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Fruit Germplasm Collection at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Volume 3 Number 4 - June 2000
Normah M. Noor & Mahani M. Clyde

Malaysia produces a wide range of seasonal and non-seasonal fruits, many of which are indigenous to the region, such as banana, rambutan and durian. Besides the well-known species, many wild types and lesser-known species may be exploited and promoted. They are also a source of useful genes for related crop species. Conservation of these species is imperative prior to their wider utilization. Seed banks are considered the best system for orthodox seed storage. However, the seeds of many tropical fruit species are recalcitrant, which means they can not survive drying to the low moisture content required for long term storage. Research on in vitro conservation methods is currently being carried out but with limited success. It was therefore considered important to conserve the germplasm in the field.

The Fruit Germplasm Collection at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) is managed by the Faculty of Science and Technology (formerly the Faculty of Life Sciences). The collection was started in 1992 as part or results of research activities. Some species were grown from seeds brought back by UKM staff from field trips.

The collection covers an area of about 2 ha. within the Greenhouse and Experimental Plot Complex. There is also a small number of pre-existing trees at Taman Pantun, a garden on campus developed from an orchard established before the University was set up. Besides these, some species are also maintained around the campus for landscape purposes.

At present, there are 38 species representing 22 genera and 15 families collected from Peninsular Malaysia. The main genera are Garcinia, Citrus, Baccaurea, Lansium, Artocarpus, Nephelium, Annona and Durio. Research on these species include seed studies, micropropagation, cryopreservation and genetic diversity studies. Documentation is currently limited to plants being evaluated for growth and yield characteristics. For example there are 70 five-year old mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana L.) plants derived through in vitro techniques being monitored in the field.

The field genebank is supported by facilities at the Greenhouse Complex which include glass houses and shade house for maintenance of young plants prior to planting in the field.

The fruit germplasm collection is now used as a source of materials for research, especially for tissue culture and cryopreservation. Funds are required for maintenance of the collection and its expansion to include species from Sabah and Sarawak and probably from the south-east Asian region.