New R&D niche centers to boost regional agri resilience

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

September 14, 2021, 6:50 pm

<p>DOST Central Office in Bicutan, Taguig City (<em>Photo courtesy of DOST</em>)</p>

DOST Central Office in Bicutan, Taguig City (Photo courtesy of DOST)

MANILA – Six new niche centers for research and development (R&D) are set to boost the resilience of the agriculture industry in the regions.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has allocated over PHP208 million for the six niche centers that it unveiled virtually on Tuesday.

“In response to the government-led efforts to counter the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are launching six new R&D centers in the areas of agriculture, livestock, and natural resources. These R&D centers will open up facilities, devise new strategies, and ramp up initiatives and efforts towards food resiliency in the new normal," DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said.

DOST's Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) program enables higher education institutions (HEIs) to make a significant improvement in regional research by integrating development needs with existing R&D capabilities and resources.

Through NICER, the DOST institutional grants to HEIs in the regions to undertake quality research that will catalyze and promote regional development and industrial competitiveness.

"Through (the new) NICER R&D centers, we hope to promote regional resiliency by providing small-scale farmers with S&T-based aquaculture systems, livestock systems, crop production, and integrated farming systems," Guevara said.

The new R&D centers are:

* Garlic and Other Agri-Food Condiments R&D Center. This will be built by the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in the Ilocos region. Guevara said this will develop an integrated crop management system, enhance the curing and storage of garlic bulbs, and enhance the usability, profitability, and competitiveness of garlic to increase the yield, reduce bulb weight loss, and increase the net income of garlic growers.

* A center dedicated to its enhancement of queen pineapple. To be established by the Camarines Norte State College (CNSC), the center will undertake comprehensive research on the advancement of queen pineapple, to enhance its productivity and marketability. It will develop software for pest detection, classification, and crop protection management systems.

* Cacao R&D from the University of Southern Mindanao (USM). This aims to provide interventions in increasing cacao production through the multiplication and utilization of quality planting materials. The process will upgrade the local cacao gene bank and optimize post-harvesting processes to generate improved cacao beans.

* Native Chicken R&D Center. The Western Mindanao State University will help accelerate the production of quality breeder stocks through enhanced breeding, feeding, and production management strategies suitable for native chickens.

* Central Mindanao University's R&D center on bamboo. It will provide intervention on quality standards and processing protocols of locally manufactured bamboo. It seeks to establish the bamboo economic value chain and geo-databases of bamboo resources and enterprise; explore other potential uses of bamboo for sustainable development, climate change resilience, and adaptation.

* NICER on cave ecosystems research. The DOST said this will be established at the University of the Philippines - Los Baños, with a goal of looking at the biodiversity of terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates of selected caves using various field techniques to generate baseline data important for cave biodiversity management.

"We are hopeful that these S&T interventions will reach more farmers, enabling them to contribute to the economic growth of the country. We would also like this integration of international and national value chains to encourage our young researchers to pursue agripreneurship and spur success in their regions," Guevara said.

She said the DOST envisions that the niche centers will be performing vital roles in innovating national industries and cultivate collaborations among the government, academe, and industry.

"We envision that the niche R&D centers will be tomorrow’s leaders in agricultural innovation and natural resources protection, and be a beam of inspiration to young researchers, engineers to pursue more R&D for their local communities," Guevara said. (PNA)