January 17 – Lucknow
(written by James Hearsum, photos by Aubree Pack)
(The group in front of the institute with the Director and two department heads)
Video Link: All Aboard!!!! … the Crazy Train. (Before we talk about how awesome the day at The National Botanic Research Institute was, we have to SHOW YOU how awesome it was getting there…)
The National Botanical Research Institute today provided a full schedule of meetings, tours and presentations explaining their research, outreach and facilities. The day began with a meeting with the Director and Heads of each research department including Biotechnology, Ethnopharmacology, Floriculture, Conservation, Microbiology and much more. These senior scientists direct a research staff of 100 scientists plus a support staff bringing the total to 500.
(The Cacti House)
The Director expressed a great desire to collaborate internationally by sharing both germplasm and expertise. The garden has both a history and a current pipeline of new plants, scientific techniques and pure research that it is keen to see enter new markets. It has had success especially in developing GM cotton, which is now grown on 8.2m of India’s 9.2m Hectares of cotton fields.
(Greeting cards made by staff at NBRI – completely out of natural materials!)
The institute is particularly keen to develop ornamental floriculture products that are appropriate to small-scale farmers with varying levels of education and capital. It is developing research in tandem with an outreach program to provide a network of agriculturists with basic training, able to train others in turn.
(Irrigation techniques involved planting beds to be lower than the actual surface. The beds are flooded once a day in the summer months and every other day in the winter months.)
(Another view of irrigation, although this shows their Canna germplasm collection.)
The day continued with tours of the garden, including rose gardens, cycad house, and germplasm collections of Bougainvillea, Cannas and Chrysanthemums. A new cacti house has been recently landscaped and holds collections for both research and display. Of great interest to many of us was a fantastic moss collection. This was housed in its own, ultra-high humidity zone. None of us envied the horticulturist’s need to weed with tweezers between species of moss, lichen and liverwort!
A presentation of India’s floral diversity highlighted the range and vulnerability of much of India’s flora. Whilst there are great science institutes working to research both the conservation and application of many of these rare plant species, the task must at times seem overwhelming.
(Some of the Lichen specimens housed in the herbarium)
Following a great lunch provided by the garden (Thanks!) we visited the herbarium and IT departments. The NBRI houses a national collection developed since the 1950’s extending to 97 000 accessions, including 290 Type collections. Of particular interest was the Institutes unique database system. This has been developed in-house over a number of years to provide for the level of comprehensiveness and accessibility not found in other systems used elsewhere. In use for just over 6 months, this has revolutionised access to important plant data and is available for all via the Institutes website.
The day was exquisitely organised and presented and provided an unparalleled opportunity to see science and conservation in action through a Botanic Garden.
(The Director presents each of us with an array of exciting take away gifts!)