US$ 10 to $ 75 per plant. Altoveros disclosed that re-introduction sites are in the Makiling Botanic Garden; in Daet, Camarines Norte; in Palawan’s El Nido, Puerto Princesa City, Aborlan and Narra towns; and in ARMM, particularly in North Cotabato and in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

Commercialization is expected by 2010. Altoveros said the need to conserve, regenerate and re-introduce native orchid species came about as native orchids are already "at risk" in their natural habitat. Altoveros however assured that no orchid species has already become extinct.

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