NBRI: A National Institute for Conservation and Exploitation of Plants in India
Volume 3 Number 4 - June 2000
The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow is one of the National Laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi, India. The mandate of NBRI is to carry out Research and Development (R & D) work related to inventory, documentation, collection, conservation, improvement and sustainable utilization of the non-traditional plant genetic resources of the country. The Institute has garden-based conservation and genetic enhancement activities and a multidisciplinary research system focusing on the various aspects of plants and the development of value-added plant-based products. The R & D activities of NBRI are streamlined under various areas such as Plant Biodiversity and Conservation Biology; Botanic Garden and Floriculture; Biotechnology and Plant Physiology; Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering; Biomass Biology and Environmental Sciences; Genetics, Plant Breeding and Agrotechnology; Natural Product Development; Information, Liaison and Common Facilities and Planning and Coordination. The national facilities of the Institute are the Botanic Garden, Herbarium, Banthra Research Station and Economic Botany Information Service (EBIS).
The activities of the NBRI Botanic Garden was described in an earlier article (BGCNews 2(3) 1994). This article focuses on activities such as conservation, genetic enhancement and the cultural practices for plants of floricultural/ornamental, medicinal or other economic importance and the training and education programmes carried out by the Institute.
The significant contribution of the Botanic Garden in floriculture is in breeding new cultivars and the standardization of agrotechnologies for the commercial cultivation of ornamental crops. The most successful story is Gladiolus. Its agrotechnology for commercial cultivation has been standardized and passed onto 1000 progressive farmers and entrepreneurs under a ‘Lab to Land’ programme for large scale cultivation in order to boost the cut-flower industry in India. Nearly 200 acres of land have been put under commercial cultivation of Gladiolus in and around Lucknow with an annual turnover of Rs. 70 million. As Gladiolus is cultivated in rural areas, its potential for generating employment is an added advantage to improve the economic conditions of the weaker section of society. As a result of R & D work, 50 new cultivars have been evolved in Gladiolus. The notable ones are - 'Archana', 'Arun', 'Surekha', 'Tambari', 'Rim Jhim' and 'Rashmi'.
The other floral crops identified for research work are Bougainvillea (new cultivars include: Shubhra', 'Wajid Ali Shah', 'Chitra', ' Mary Palmar Special', 'Hawaiian Beauty', 'Los Banos Variegata', 'Begum Sikander' - 20 new cultivars), Chrysanthemum (new cultivars include: 'Apsara', 'Birbal Sahni', 'Shard Shingar', 'Hemant Shringar' 'Poornima', `Kundan', 'Rangoli', 'Shyamal' - 80 new cultivars), Rose (new cultivars include: ‘Clg. Cri Cri', ‘Salmon Beauty’, ‘Winter Holiday’, Sukumari', 'Tangerine Contempo', 'Twinkle' - 12 new cultivars), Tuberose (new cultivars include: 'Rajat Rekha', 'Svarna Rekha'), Gerbera, Amaranth (new cultivars include: 'Amar Shola', 'Amar Tetra', 'Amar Peet', 'Amar Jyoti', 'Amar Kiran' - 14 new cultivars), Hippeastrum (new cultivars include: 'Garima', 'Man-Mayur', 'Sarmat', 'Jyoti', - 7 new cultivars) and Dahlia.
The NBRI evolved and released cultivars of ornamental plants are in great demand in the floriculture trade as well as generating employment opportunities particularly in rural areas.
Education and Training Programmes
The education and training programmes carried out by the Botanic Garden are also very popular. They include conducting garden tours, organization of training courses, university classes, flower shows and exhibitions and open days. Short educational-cum-training courses are organized in the Botanic Garden on several aspects of ornamental horticulture, commercial floriculture and garden management.
The Garden is visited by a large number of students, teachers, connoisseurs, intellectuals of national and international importance. The main purpose of the visit is to acquaint the visitors with the diversity of plant species from the well-identified germplasm collections displayed in the Conservatories and Plant Houses and in the Arboretum of the Botanic Garden. Further, in order to facilitate teaching of life science and botany in schools, colleges and universities, plant species of representative families are provided to the students for identification and preparation of herbarium specimens.
Other R & D Work of the Institute
The Plant Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Section undertakes morphological and taxonomic studies of plants beside conducting surveys, exploration and inventories of national plant biodiversity. The Biomass Biology and Environmental Science Laboratory is engaged in the development of production and nursery technology for woody biomass and energy plantation on sub-standard soil besides evaluating the relative sensitivity of common Indian plants to different environmental pollutants in the field as well as laboratory conditions in order to determine their usefulness as bio-indicators of different pollutants, dust filtering capacity and to identify pollution-tolerant plants. Several indigenous drugs have been botanically authenticated by the Natural Product Development Laboratory. The Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering Unit undertakes studies on different aspects of plant molecular biology in relation to plant metabolism and raising BT transgenic tobacco plants as well as molecular virology and microbiology. NBRI is a regional centre in South Asia for the International Legume Database Information Service (ILDIS).
Rural Development Programmes
As a result of multidisciplinary research work, a wide range of new technologies have been developed and standardized by the Institute. These technologies have been transferred to the rural community, which is the major beneficiary directly or indirectly, with the help of different demonstration centres and research stations. The technologies developed by the Institute are Wasteland Development, Amaranth Cultivation, Modernization of Betelvine Cultivation, Opium Poppy cultivation, Dehydration of Flowers and Foliage, Edible Mushroom cultivation, German Chamomile for Blue Oil, Fuel Wood Biomass and new ornamental cultivars for the Floricultural Trade.
The Institute will continue its efforts for the creation of a new knowledge base, its application for the improvement of genotypes, development of technologies for better productivity of economic and ornamental plants for their judicious exploitation and conservation. Formulation of herbal drugs, dyes and the sustainable utilization of plants and plant products for the welfare of mankind are the future milestones. The Institute will serve as a centre of excellence in the field of plant science and will play a pioneering role in the new millennium.