MAGALANG, Pampanga Three research and development (R&D) centers on Tamarind, Sweetpotato, and Potato will be established under the Niche Centers in the Regions for Research and Development (NICER) Program.
The Tamarind R&D Center will be established in Pampanga State Agricultural University (PSAU), the Potato R&D Center at the Benguet State University (BSU), and the Sweetpotato R&D Center at the Tarlac Agricultural University (TAU).
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launched the NICER Program in 2017 to improve regional research in higher education institutions (HEIs) and therefore create equal research and development capabilities in every region of the country. The said centers will enable the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, and Benguet become the center of R&D for the tamarind, sweetpotato, and potato commodities.
The implementation of these three NICER programs were discussed during an inception meeting conducted by the Crops Research Division (CRD) of the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) at PSAU.
Headed by CRD Director Dr. Edna A. Anit, the meeting aimed for better understanding of the programs objectives, activities, and expected outputs of the three new R&D Centers. Dr. Anit said that the Centers for the three commodities will not only improve the quality of research of each implementing agency, but also improve the lives of the farmers.
Through the Accelerated R&D Program for Capacity Building of Research and Development Institutions and Industrial Competitiveness of the Science for Change (S4C) Program of DOST, the NICER provides institutional grant for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the regions for R&D capacity building to improve their S&T infrastructure.
The NICER Program for tamarind titled, Tamarind R&D Center has been approved for implementation in PSAU. PSAU is the research institution spearheading research work on tamarind and has registered the first sweet tamarind variety in the country named Aglibut Sweet. The said R&D Center will focus on genomic characterization for improvement of sour and sweet tamarind, development of S&T-based production management strategies, and value chain analysis and marketing of tamarind which will be led by Dr. Virgilio DM. Gonzales, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Systems Technology (CAST), PSAU.
Director Cynthia G. Kiswa, Director of the Northern Philippines Rootcrops Research and Training Center (NPRCRTC) of BSU, on the other hand, will lead the implementation of the NICER Program for potato, titled Potato R&D Center. Being the lead university on potato research, BSU has conducted several researches toward sustainable potato production in the country in partnership with the International Potato Center (CIP) since the late 1990s. In line with the Industry Strategic S&T Program (ISP) for Vegetables, the Potato R&D Center will focus on the development of potato integrated crop management system for major potato pests, enhancement of the micropropagation system of potato, and improvement of aeroponics and storage techniques for production of potato foundation seeds.
Meanwhile, the Sweetpotato R&D Center will be established in TAU under the overall leadership of Dr. Lilibeth B. Laranang, TAU Director of Rootcrops Research and Training Center. Dr. Laranang and her team will optimize clean planting materials production, develop spatial information of sweepotato in Central Luzon, and develop sweetpotato integrated crop management program. The said R&D Center will address the problem of limited supply of clean planting materials and lack of climate-smart crop management strategies.
The Tamarind and Potato R&D Centers will be implemented by its host HEIs for three years while the Sweetpotato R&D Center will run for two years. Once established, these niche centers for R&D will help capacitate other research institutions concerned in tamarind, potato, and sweetpotato.
Also present during the inception meeting were Mr. Rolando S. Corpuz, Section Head of the Monitoring and Program-based Information System of CRD; Dr. Honorio M. Soriano, PSAU President, Dr. Fe L. Porciuncula, Central Luzon Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development Consortium (CLAARRDEC) Consortium Director; program leaders and project staff of the three NICER Programs; other CRD staff members; Mr. Wilfredo F. Sibal, DOST-Region 3 Asst. Regional Director for Technical Operations, and representatives from DOST Central Office headed by Mr. Gilbert M. Poralan, Jr..