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Rubber Research Institute of India to Conduct GM Rubber Field Trials in Guwahati

The demand for natural rubber is rising, but there is a limited amount of land in the traditional areas that could be used to expand rubber farming. Rubber cultivation must be done in non-traditional regions as well in order to increase production.

Shivam Dwivedi
Since rubber is a perennial tree, breeding for stress tolerance is a priority area of research for the RRII
Since rubber is a perennial tree, breeding for stress tolerance is a priority area of research for the RRII

The Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) will conduct confined field trials of newly developed genetically modified (GM) rubber plants at its Guwahati regional research station's Sarutari Farm, according to its director Jessy MD.

"The trials will be conducted on one acre of farmland in accordance with the Biotechnology Department's standard operating procedures. The stress-tolerance traits, disease incidence, and yield will be evaluated for 15 years before commercialization," she said.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) approved field trials for Hevea, a GM rubber, two weeks ago. According to her, RRII was instrumental in developing the transgenics and conducting follow-up actions for the grant of permission for field trials.

According to her, only after conducting field trials is it possible to commercially release any transgenic plant, and the Center has a stringent regulatory framework for the release of transgenic plants. As a result, RRII requested permission from the review committee to conduct trials of transgenic plants that have the osmotin gene incorporated.

Rubber cultivation in non-traditional regions is restricted by unfavourable environmental factors like extremes in temperature, high and low light levels, soil moisture stress, etc.

Warm, humid tropical weather is necessary for the growth of rubber, and climatic stresses may have an impact on rubber production. Since rubber is a perennial tree, breeding for stress tolerance is a priority area of research for the RRII. She added that developing new clones requires more than 20 years of continuous evaluation.

Shortening the rubber breeding cycle increasingly involves biotechnological interventions. Through molecular methods, defined agronomically significant genes are transferred and overexpressed to confer desired characteristics to the crop and are assessed both in the lab and in the field. Agronomic traits like stress tolerance and yield of elite clones can be improved through this focused approach, she added.

Scientists Rekha K, Jayashree R, P Kumari Jayashree, and Thomas KU have been instrumental in obtaining the necessary permissions for confined field trials from GEAC on behalf of the Biotechnology and Genome Analysis team, which is led by Kala RG.

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