Helping local farmers and sustainability

The Department of Plant Sciences of the Manipal School of Life Sciences (MSLS), MAHE Manipal, is engaged in activities helping local farmers and preserving biodiversity through research interventions. One of the significant works being carried out by the department and the school involves assisting farmers in the nearby Mattu village of Udupi district in Karnataka. They grow a niche brinjal crop with its own geographical index tag, known as the Mattu Gulla, Solanum melongena L. var. Mattu Gulla. This crop has issues related to germination and infection by nematodes during a new season. The germination issue could potentially lead to a loss of yield and thus affect the region's economy, causing loss and stress to the families reliant on this crop. The school lent a helping hand through the efforts of Dr. A Muthusamy (Head, Department of Plant Sciences), Dr. KK Mahato (Head, Department of Biophysics), and Dr. K Satyamoorthy (then Director, MSLS) and their team of researchers. They used low-level radiation to enhance the plant's seed germination potential without extraneous changes. These seeds showed enhanced growth and yield potential and were robust in germination. Since then, through support from government funding agencies and local farmers, this approach has been further researched to contribute to the local farming population and broader scientific knowledge. The team also helped identify nematode infection in the roots of Mattu Gulla and suggested methods to prevent nematode infection. There is also a focus on understanding issues related to salinity, which affects this crop. Efforts are being made to overcome certain aspects of this stress to help improve plant growth. Through the subsequent years, the researchers at MSLS and the farmers at Mattu have had a synergistic relationship with the faculty members providing necessary scientific inputs to overcome the challenges faced by the farmers. 


The department also focuses on preserving biodiversity by characterizing critical secondary metabolites from unique species in this region, such as the orchid Dendrobium, with its ability to produce metabolites of medicinal importance, such as moscatilin. Another focus area of the department at MSLS is the characterization of metabolites in the plant Withania somnifera L, which has widespread use in Ayurveda and other traditional medicines. Further, the team has also made efforts, using advanced techniques, to identify and differentiate nine species of the Phyllanthus plant used in treating human diseases such as jaundice, diabetes, and cancer, to help ensure that the correct species is used in preparation.


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