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HomeInnovationBarbados plant tissue culture lab revolutionising agriculture

Barbados plant tissue culture lab revolutionising agriculture

By Fabian Belgrave

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (GIS) – The Plant Tissue Culture Lab, under the ministry of agriculture, food, and nutritional security, is making significant strides in agricultural advancements that promise a more secure and sustainable future.

Under the leadership of senior agricultural assistant, Anthony Nurse, the lab focuses on plant tissue culture and micropropagation.

Nurse, who recently started in the position at the Kirtons, St Philip Lab, is driving the Lab’s efforts towards the conservation of germplasm, particularly in the cultivation of sweet potato and yam varieties.

Recognising the potential of tissue culture, the lab specialises in preserving genetic material in a controlled environment, a feat that reduces the need for large open fields and enhances plant security.

One of the Lab’s major achievements lies in its expertise in eliminating viruses that can devastate crop yields. Viruses, notorious for causing up to an 80 percent reduction in harvests, are meticulously eradicated through the Lab’s advanced tissue culture techniques.

Nurse explained how some crops may be overwhelmed. “In terms of sweet potatoes, you were having hundred-pound yields, those might be reduced to as little as 20 pounds, so percentages over time, they [viruses] can reduce the yield of the plants.”

The Lab’s remarkable ability to safeguard against such yield-reducing factors underscores its capacity to ensure food security and nutritional stability.

Moreover, the Plant Tissue Culture Lab is at the forefront of innovation, developing cutting-edge techniques like the meristem tissue culture. These techniques not only enhance plant propagation but also contribute to the expansion of agricultural possibilities.

Nurse, highlighting the Lab’s commitment to innovation, stated: “One of the major things we are starting to develop again, is the meristem tip culture. In addition, the tissue culture techniques that we utilise also allow us to clean up material. We do apical meristem culture.

“There’s a process where you use microscopic portions of the meristem. This is the tip, the growing point where they say the dome, and we excise it, which is actually cutting it out, putting it in the media. Hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, the portion that grows will be free from viruses.”

The core of the Lab’s success lies in maintaining a sterile environment throughout the tissue culture process. “Having a sterile environment is one of the major things,” said Nurse, while explaining that the Lab employs a meticulous sterilisation process that involves various solutions to eliminate contaminants and ensure the success of each tissue culture endeavour.

An essential aspect of the Lab’s work is the formulation of a custom culture medium. The senior agricultural assistant likened the process to crafting a recipe, highlighting that they create their own media using stock solutions. “Our culture medium… we produce our media or mix our related media from scratch using stock solution,” Nurse explained, adding that this tailored approach enables the Lab to maximise plant growth and development while upholding stringent quality standards.

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