Tissue Culture Facilities
FARC operated as from 1986 from offices and supportive assets generously put at its disposal by the R.S.T.C.A (Regional Training Centre for Africa), and a small office rented from M.S.I.R.I. The first phase of the Biotechnology Unit initiated in 1990 by the establishment of the nursery facilities complex having met its objective viz. the importation of new desirable crop varieties as ‘in-vitro’ culture and their subsequent processing and hardening prior to delivery to the agricultural community, was followed by the second phase with the construction of a tissue-culture laboratory with modern equipment and amenities for the domestic production of tissue-culture plantlets.
Following an agreement reached with Plantek International Pvt. Ltd. of Singapore on introduction of new plant species as tissue-culture plantlets, a reception laboratory and appropriate nursery facilities were erected in 1990 on a plot of land (within the Central Agricultural Experimental Station (CES), Réduit) provided by the then Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the complex was inaugurated on 25th June, 1990
The administrative building of FARC was started in August 1990 and completed end December 1991.
Phase I was implemented with a technology transfer package from Plantek International to enable rapid introduction of new varieties to satisfy a conjunctural need. To note that no such infrastructure existed then in Mauritius to cater for such a service.
The tissue-culture laboratory of Phase II was erected on the extended building housing the first reception and transfer laboratory. It was conceived after careful planning and review of successful models world-wide, especially after enlisting the help of two experts in that field, recruited as Consultants to elaborate all aspects of design and operation of the laboratory. They were Dr Jitendra Prakash, formerly Director, Biotechnology Division, Indo-American Hybrid Seeds of Bangalore, India and Dr. Claude Teisson, Director Biotrop laboratory, CIRAD, Montpellier, France.
Dr Prakash performed a consultancy visit in August 1991 for planning the laboratory lay-out. He had working sessions with FARC Management and the chosen contractor for the laboratory project. The laboratory was commissioned in September 1995 and started operations beginning 1996 after receipt of lab consumables.
Major Activities of FARC Tissue Culture Lab
Micropropagation of Strelitzia: One variety of Strelitzia (Bird of paradise) has been successfully initiated in 2006 and in-vitro multiplication of plantlets has also been successful. Trials are now being undertaken on increasing the multiplication rate for rapid bulking- up of plantlets and development of a commercially feasible mass-propagation protocol.
Micropropagation of Heliconia: This is demand driven project which started following a request from a private grower for in-vitro propagation of a commercial variety of Heliconia known as ‘pince de crabe’, which is slow to propagate by vegetative means. Mother plants of two varieties (one variety to be used as a control) were collected from the grower’s field. In March 2007, approval was granted to an Assistant Research Scientist at FARC to continue this work at FARC as an MSc project. Contractual Agreement between FARC and the commercial grower was signed on 10th February 2009. However, the variety multiplied by the student was in fact the one used as control. The characteristics of the leaves of fully hardened plants enabled the grower to reach this conclusion. Thus, trial is being undertaken at the laboratory to regenerate the variety of interest.
Micropropagation of Miniature roses: Initiation and multiplication of miniature roses (red colour) which started in 2007 form plants available in the nursery, was successful. In- vitro propagation is ongoing.
Micropropagation of Ornamental Pineapple: Two varieties of ornamental pineapple (Red and Yellow), obtained from local source were initiated in 2008. These have been successfully initiated and are being multiplied. Trials for in-vitro rooting are on-going.
Micropropagation of Spathiphyllum (2008):Successful initiation and mass-propagation of one spathiphyllum variety bearing large flowers from mature spadix of local source. The plants produced were put on sale.
Micropropagation of Gerbera:Ongoing mass multiplication of two varieties; coded as 521N (Orange colour) & winter queen. One variety Winter Queen: One variety of Gerbera Winter Queen (white colour), collected from AREU CRS, Réduit, has been successfully initiated. This variety is also put on sale. Studies on the in-vitro regeneration through callus and shoot tip culture of several other varieties namely: Winter Queen (white), red, Scope (yellow), Parado (white & pink), Entourage (red orange) collected from AREU CRS, Réduit provided by AREU were undertaken.
Micropropagation of Stevia:A novel medicinal crop, introduced from Growmore Biotech, India. One thousand rooted ex-vitro Stevia plants, hardened in cocopeat were imported in August 2005. Project undertaken on small-scale basis, with the objectives of raising awareness of health benefits of the plant, disseminating fully acclimatized/conditioned potted plants, investigating possibility of large scale growing of Stevia in Mauritius and encouraging setting of small & medium enterprise. In-vitro initiation of Stevia from plants in the nursery was successful mass propagation was carried out. However, trials on in-vitro rooting were initiated as it was not easy to root in-vitro plantlets.
The objective of this programme is to ensure availability of clean ginger planting material in the short, medium term and long term to enable production of quality rhizomes. Three accessions of ginger are being maintained in-vitro conditions.
Micropropagation of Aloe vera:The current price is Rs25/unit and on World Food Day events and other activities, it is put on sale at promotional price of Rs15/unit.
Colocassia-Mutation breeding project (2005):Laboratory and nursery facilities are being provided to AREU for the above. Irradiated Colocassia plantlets are micropropagated at the FARC Tissue Culture laboratory and hardened at FARC nursery. Hardened plants are supplied to AREU for in- vivo screening and selection for disease resistance or tolerance. A total of 403 .colocassia plants were supplied for the period 2005-2008.
Micropropagation of Breadfruit: Breadfruit Artocarpus altilis, a crop with huge potential is presently underutilized in the country. Consumption has decreased, primarily due to modern lifestyle and limited production. Breadfruit is usually vegetatively propagated using offshoots (from roots) or root cuttings or air layering branches. Seeds are rarely planted because they do not develop true to type. Vegetative propagation is used for both seedless and seeded varieties. However, the number of offshoots produced by a tree is limited, and there are strict restrictions on shipping root material across international borders. In vitro (tissue culture) propagation offers a method by which breadfruit can be quickly propagated and distributed to meet international quarantine requirements. This technology has potential to promote sustainable agriculture and food security in the tropics where breadfruit is recognized as a multipurpose life-supporting tree. In vitro (tissue culture) is a proven method to vegetatively propagate and distribute plant materials that meet international plant quarantine requirements. In vitro propagation will enable rapid of breadfruit, Timely & planned supply of tissue culture planting material, and, in vitro conservation of local clones Vegetative propagation of breadfruit by root shoot or root cuttings is very slow and takes about 6-9 months (rooting the shoot takes several months). In vitro (tissue culture) propagation offers a method by which breadfruit can be quickly propagated. This technique has potential to promote sustainable agriculture and food security in the tropics where breadfruit is recognized as a multipurpose life-supporting tree. A trial was set up to determine optimum bleach level for surface sterilization before culture initiation. Less contamination was noted when 2% hypochlorite was used. From previous trials, response of cultures was very slow in Murashige and Skoog medium supplemented with BAP. Therefore, breadfruit shoot tips were initiated in Woody Plant Medium supplemented with varying levels of BAP (0-12 mg/L). Observations on use of gibberellic acid: GA3 (3mg/L) was used either alone or in combination with TDZ (4-5 mg/L). Preliminary observations indicate slight shoot elongation. Trials on in-vitro initiation & in-vitro multiplication have been successful and trials for in- vitro rooting of the plantlets are on-going. About 400 plantlets have been produced.
Micropropagation of Potato: One of the accompanying measures for boosting potato, a strategic food item, is the increased and competitive availability of certified locally produced potato seeds, to cut down on an increasingly expensive imported seed potato. In 2009, there was a demand from a private grower for in vitro propagation of potato plantlets & for production of microtubers. Thus, the Food and Agricultural Research Council (FARC), given its micropropagation facilities and its commitment to the National Food Security Plan, agreed to provide its collaboration to a Private Company Ltd, for use of innovative techniques for seed potato production in Mauritius. In-vitro starter material, indexed against potato leaf virus (PLRV), Potato virus Y (PVY), Potato virus X (PVX), Potato virus A (PVA), Potato virus S (PVS), Potato virus T (PVT), Potato spindle tuber viroid (PsTV), Stolbur disease. A total of 17,531 in-vitro plantlets of six varieties; Spunta, Sahel, Nicolas,Var 56, Desiré, Togo were supplied to the Company for field trials for production of G1 (Generation 1) potato seeds.
• Facilities for hardening of tissue culture plantlets: Appropriate structures exist to condition and harden in-vitro plantlets, which may be used by any party importing tissue culture plantlets against payment of a minimal processing fee.
• Contractual production/sale of tissue culture plants: Request for micro-propagation of a particular variety of a plant/crop of high economic importance and slow to propagate by vegetative means may be made to FARC. Such activity, if institutional capacity allows, is undertaken under Contractual Agreement (e.g Anthurium, birds of paradise), between the grower and the FARC.
• Sale of ornamentals: Spathiphyllum, miniature roses, leather leaf fern, caladium.
• Participation in Exhibitions
FARC regularly participates in Exhibitions, on a national scale, related to the field of Agriculture and Agri-business (World Food Day exhibitions, “Salon de L’Agriculture”; Agri-business Forum), National Science, Engineering & Technology week (SET Week) organized by the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology; and Le Reduit Flower Show (organized by the State House). During these events, Tissue culture and Micropropagation techniques are displayed and explained to the public and stakeholders of the agricultural sector through posters, exhibits and interactions with staff.
Technical pamphlets containing information on growing of various plants produced by FARC (Banana, Gerbera, Stevia and Aloe Vera) are also distributed to the public.
Organised visits may be arranged, upon request, from training centers of AREU: schools (Upper secondary biology students); and University students. Explanations are provided on tissue culture techniques and applications in mass propagation of plants of commercial interest to the agricultural sector. Guided tour is made of the laboratory facilities which include media preparation room, laminar Airflow room, growth room and the greenhouses.
• Training of University students.
This is meant mainly for University students from the Faculty of Agriculture (under the Student Work Experience & Government Empowerment Programmes), who are offered hands-on experience in the area of tissue culture and mass propagation.