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Scientist bags award for creating banana gene bank

Special Correspondent

ICAR confers award on S. Uma

—Photo: M. Moorthy

S.Uma.

TIRUCHI: S.Uma, Principal Scientist of the National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB), Tiruchi, has been conferred with the Punjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural Woman Scientist Award-2008 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

The award has been given in recognition of Dr.Uma’s contributions for developing Asia’s largest field gene bank for banana, with 360 unique varieties, at the NRCB.

The gene bank includes several wild species collected from the North Eastern States and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Rs. 50,000 in cash

The award, presented to her by Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah at New Delhi, includes a citation and a cash prize of Rs.50,000.

Speaking to reporters here on Tuesday, Dr.Uma said she and her team had travelled extensively to collect and document the different species of banana. Though over 1,600 species were identified, 360 distinctive species formed the core collection of the gene bank.

She has also identified four new species including ornamental bananas.

‘Udhayam,’ a high-yielding variety of Karupuravalli, released by her, is popular across the country.

She was the first to start a ‘banana gene bank’ and ‘cell suspension bank,’ in India. Her tissue culture protocols to multiply and conserve endangered varieties were expected to go a long way in conservation of banana diversity, especially varieties such as ‘Sirumalai,’ ‘Manoranjitham,’ and ‘Ladan,’ said M.M.Mustafa, Director, NRCB. The molecular biology lab of the NRCB has been recognised by the Department of Bio Technology, New Delhi, as an accredited lab for genetic fidelity testing of tissue culture plants across the country.

Dr.Uma, who has worked as a consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organisation for three years, is also a member of the International Taxonomy Group and leader of the Conservation Team for Wild Banana Species.

Overseas awards

She has also bagged the prestigious ‘Pisang Raja,’ Award given away by Bioversity, France, and Banana Asia Pacific Network (BAPNET), Philippines in 2008.

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