The UPLB, through the Institute of Crop Science (ICropS) of the College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS), is strengthening its research and development on the study of Azolla and its nutritional and economic values.
Azolla are small aquatic ferns that grow in small and large bodies of water in Asia, Africa, and North and South America. It is known for its symbiotic relationship with Anabaena azollae, a nitrogen-fixing, blue-green alga responsible for the fixation and assimilation of atmospheric nitrogen. It also contributes to the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Currently, the world’s largest Azolla germplasm collection comprising of 521 strains of Azolla accessions is under UPLB’s care after it was transferred from the International Rice Research Institute in 2017 through a Memorandum of Agreement. This move helped ICropS to strengthen its R&D program on Azolla, as they continuously conduct studies and activities to ensure the conservation and utilization of the Azolla accessions.
In order to mass-produce and utilize Azolla as a component for potting mix, ICropS is culturing it in volumes under normal pond conditions at the CAFS Agripark. They also placed Azolla in trays under misted, greenhouse conditions, which is the required environment for its growth so it can be used for proximate analysis and molecular characterization.
These activities are part of the studies conducted under ICropS’ R&D program on Azolla. Other studies include in vitro propagation and conservation of Azolla species and development of small and commercial models of Azolla and Azolla-based systems.
ICropS is also looking to promote and develop income generating projects around the various practical uses of Azolla. Its capability to double in size makes Azolla useful as green manure for paddy agriculture and as “crop” to suppress aquatic weeds. It can also be used in organic duck and rice systems and as potential feeds for livestocks and farm animals.
The collection is currently housed at the Philippine Rice Research Institute-Tissue Culture Laboratory and will remain there until a new area for safekeeping is established within UPLB. The proposed site for germplasm conservation and in vitro culture activities in a controlled environment for the long-term storage is in the CAFS AgriPark Bldg.