Researchers from the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) conducted a study to validate the varietal integrity of the country’s promising rubber clones.

The study became imperative as the Philippines gears up to increase the yield of rubber by 60% (from 1.2 mt/ha to 1.92 mt/ha in 2020) to meet projected increase in demand in the global market.

rubber plant photo
Photo by goosmurf

Currently, the rubber industry faces uncertain prospects due to large areas with senile trees and the consequent productivity drop and limited replanting. Of the total 161,000 hectares planted to rubber, about 80,000 hectares are over-exploited and are due for replanting.

While some farmers as well as the private sectors have initiated to plant or replant rubber in about 15,000 hectares of land in different areas, and while these trees are ready for tapping in two to three years, the initiative is not enough to meet production gap.

USM researchers said that to address this concern, farmers must be assisted in terms of using genetically superior planting materials to enhance crop productivity. They claim that this can only be achieved the fastest way through a project, Validation of Varietal Integrity of Promising Rubber Clones through DNA Fingerprinting.

The project is funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD).

This research and development initiative is expected to address the doubts on the quality and integrity of planting materials produced and sold by clonal gardens and nurseries to optimize plantation productivity and ensure highest quality.

In connection with this initiative, USM researchers explain that accurate labeling is a must for systematic recording, safekeeping, and tagging of each clone to ensure varietal biotechnology tool known as molecular markers.

Each clone was tagged according to the primers used and were color coded to establish the genetic similarity or difference among the Philippine Rubber collections. As an offshoot of this clone tagging, researchers have verified and validated the identity of clones from 181 rubber commercial nurseries from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The reference or standard materials used in the validation process are the trees currently planted at the USM Germplasm area since these trees have been proven to give the desired yield.

With DNA fingerprinting and analysis, farmers are assured of genuine rubber varieties which will eventually result to higher yield and income.

This research initiative on rubber DNA fingerprinting and analysis is one of the DOST-PCAARRD’s initiative under Outcome One, which aims to provide science-based know how and tools that will enable the agricultural sector to raise productivity to world-class standards.

by Emma K. Sales PhD. University of Southern Mindanao, Kabacan, North Cotabato