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Aurora lab to tissue-culture seaweeds

April 13, 2011

March 18, 2011, 5:29pm

AURORA, Philippines — Seaweed farmers in Aurora will soon be assured of access to good quality planting materials with the establishment of a seaweed tissue culture laboratory located at the ABMATC Compound in Barangay Zabali, Baler, Aurora. It was recently inaugurated by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Funded by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and managed by BFAR Regional Office 3, the P1.75-million seaweed tissue culture laboratory aims to address the declining productivity of farmed seaweeds through branch and spore cultures and micropropagation techniques.

BFAR has observed that local seaweed farmers have been using cuttings taken from the same plant as planting materials for five continuous croppings, which could lead to yield and quality deterioration. BFAR said that to maintain the yield and quality, a parent stock can be used as a source of planting materials for a maximum of three continuous croppings only.

According to Carmen Agustin, chief of Fish Health Section of BFAR RO3 and the supervisor of the seaweed laboratory, the BFAR tissue culture seaweed laboratory intends to preserve the genetic material of native farmed seaweed species and improve the existing seedstocks in farms. Likewise, the laboratory will assure seaweed farmers in Aurora of healthy planting materials in times when there is insufficient supply due to calamities and disease infestation.

Agustin said that they are starting with Gracilaria sp. and Kappaphycus alvarezii species which are traditionally grown by the local seaweed farmers. Based on findings from their initial experiments, K. alvarezii strain from Masinloc, Zambales is viable for farming in Aurora. The same is observed with Gracilaria which can be used as a feed for abalone raised in the mariculture park.

The BFAR laboratory has a potential annual production capacity of 114,000 planting materials. The initial production, Agustin said, will be distributed for free to 200 seaweed farmers at 500 kg per farmer as starting stock. Prior to distribution to farmers, the tissue-cultured seaweeds will first be outplanted in the nurseries for 45 days to harden them.

The BFAR seaweed tissue culture laboratory is the first seaweed laboratory in Central Luzon and is one of the six existing seaweed laboratories all over the country. It is one of the major project components of the Casiguran Mariculture Park which covers an area of 321.6 hectares in Casiguran Bay. With this project, the province of Aurora is aiming to expand its seaweed culture area from the current 150 hectares to 1,000 hectares in the coming years.

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