With fungi, vanilla sprouts faster
UN/DICYT Ceratobasidium and Tulasnella fungi helped quicken symbiotic sprouting of Colombian vanilla species Vanilla rivasii and V. calyculata, in comparison to in vitro traditional methods which use asymbiotic culture media (without fungi) and which are also more expensive.
To achieve this progress Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Palmira researchers gathered samples of 100 vanilla roots from areas close to the city of Buenaventura and the Dagua River. Later in laboratory conditions they isolated the fungi associated to the roots and placed them in contact with in vitro vanilla seeds; afterwards they were molecularly characterized using molecular markers (DNA).
Vanilla is commercially very important as its natural extract is sold as a food flavoring additive. Under natural conditions, seeds of this species require contact with a specific fungus which enables the sprouting process.
The UNal-Palmira Orchid, Ecology and Plant Systematics Research Group has been developing several research projects in this specific topic.
Jazmín Alomía, Group Associate Researcher of the project entitled, “Sprouting of Colombian vanilla seeds”, developed her Biological Sciences master’s thesis project with the leadership of Professor and Research Group Leader Joel Tupac Otero Ospina and received a merit award for her work by reducing the sprouting times of two vanilla species.
“Vanilla along with saffron are very sought-after products in the world. They are very expensive spices,” said Otero, who also deems vanilla as a very promising species for Colombia.
“Developing these symbiotic sexual propagation methods could be used in future native vanilla species improvement and preservation programs. Therefore these two groups of mycorrhizae fungi, relatives of other very pathogenic or harmful plant molds such as Rhizoctonia, which produce rot in potato, beans, peppers, rice, etc. would act as life savers,” said Alomía.
Fungi replace the function of the endosperm, a type of sack that harbors seed embryos and stores nutritional substances so they can sprout. Vanilla orchids do not have endosperm, therefore the fungus provides the nutrients to support plant sprouting or budding.
“What is innovative of this project is that it was carried out with native species which had never been studied before and apparently have great cropping potential,” said Otero.
According to the Colombian Plant Catalog of the UNal Natural Sciences Institute, Colombia has 15 species of vanilla.