DNA barcoding of bamboo to support bamboo conservation and propagation in typhoon-affected Cagayan Valley

June 25, 2022

A phytochemical screening and DNA barcoding of economically important bamboos will be carried out as part of aims to conserve and propagate the species in typhoon-affected Cagayan Valley  and explore bamboo’s pharmaceutical-industrial prospects.
   “Bamboo has numerous industrial, pharmaceutical, phytochemical, medical, nutritional, and food advantages.  Characterization of bamboo germplasm is an important connection between conservation of diversity and utilization of germplasms (seeds or living tissues that carry genetic resources useful in plant breeding and conservation),” according to Alvin Jose L. Reyes and Eddie B. Abugan Jr of the Project  Management Division (PMD).
   PMD is one of the units of the Department of Environrment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Foreign Assisted and Special Projects.
   The Bamboo Characterization Project of the Cagayan State University (CSU)-Gonzaga through its Project Leader Jeff M. Opeña. just made a presentation at DENR Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.
It is in relation to its petition for a gratuitous permit to conduct the bamboo characterization and sample collection activities in the Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape.
   The project also aims to refurbish a research laboratory in CSU-Gonzaasga. It will collect and characterize different species in different ecosystems in Cagayan Province.

Cagayan’s bamboo growing in rivers and volcanic areas

   DNA barcoding will be a modern and innovative way to characterize bamboo species.  It will accelerate experts’ identification of the species that they desire to use based on traits—such fast propagation or medicinal properties.  
   Bamboo has been traditionally characterized based on its flowering frequency or abundance—annual flowering, sporadic or regular flowering, and gregarious flowering.
   “However, characterization using floral morphology posed a limitation and difficulty due to the requirement of long period of time which can occur in years or even decades,” according to Reyes and Abugan.
   Moreover, biochemical characterization through phytochemical (plant chemistry) screening enables experts in pharmaceuticals and medicine to detect plant secondary metabolites in bamboo which have utilization potentials in the industry.  
   While primary metabolites include small molecules like amino acids and sugars, secondary plant metabolities such as alkaloids, anthocyanin, flavonoids, phenols, saponins, steroids, tannins, and terpenoids are studied for medicinal plant herbal purposes, among other possible commercial uses.
   Former DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu ordered in November 2020 the extensive propagation of bamboo in Cagayan Valley to prevent massive flooding that plagued the province arising from Typhoon Ulysses.

CSU Project Leader Jeff Opena (left) leads bamboo DNA bamboo barcoding

   Executive Order 879 also mandated that 25% of the annual school desks of the Department of Education should be made of bamboo. EO 879 creates the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC).    
   DENR”s own reforestation areas should be planted with bamboo in its directive to DENR-attached Forest Management Bureau, Laguna Lake Development Authority, and Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
   The bamboo project costs P1.601 million consisting of P1.261 million from DENR and P340,000 from CSU.  Aside from involving DENR’s local offices in Cagayan, implementor includes Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Offices of Cagayan, and the Central Analytical Laboratory of CSU.
   Aside from preventing flooding effects of typhoons, DENR also aims to use bamboo as tool to climate change mitigation.  Bamboo is known to sequester five metric tons of carbon dioxide per hectare of plantation.  
   Bamboo is also being planted in the rivers of Marikina and Bicol– areas usually flooded during typhoons.
   DENR is also promoting its use as lumber substitute using engineered bamboo.  
   While it has extensive use as raw material in many industries, the Philippines’ bamboo export actually slowed from a high of 106,000 kilos in 2011 to  35,000 in 2015 and even further lower to 8,00 kilos in 2018, according to Statista.com.  Exports just picked up to 66,000 in 2020.
The phytochemical and morphological studies of bamboo species will be a first among bamboo species studies that will take into consideration the different ecosystemswhere bamboo grows in Cagayan province.  
   “Cagayan is  rich natural systems, not only agro-ecosystems but grasslands, and others like water falls and volcanic areas where sulfur-rich soil is found.  For example, we will study if the Bayog bamboo species carries different morphological and phytochemical characteristices when they are grown in sulfur-rich volcanic areas,” said Opeña
   The study will find out if in the future, the “species’ phytochemical properties may be used (as raw material) for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical products, for medicine and other products.”
   Target for the bamboo species growth study are in two volcanoes– the Smith Volcano, also called Mount Babuyan, which is politically located in Calayan Island and Mount Cagua in Gonzaga.
   Among other ecosystems  the bamboo species will be studied  in coastal areas, residential areas, glasslands, agroecosystems, near bodies of water (rivers, creeks, waterfalls, dams, lakes, freshwater and hotsprings), caves, near the volcano, rainforests/forests, islands, protected areas, and others. .  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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