Superoxide dismutase - IHBT is making notable contributions in metabolic engineering of plants. Working at high altitudes, keen observation of scientists led to discovery of a novel Superoxide Dismutase from Potentilla atrosanguinea. Interestingly, the enzyme retains its activity even after autoclaving and can function within a temperature range from sub zero to > 50C. The SOD genes has been cloned. Further, It was observed that transgenic model plants harboring SOD gene is able to sustain salt stress more efficiently compared to control plants. Using bioinformatics tools structure of SOD was engineered by mutation of a single amino acid and it resulted in enhancement of thermostability of the enzyme to twofold. The enzyme is resistant to proteolysis. Protocol has been standardized for large scale production of thermostable SOD in bioreactor using microbial route.
A novel carbon sequestering pathway - A novel carbon sequestering pathway coupled to nitrogen utilization in the plants at high altitude was deciphered that laid the basis of raising transgenic plants for better carbon and nitrogen sequestration.
Pathway studies - Studying pathways of secondary metabolites of economically important medicinal plants is an area of focus so far institute has successfully identified all the genes involved in catechin biosysthesis in Camellia sinensis; stevioside in stevia; shikonin in Arnebia euchroma; picroside in Picrorhiza kurroa and secologanin and vindoline in Catharanthus roseus. Transcriptome analysis are under way to identify the key genes in tea, picrorhiza, etc.
Germplasm characterization - IHBT has played a crucial role in DNA fingerprinting of tea germplasm, wherein 1763 accessions representing Indian tea clones have been characterized using seven AFLP primer combinations at six collaborative Institutes (DU, IHBT, TERI, TRA, UPASI, & Bose Institute). Institute has prepared a tea descriptor database of Indian tea germplasm with morphological (vegetative, floral and seed character) and biochemical parameters. Apart from tea, DNA fingerprinting of rose, bamboo and Acorus calamus have also been carried out. Successfully carried out genome-wide analysis in potato and identified 110 StNAC genes responsible for encoding of 136 proteins, the study provides blue-print for their functional characterization and utilization in potato improvement.
TECHNOLOGIES FOR INDUSTRY
Keeping in view the objectives of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, Institute is focusing on translation of the fundamental knowledge into technologies. Several technologies have been transferred to Indian Industries and many are under negotiation.
Thermostable enzyme - The process for production of thermostable enzyme in bioreactor through microbial route has been transferred to a industry at a premium price.
Natural zero calorie sweetener - Zero calorie sugar substitutes are in great demand, and steviol-glycoside is one such valued natural product which can even be used by people suffering from diabetics. A water based cost effective technology has been developed for production of steviol-glycoside from Stevia rebudiana.
Tea Polyphenol - Tea polyphenols are high valued nutraceuticals from tea. These have been reported to have numerous health beneficial properties. Institute has standardized protocol for extraction of high quality polyphenols from underutilized parts of the tea plant using green methodology. The polyphenols are water soluble and can be used as antioxidants, food colorants, food preservatives and as antimicrobials. Processes. have been developed to prepare tea based beverages (as cold drink) and tea based wines. Both the products are rich in antioxidants.
Food and nutraceuticals: Range of food products with positive health benefit have been developed. This includes bamboo candies, noodles, papad, buckwheat nutribar, dietary fiber from apple pomace etc.
Aescin - Aescin is an antiviral agent and crème prepared from this is immensely beneficial for varicose vein, the technology has been developed for extraction of Aescin from Indian horse chestnut (Aesculus indica).
Mini Distillation Unit (HERBOSTIL™) - To cater to the needs of small and medium range farmers, institute has designed a mini distillation unit. Crop ranging from 5-25 kg can be processed for essential oils and hydrosols and the unit can be operated on gas stove or conventional chullah.
Several simplified but useful biotechnological lab aids have also been developed like RNA isolation kit. RNA are highly unstable and difficult to isolate more so from high altitude medicinal plants, extensive work in this area lead to the development of a novel solution that can rapidly extract pure RNA in good amount. The technology for producing the solution has been transferred to M/s Bangalore Genei. Gels are difficult to handle and tends to break while staining and image capturing and to overcome this difficult task, institute has developed a gel handling system GEPROTED. The gadget ensures safe handling of gels.
Mini Laminar Flow - Mini Laminar Flow cabinets are generally bulky and very expensive but institute has developed a portable mini laminar flow STERIFLOWTM. The gadget can be widely used in colleges and schools for demonstration and for popularizing tissue culture as a cottage industry.
Rooting Vessel - In practice it has been observed that tissue culture plants are difficult to root, hence a rooting vessel was designed for efficient rooting of micropropagated plants in cost effective manner in a short time.
Institute has rendered consultancy services and technical support for setting up of tissue culture units several Govt. and Pvt. firms. Tea is one of the mandate crop of the institute and since its inception, the Institute is working to boost good quality tea production from the region. Technical information on tea chemical profile generated by the Institute facilitated the State Govt of Himachal Pradesh in seeking Geographical Indication for Kangra Tea. Regular advisory services are rendered to the farmers of the region. Institute is credited for reviving the abandoned and dilapidated tea gardens of Kangra region through strong advisory services. Also, institute has extended tea plantations in the non-traditional areas of HP. To tackle the labour problem of the region Institute has developed a two men plucking machine and demonstrated farm mechanization practices. Extensive R&D in the area has led to the development of new concept of tea withering which cuts down the withering time from 18 to 6 hrs. Based on this concept, a Tea Withering Machine was designed and got fabricated. The technology has been transferred to M/s Mesco Equipment (P). Ltd., Kolkata. To improve the scenario of tea industry, institute focused on tea product diversification and developed tea concentrates and tea wines. These products are rich in antioxidants and hence, have positive health attributing factors. Technology is being developed for efficient conversion of catechin to theaflavin and encapsulation of tea aroma.
Disease free Indexed planting material - Disease free Indexed planting material is crucial for the floriculture industry. Among several pathogens that affect floriculture trade, viral diseases are most detrimental. Viral diseases are difficult to diagnose and control thus greatly limiting the export of Indian flower to foreign markets. Assessing the need of the Indian floriculture industry, IHBT has developed highly sensitive viral diagnostic kits of commonly prevalent viruses of gemini and colimo groups. These kits enable detection of viruses at a very early stage before the symptoms actually appear on plants.
Virus free apple root stock - Protocol has been developed for raising virus free apple rootstock. The technology has been transferred to several industries for mass multiplication and distribution to planters.
Biofertilizer - A consortium comprising of groups of microbes has been developed having plant growth promoting attributes. Application of this consortium cuts down the need of chemical fertilizer substantially.
TECHNOLOGY FOR SOCIETY
Catering to the social responsibility as a public funded organization, Institute has developed technologies relevant for farmers. Agrotechnology packages of medicinal and aromatic plants, ornamentals and high value crops have been transferred to farmers and techno-entrepreneurs.
Aromatics & herbals
IHBT in collaboration with CSK HPKV University, Palampur introduced lavender cultivation in Salooni, Chamba district of H.P for the first time. Institute provided planting materials, technological back up and established distillation units for processing of the crop. As a result of this joint effort, the farmers of the region are now producing high quality lavender oil. Institute has popularized commercial cultivation of Tagetes minuta in Kullu district of HP. A distillation unit was also installed as a central facility for distillation of oil. The crop is providing good returns to the farmers. As a result of R&D activities, a variety ‘HIMGOLD’ was developed and released. Under CSIR-800 programme, institute developed a truck mounted mobile distillation unit. This mobile unit is being extensively used to distil oil from aromatic crops at farmers’ field located even in remote areas and also creates awareness on essential oil production.
IHBT has played an instrumental role in popularizing stevia cultivation in the country. A nursery was established in the IHBT farm and intense research was done to develop an agrotechnology package for commercial cultivation of stevia. Large scale planting materials were supplied to the farmers of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP, Bihar, Chattisgarh etc and technological back up was provided from time to time for successful harvest of the crop. Intensive breeding experiments have led to development of a novel cultivar of stevia HIM stevia containing high content of rebudioside
After years of domestication, Institute released new varieties of several important medicinal plants viz. “HIMBALA” of Valeriana jatamansi, “HIMHALDI” of Curcuma aromatica, and “HIMKACHRI” of Hedichyium spicatum. These crops have started playing important role in joint forest management programmes. Institute has standardized macro-propagation technique of a very important medicinal plant Ginkgo biloba, popularly known as living fossil. Large scale planting materials have been supplied to foresters for its in vivo conservation.
Agroclimatic condition of HP is highly suitable for cultivation of flowers. IHBT has standardized agrotechnologies of popular ornamentals and introduced them for the first time in the region, like alstroemeria, bird of paradise, gladiolus, carnations, liliums, chrysanthemum, tube-rose, rose etc. and transferred them to the farmers. Also, IHBT introduced lilum cultivation in Lahul area for the first time. Sustained research over the years have resulted in development and release of new cultivars of gerbera with attractive colours and enhanced vase life, unique coloured ornamental rose, thornless rose and ten varieties of gladiolus with attractive foliage and colour which have also been patented. Work done by the institute resulted in identification of four new winter active root stock of rose. Research is underway to generate new varieties of rose and gerbera with unique colour and morphology. Disease free high quality planting materials are regularly provided to farmers and entrepreneurs at an optimum price. Training programmes are organized in the area of cut flower production technology for the benefit of the farmers.
In recent years, bamboos have become important in social forestry programmes due to their short rotation cycles, fast growth and the possibility to be progressively harvested on a sustainable basis. Institute has standardized micro-and macro-propagation technique for several high value bamboos like Bambusa nutans; Dendrocalamus hamiltonii; D. strictus; D. asper etc. Institute has also introduced edible Moso bamboo for the first time in the region. Institute is actively involved in the National Bamboo Mission and is instrumental in setting up demonstration plots and extension of bamboo plantations in H.P., Uttrakhand and Punjab. Institute has designed a portable kiln (patented) for converting bamboo into good quality charcoal.
CSIR-IHBT has successfully re-vegetated ten muck dumping site of NHPC at Kullu-Mandi area using novel planting technology.
IHBT has developed database on distribution and ecological and ethnobotanical aspects of flora of Himachal Pradesh covering species-specific maps including ground truthing. The plant specimens collected during field surveys are preserved in the herbarium of the Institute, which is listed in the “Index Herbariorum” at New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). It is the only herbarium from the state of Himachal Pradesh featuring in this index and has been accorded the acronym “PLP”. The Institute has added four new records to the Flora of Himachal Pradesh. Further, the Institute has identified several lesser known plant species of medicinal and commercial importance, based on surveys and interactions with local people. Mapping of land cover and land use classification of entire Kangra district, Solang Nala in Kullu district, and Bhabha valley in Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh has also been accomplished. The apple orchards of cold desert area in Spiti valley of H.P. were mapped using IRS 1D LISS III satellite image. Satellite images and ground verification data of the of bamboo bearing localities in Kangra, Hamirpur and Una districts of Himachal Pradesh has revealed approximately 6040 acre area under Dendrocalamus strictus, D. hamiltonii, Bambusa arundinacea, B. nutans, Sinarundinaria falcata and Thamnocalamus spathiflora. Natural niches with large populations of Podophyllum hexandrum in sub-alpine and alpine zones in Chamba district were also located.