DNA testing center to open in UP-Mindanao

Because of soil-borne fusarium wilt’s damaging effects, banana companies and farmers continue looking for strategies to minimize yield losses while improving productivity of locally-grown bananas.

The establishment of the first DNA testing in Mindanao called Philippine Genum Center (PGC) is expected to address problems on banana diseases as the center aims to focus on agricultural applications for biodiversity conservation.

Targeted to open before the end of the year, the center will be located at UP-Mindanao to cater researchers in Mindanao as well as focus on doing DNA testing for agriculture and biodiversity.

“This is a satellite laboratory to the one we have now in UP-Diliman. This is the first outside of National Capital Region (NCR) to serve our researchers in Mindanao,” said Anthony Sales, Department of Science and Technology 11 (DOST 11) regional director in an interview.

Sales said the center will do two things–research and development, and services. He said for research and development, they will focus on agriculture applications for agriculture biodiversity conservation.
The center will help address the problems in agriculture particularly in diseases such as fusarium disease in banana and by using DNA technology or molecular methods they can diagnose diseases from the soil, plants and even in water.

“Malalaman natin kung saan galing yung diseases at kung saan maraming organisms that causes such diseases using DNA technology,” he said.

Currently, there are two laboratories in Mindanao–Tadeco in Carmen, Davao del Norte and Unifrutti Philippines in Bukidnon–that aim to help farmers improve the quality of seedlings and resist Panama disease.

“We now have two laboratories in Tadeco and Unifrutti and soon the PGC will provide the same services,” Sales said.

The building, which costs around P15 million will house other laboratories including the PGC and another P15 million allocation for the equipment.

“The DNA PCR machine and all other peripheral equipment and instruments would cost around P10 million to P15 million. The building is almost complete, the equipment are coming already and hope we will be able to complete all the equipment for the PGC so that we can operate the laboratory services. We need to see that all the equipment are there and people who will manned the laboratory are all properly trained,” Sales said.

He added that they will be signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Mindanao Genum Consortium, a consortium of institutions doing research on DNA. He said they will also develop a research and development (RnD) agenda for genetic research for Mindanao.

“Para matuunan natin ang mga problema that can be addressed by genetics,” Sales said.

The service of the center, however, is not free as there will be charges with a minimal fee to maintain the operations, cover the re-agent, and pay for the utilities.

“The salary would be subsidized by the government because these are regular employees of UP -Mindanao,” he added.

A similar PGC will also be established in the Visayas to serve the researchers in that region.