According to the Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report for 2017, ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition for all, will require continued and focused efforts notably in Asia and Africa. To attain the desired results, canalized efforts should be hinged on increasing capacity for agricultural productivity, more investments in agriculture, government spending and aid to increase capacity for agricultural productivity. Unfortunately, the general economic meltdown and the galloping world population especially in Africa and Asia, are not making things easier. But researchers are folding their sleeves as they continue to search for more innovative methods to improve production. But the worrying issue is whether the small-holder farmers who make of the bulk of the farming community in Africa and Asia are taken into consideration in this scientific rat race? The task that lies ahead is difficult but not insurmountable.
Down the line, nature and man-made activities like urbanization, agriculture, deforestation, climate change and wars have been taking their toll on the rich biodiversity endowment of the world. This picture is in stake contrast with the creation narrative in the Bible that walks us back to the rich biodiversity God gave humanity at creation. According to studies [BGCI (2005). (http://www.bgci.org) more than one third of all the world's plant species, are currently threatened or face extinction. Fortunately, diverse efforts are on-going to salvage the despicable situation and science is the live wire to this salvation drive.
Science-based agricultural innovation
Science-based innovative options for agriculture may be the magic wane especially for Africa and Asia that are in the melee of high population density, declining availability of fertile lands and water; a mission that the Asia- Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institution -APAARI and a host of partner institutions have taken up as they are aground synergizing efforts to improving the quantity and quality of agri-food production in the region. International, regional and even national think thanks are working round the clock to be part of the solution to the scarcity of food in particular and the dwindling biodiversity in general.
Tissue culture Gene bank (National Center for genetic engineering) Pathum Thani-Thailand
As March 2018 was waning, one hundred plus plant cryopreservation scientists and researchers from 25 countries met for three days in Bangkok, Thailand to contribute their quarter to improving the quality and quantity food in the world through conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources. According to the conveyor of the 3-day symposium, Prof. Sittiwat Lertsiri, it was an occasion to “share recent advanced knowledge and information on plant cryopreservation and create an engagement among researchers and scholars from research and educational institutes as well as industries”. In the words of Dr. Bart Panis, the more than sixty per cent of plant cryopreservation community answered present as scientists dealing with more fundamental science, those developing cryopreservation protocols and plant germplasm curators were in attendance.
These horticultural scientists and researchers were meeting for the third time in this type of forum in the last ten years (Leuven 2009, Fort Collins 2013), to compare notes, exchange ideas and results in improving plant preservation in particular and biodiversity in general through conservation. According to Dr. Bart Panis, Senior Researcher at Bioversity International, the last ten years have seen large varieties of plants being cryopreserved and the efforts have to be on-going because the task is enormous.
CryoSynp 2018 participants at Thani Rice Research Centre, Pathum Thani, Thailand
The choice of Thailand as the host country was not a gamble. The Asia-Pacific region harnesses one-fifth of the world’s agricultural land is home to more than half of the global population. The pressure on biodiversity is, therefore, enormous as endemic species are disappearing and fertile land is more scare. These men of science were in concave to make their contribution to the regional efforts. Evaluating agricultural strides in the region, the Executive Secretary of APAARI, Dr. Ravi Khetarpal, says there has been remarkable production improvements over the past few decades though the region is still struggling with depleting resources including water, deteriorating soil quality, inadequate logistics and inefficient farming practices and land usage. As climate change and human activities are adversely affecting biodiversity in general and agriculture in particular, cryopreservation may be the safe haven of ensuring that future generations equally enjoy the bounty of nature.
Saving biodiversity for the future.
It is true that cryopreservation has been making inroads into the preservation of many threatened species but it has been a bumpy ride for these men and women of science. Scientists like Professor Hugh Pritchard have thirty years up his sleeves working on recalcitrant seeds says there is need to pull experience together to look for long term solutions. These recalcitrant species mostly from the tropics and sub-tropics difficult are to be dried and are unable to be stored at low temperatures. Unfortunately, these plants are the livewire of most of the people of these regions (coffee, oil palm, potatoes, cassava, yams). He believes advances in the domain have been slow. According to him, the slowdown is because cryopreservation developed by individuals in single laboratories in different countries. In order to advance the science for quicker returns, he suggests the pooling skills and knowledge in a platform Cryonet for useful and quicker advances in science. To Professor Bart, the philosopher’s stone for recalcitrant seeds is for researchers to develop and optimize techniques.
Gene bank (Department of Agriculture), Pathum Thani,Thailand
The third International Symposium on Plant Cryopreservation, featured top notch research and poster presentations as well as rich debates and merit was equally recognized. Miriam Valle Arizaga and team of ten from Japan received the best research award while the poster by Tagrid Imsomboon and team from Mahidol University won the admiration of the scientific committee.
It was not just debate and debate but also seeing and enjoying the science as the participants also saw first-hand how the country is managing its plant cryopreservation by visiting the National Gene bank at DOA . Established in 1986, thousands of plants are conserved here among which are hundreds of varieties and landraces of rice, many of which are in danger of disappearing.
Before the curtains dropped on the 3rd Cryopreservation Symposium, the plant cryopreservation family agreed to meet next in Norway come 2021.
By: Fai Collins Dzernyuy
Knowledge Management Coordinator