Biotechnology Laboratory - Bubia | PNG National Agricultural Research Institute

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Biotechnology Laboratory - Bubia

The NARI Biotechnology Lab at Bubia was established in 2011, with funding from European Uinon-African, Caribbean, and Pacific (EU-ACP) Science and Technology Programme.  The facility is equipped with advanced biotechnological equipment for molecular analysis of biological materials, diagnostics and other associated work. 

Pic1: Biotechnology Laboratory at Bubia can perform polymerase chain reaction for DNA fingerprinting and pathogen detection

Biotechnology refers to the manipulation of biological materials using modern technologies.  Tissue culture and genetic analysis/engineering are considered important examples of biotechnology.  NARI Biotechnology Lab aims to be the center of research, development, training, and technology dissemination of agricultural biotechnology in Papua New Guinea.

Genetic analysis of crop lines and varieties has been outsourced to developed countries in the past.  The new NARI Biotechnology Lab is expected to accelerate the agricultural R&D projects in Papua New Guinea by performing modern analyses in the country.  In addition, it will contribute to capacity building of PNG researchers by providing timely and personalized training, and to the protection of intellectual property associated with PNG’s rich biological diversity.

Most of our internally and externally funded projects described here utilize the equipment and expertise of the biotechnology laboratory and its personnel.

Introduction of NERICA rice varieties to PNG (an internal project)

NERICA rice is a hybrid between the African rice Oryza glaberrima and the Asian rice Oryza sativa.  While Asian rice is known for its superior yield, African rice grows very well under dry conditions and is highly tolerant to pests and diseases.  NERICA, as a hybrid, has the good traits from both.  The low water requirement of NERICA is suitable for planting during El Niño-induced drought that may occur in the near future in PNG.  We are currently testing 78 NERICA varieties for suitability in various climatic conditions in PNG.

Pic2: One of the NERICA lines under testing in Bubia

Pest and disease diagnosis on demand by smallholder farmers.

Using the equipment and technologies of the Biotechnology Laboratory, we have responded to farmers’ enquiries on their pest and disease problems.  When time permits, we visit the site and collect samples for microscopic observation.  This activity is also essential to monitor the new pest and disease problems and prevent the spread before they can become uncontrollable.

Pic3: Gou Rauka takes note of the disease problem of aibika in Arisisi Village, Morobe Province

Donor-funded projects currently under implementation

1. “Enhanced food security through preservation and improvement of gfenetic diversity of sweet potato and aibika in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.”

Funded by EU-ACP, August, 2012-July, 2015

The main objective of this project is to catalogue and preserve the genetic diversity of sweet potato and aibika for the future.  The analysis of the diversity will be based on their DNA makeup as well as morphology.  At the same time, new enhanced varieties of these crops will be developed using a technique called mutation breeding, in order to prepare for the conditions associated with climate change, such as drought, salinity stress, and excess moisture.  The project is implemented in two Pacific countries, PNG and Solomon Islands.

Three target communities have been identified in Tambul, Laloki, and Honiara areas.  Surveys have been conducted to identify locally favored sweet potato and aibika varieties in these communities.  Constraints in the communities will be analyzed for crop enhancement.

Pic4: Philmah Seta-Waken explains the goal of the project to the community leader at a target community in Central Province

2. “Screening of NERICA rice lines for adaptation in Papua New Guinea and breeding of new rice lines using NERICA germplasm.

Funded by United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP), September, 2012-June, 2013

Rice is becoming one of the staple foods in PNG, yet, most of the rice consumed in the country is imported from overseas.  This not only drains our foreign reserves, but also results in the taste and other cooking qualities not optimized for the PNG diet.  It is therefore necessary to develop our own rice varieties.  With funding support from United Nations University (On-the-Job Research Capacity Building for Sustainable Agriculture in Developing Countries), NARI Biotechnology Lab is developing capacity in rice breeding to establish a long term programme.

Pic5: UNU-ISP trainees learn rice flowers for enhanced traits

3. “Survey on the sago decline and its cultural impacts in Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea”

Funded by Christensen Fund, January, 2013-December, 2013

In Bougainville, sago trees have gradually been wiped out due to an unknown cause.  This Bougainville sago decline affects cultural lives of the people.  Our goal for this project is to identify the cause of the decline and make appropriate recommendations to Bougainville communities.  A team of plant pathologists, entomologists, and agronomists will survey the island in April-June, 2013.


Toshiro Shigaki, Principal Scientist,

Robert Plak, Senior Scientist,

Gou Rauka, Senior Scientist,

Ruth Fidelis, Laboratory Technician,

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