Tissue culture pact signed with Sri Lankan firm

By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter

Al-Marri and De Silva shake hands after signing the agreement
The Biotechnology Centre under the Ministry of Environment yesterday announced its plans to embark on a one-year half-a-million riyals tissue culturing project to propagate a number of crops and plants in a bid to find lasting solution to problems facing the country’s agricultural sector as well as to encourage mass production of agricultural products for both local consumption and export purposes.
However, to assist with the process of propagating the crops, the centre yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with  Sri Lanka-based Serendib Horticulture Technologies (SHT).
The agreement was signed by Biotechnology Centre director Masoud J al-Marri and SHT chairman and chief executive officer Dilip De Silva.
Tissue culture is the growth of tissues and/or cells separate from the organism, which is typically facilitated via use of a liquid, semi-solid, or solid growth medium, such as broth or agar.
Tissue culture commonly refers to the culture of animal cells and tissues, while the more specific term plant tissue culture is being named for the plants.
“Qatar’s agriculture is facing problems due to its harsh weather, salinity and soaring temperature, especially during the summer, and in order to face these challenges squarely, we are initiating a plan to propagate more crops through the use of tissue culturing and we will also be assisting other departments that are using conventional methods of producing plants,” al-Marri said at a press conference yesterday.
Under the project, funded by the International Agricultural Development Funds at a cost of $150,000 (QR546,000), about 17 protocols including some crops such as mango, pineapple, strawberry and potatoes and a number of ornamental and vegetable plants as well as some endangered species of certain wild plants, have been identified for propagation.
Plant tissue culture is a practice used to propagate plants under sterile conditions, often to produce clones of a plant.
Different techniques in plant tissue culture may offer certain advantages over traditional methods of propagation, including: the production of exact copies of plants that produce particularly good flowers, fruits or have other desirable traits; to quickly produce mature plants; the production of multiples of plants in the absence of seeds or necessary pollinators to produce seeds; the regeneration of whole plants from plant cells that have been genetically modified; the production of plants in sterile containers that allows them to be moved with greatly reduced chances of transmitting diseases, pests, and pathogens; the production of plants from seeds that otherwise have very low chances of germinating and growing such as orchids; and to clean particular plant.
Tissue culture has been in use in Qatar since 14 years ago under the then Ministry of Municipality and Environmental Affairs to propagate date palms, a specie of banana as well as pineapple, al-Marri said.
The official mentioned that apart from ensuring wide availability of the chosen produces in the local market, the ultimate goal was to explore the exporting opportunities of the crops in the long run.
“Our first priority is to ensure the success of this project and we need to see the demand locally before we increase production for export purposes much later on,” he noted.
He mentioned that the centre will also be collaborating with the Qatar University and the Garden department at the Ministry of Municipality Affairs.
Speaking about the collaboration, De Silva, who was upbeat about his company’s long experience in the field said: “We are here to transfer to this project our almost 25 years of experience in tissue culturing in Sri Lanka, which we are confident will assist the local production as well as the expansion into exporting scale.”
He maintained that saving the endangered species of wild plants was the most important part of the project saying: “A lot of plants’ genetic erosion is going on around the world and the Ministry of Environment has identified this problem, which is why they are inviting us to provide timely solution through the use of tissue culturing.”
Present at the press conference were Ministry of Environment’s Biotechnology expert Dr Khaled El Mabrouk Suliman Elmeer, Tissue Culture Laboratory head Kamla Ibrahim al-Romaihi, researcher Sara al-Hammadi, SHT Strategic Planning director Dr Susie Perera De Silva and Business Development manager Sumedha De Silva.

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