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Home News and Update Year 2010 Efforts on to Increase Yield of Cancer-Curing Plant

Efforts on to Increase Yield of Cancer-Curing Plant

Times of India
03 May 2010
Pune, India

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), New Delhi, will undertake a unique project in the biodiverse Western Ghat (Maharashtra and Karnataka) to optimise the yield of a plant which helps treat cancer. Besides, the DBT plans to explore the possibility of commercial cultivation of the medicinal plant in diverse climate conditions.

The plant, ‘mapia foetida’, contains camptothecin (CPT), which has anti-bacterial properties and is also useful in treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), besides the falciparum malaria. The bark and roots of ‘mapia foetida’ are the main source of CPT.

According to Ankur Patwardhan, head of biodiversity department at the Abasaheb Garware college, “The yield optimisation project is primarily aimed at narrowing the huge demand-supply mismatch. The existing supply of ‘mapia foetida’ is less than 50 per cent of the 700-odd metric tonne demand from pharmaceutical companies in the Indian market.”

Patwardhan said, “Almost 80 per cent of the plant population is lost due to indiscriminate harvesting. Besides, there is an urgent need to find alternative sources of CPT, since it cannot be synthesised artificially. The effort entails field trials to establish whether ‘mapia foetida’ can be grown under varied agro–climatic conditions.”

This project will look into the possibility of commercial cultivation of the plant which would result in consistent supply of high quality CPT to the industries, he added.

Vasudeva Ramesh, Department of Biotechnology’s project coordinator, said, “Multi–location experimental plantations of ‘mapia foetida’ in different agro–climatic zones will start from the coming monsoon. The idea is to develop cultivation packages on a large scale over a period of next three years.”

“The field trials will cover Dapoli and other parts of the coastal Konkan region besides Gaganbavda which links Kolhapur and Konkan and is suited for mango cultivation; Purandar and Maval in Pune district; and north Karnataka and Shimoga district, which is suited for areca nut, coconut and coffee plantations,” said Ramesh.

Apart from Abasaheb Garware college, the project also involves NGO Ranwa, the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore and the College of Sirsi in Karnataka.

Ramesh said, “The thrust will be on increasing the biomass i.e. the mapia woodchips, screening and vegetative cloning of high yield varieties, collection practices, cost benefit analysis, land area, water requirement, rate of application of fertilizer and its benefits.”

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