New R&D niche centers to boost Agricultural resilience in regions

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has allocated over PHP208 million for the setting up of six niche centers for research and development (R&D) that were unveiled virtually on Tuesday.

The six new R&D niche centers are expected to help boost the e resilience of the agriculture industry in the regions.

“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.

The DOST Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) program aim to enable 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 for them 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 include the following:

1.   Garlic and Other Agri-Food Condiments R&D Center to 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.

2.   A center dedicated to the 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 likewise develop software for pest detection, classification, and crop protection management systems.

3.   Cacao R&D center for 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.

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

5.   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.

6.   NICER on cave ecosystems research. The DOST said this will be established at the University of the Philippines – Los Baños, which will look into 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 these S&T interventions will reach more farmers and enable 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 the niche centers to perform vital roles in innovating national industries and cultivate and promote collaborations among the government, academe, and industry.