Successful Propagation of Nipa Palms in the Laboratory
By Cyrose Silvosa-Millado
DAVAO REGION - Growing up in a house near the sea, losing Nipa roof tops during heavy storms and typhoon season was our major problem when I was a child. In a few years from now, we can easily rebuild our nipa huts and have the luxury of warming our tummies with vodka and watching tv even when there’s blackout, thanks to a new way of growing Nipa palms in the laboratory by scientists of the University of the Philippines Mindanao.
Nipa palms (Nypa fruticans) are indigenous palms found on coastal areas where fresh and salty water meet. In our country, their leaves are used in roof and wall construction of huts. Vinegar or vodka may also be produced from the Nipa flower sap may also be converted to biofuel, a sustainable fuel from plants, which will serve as a renewable energy source when prices of petroleum or gas is high.
Nipa is grown using seeds but this takes years for the palm to mature. A modern method of producing plants is by using tissue culture but this was found to be very challenging and unsuccessful for palms.
Tissue culture is done inside a laboratory to artificially grow plants like in Waling-waling orchids and Banana plantlets. With this method, uniform and disease-free plants are produced in a fraction of the time required when using seeds.
In our experiment published in the Philippine Journal of Science last year, a group of young cells and young Nipa plants were found to be successfully produced in the laboratory in about 4 months. These new plants (somatic embryos) and young cells (callus) were produced using halved Nipa embryo grown on culture jars with nutrients and chemicals in a gel-matrix like the gulaman in our desserts.
Development of young Nipa plant, somatic embryo (SE), and group of young cells, callus (CA), on halved Nipa palm embryo that is grown under laboratory conditions in University of the Philippines Mindanao.
The plants and groups of young cells may be controlled to become leaves or roots when given the right combination of hormones and nutrients while inside a glass container. Using tissue culture, one Nipa fruit could be multiplied and grown inside the laboratory to become thousands of uniform and disease-free planting materials in a few years.
While this study is still in its infancy, the team aspires to grow plantlets from Nipa plants that produce higher amounts of sap for higher alcohol yield. These superior tissue-cultured Nipa plants may be grown in coastal areas where fishermen or farmers may easily collect sap.
With the help of scientists or engineers, they can process their own biofuel for pumpboats, generators, small appliances or lamps whenever petroleum price is high or petroleum supply is declining. They can also use the same sap for processing their own laksoy when petroleum prices are cheap and there is a high demand for drinking alcohol.
The Department of Science and Technology has already produced distilling stations for local vodka production and with some improvements on the model, the station may be used for laksoy or biofuel processing in the near future.
Journal Article: GKR Oguis, CSC Silvosa, and GC Rivero. 2015. Callus Induction and Somatic Embryogenesis in Nypa fruticans Wurmb. zygotic embryo. Philippine Journal of Science 144 (1): 13-20, ISSN 0031 – 7683.