ICAR-IIHR organized 21 days winter school on the theme “Horticultural Biodiversity Conservation for Livelihood and Nutritional Security in the Era of Anthropocene and Climate Change” from 11th March to 31st March, 2022. The training was visioned to give both theoretical and practical exposure on the scientific aspects of horticultural genetic resource conservation and management to expedite their use for the nutritional and livelihood security. More than 50 applications were received for the training programme and after thorough screening 25 participants were selected. The participants included a diverse and vibrant group of scientists and assistant professors from various ICAR institutes, KVKs and state agricultural universities.
The inaugural programme of winter school was held on 11th March, 2022 under the chairmanship of Dr. V.A.Parthasarathy, Former Director, ICAR-IISR, Calicut. In his address, Dr. Parthasarathy mentioned about the importance of horticultural genetic resources in the current global scenario. He stressed on the role of local landraces and traditional varieties in sustaining nutritional and livelihood security. The first lecture of the winter school was also delivered by Dr.Parthasarathy on “Heirloom varieties in horticulture”which described the evolution of horticultural genetic resources in the country and their documentation taking the participants to a better level of understanding of our culture, tradition and linking it with the indigenous plant diversity.The lecture on “Changing scenario of horticulture in the country” by our respected Director was highly informative throwing light into themost recent developments in horticultural sector.
Thereafter the 21 days witnessed a very elaborate and exhaustive schedule comprising 3-4 lectures per day covering a total 50 lectures in 21 days. Experienced and eminent resource persons in the subject areas both from within the institute and outside the institute like IISR, DCR, CTCRI, CPCRI,CSIR institutes, MS Swaminathan research foundation, Tropical Botanical Garden Research Institute, Malabar Botanical Garden and Research Institute, and NGOs like FRLHT contributed significantly to the successful conduct of this winter school.
The lectures organized were categorized into 4 different modules:
Module I:Genetic resources in horticultural crops, diversity, distribution and utilization: This module covered the diversity distribution, conservation and utilization of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, palms, cashewand ornamental genetic resources of the country. There were also specific case studies in detail pertaining to some of the mandate crops of ICAR-IIHR like Mango, Papaya, Guava, Dragon fruit, Jackfruit, Chilli, Rose, Tuberose, Gladiolus etc. This module also included enlightening lectures from some unique conservation specialists like who are having an explicit experience in specialized crops like “special lectures on diversity and conservation of Strobilanthusspecies, Ginger and Musa genetic resources, Indian balsam species, Salacia species etc. Efforts were also made to include the case studies of certain institutions whose mandate is conservation of genetic resources like JNTBGRI and Malabar Botanical Garden and Research Institute. The diversity of wild relatives belonging to different crops and their utilization in improvement programmes is indispensable segment of horticultural genetic resource system which was covered very systematically.
Experience sharing by individual conservationists like Sri Salim Pichan who is a recognized parataxonomist involved in identifying and conserving more than 200 species of wild fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and tuber cropsand Sri Shyju who is conserving a large number of indigenous mango cultivars was highly motivating for the trainees.
Module II: Methods and tools for conservation and management of HGRs
The topics covered under this module included lectures on principles and different methods of conservation like seed conservation, invitro conservation and cryopreservation.The module also covered pollen cryopreservation technique in detail along with the practicals where the participants could themselves do the pollen cryopreservation in few species. Ecological niche modelling for mapping the genetically diverse areas is an important aspect of HGR conservation and utilization which was covered in a very simple and methodical way along with the practical demonstration.Thequarantine regulations and methods of quarantine followed in horticultural crop germplasm was covered along with the visit to instrumentation facility.Different types of genomic resources and its utilization, climate smart technologies pertaining to HGRs, the opportunities of bioprospecting linked with horticultural crops, sustainable plant protection methods developed in horticulture including the most innovative semiochemicals,Scientific validation for future technological developments in food and health security of India, experimentdesigning, statistical methods of data analysis, databases and online resourcesconcerned with HGRs covered in this module was an effort to enlighten the participants regarding the various management aspects of HGRs.
Module III: National laws and policy framework governing HGRs
This module covered the various laws and policy aspects like IPR, PPVFRA, Plant breeders right, biodiversity act, access and benefit sharing, germplasm registration etc; Appraisal on these aspects is very important when dealing with genetic resources. The interaction of theprofessorand experts from the National Law School with the participants on these aspects made the session more realistic and effective.
Module IV: Technology transfer models for utilization of HGRs:
This module included lectures which demonstratedthe different ways in which the genetic diversity can be linked to technology commercialization and hence to livelihood security. This involved the success models at IIHR like ITMU and BESST HORT business incubation model. The success story of Arka Microbial Consortium and Arka Fermented Cocopeat also enlightened them with the idea of promoting the use of these technologies in their respective research activities. The successful commercialization of papaya and pomegranate micropropagation technology achieved by the Thomas Biotech was highly inspiring for the participants where they could learn about the challenges and achievements involved in handling the genetic resources.
Field and Lab visits
The training also included a number of field and lab visits.The first field visit was taken to NHF demonstration block where they got familiarised with the varieties and technologies of IIHR in fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and medicinal and aromatic plants. The 2nd visit of the programme was arranged to the experimental farm Hirehalliwhere Dr. Karunakaran explained and showed in detail the dragon fruit, jackfruit and other underutilized fruit species maintained in the farm. The participants highly appreciated the learning and hospitality received during the visit. The third visit was arranged to FRLHT where the participants got exposed to many of the unique, rare, endangered and threatened species of medicinal plants which are conserved in the herbal garden. Dr.Ganesh Babu, Principal Scientist and the garden incharge very elaborately and interestingly covered the genesis, botany and economic importance of these species. For the fourth visit, the participants were taken to Thomas Biotech & Cytobacts Centre for Biosciences where they could practically see the micropropagation of papaya and pomegranate being carried out and commercialized. The visit was a wonderful learning experience for the participants. Apart from these, the participants were also taken to the fruit crops field in block 9 and block 1 to show the germplasm resources of mango, guava and grapes. Dr. Vasuki explained about the research activities being carried in these crops. The visit to mushroom lab at IIHR made them aware about the diverse germplasm resources in mushroom, the production technology and also the various mushroom fortified products developed from the institute.Visit to Plant Pathology and biotechnology division was also arranged to expose them to the various instrumentation facilities like scanning electron microscopy, different types of PCR and diversity analysis and DNA Fingerprintingsoftwares.They were also taken to the terrace garden, where Dr. Kalaivannan elaborated about the soilless cultivation followed in vegetables, fruits, flowers and medicinal crops using cocopeat and the advantages of the system of soilless cultivation and its applicability in urban and peri-urban horticulture. Lastly, they were taken to the hydroponics and vertical garden facility where they got exposed to different hydroponic systems like NFT, DFT, Wick and aeroponics system.