Germplasm Collection Mission to Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve

Date Posted: 28-06-2018

An exploration and germplasm collection trip was undertaken in Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve for 12 field days from 16/01/2018 to 27/01/2018. The exploration team comprised Dr. K. Joseph John, Principal Scientist & Officer in charge, ICAR-NBPGR, Thrissur; Dr. K Pradheep, Principal Scientist, ICAR-NBPGR, New Delhi and Dr. I. Jaisankar, Scientist, ICAR-CIARI, Port Blair, A&N Islands. Plant diversity rich pockets like Galathea river base, Navy Dera, Mount Thullier, 17 KM way to Koppenheat on East-West Road, Afra Bay and Nicobari tribal hamlets like Makachua, Pilopunja and Pilobao in Little Nicobar were explored on-foot/availing country boat, besides collecting from almost all motorable paths in Great Nicobar. Some specific habitats explored included dense evergreen forest slopes, littoral forests, fringes of mangrove forests, river mouths, swamps, revenue lands and agricultural fields from Campbell Bay to Sastri Nagar, and home gardens of Nicobarese.

A total of 74 samples involving crop wild relatives under the genera Mangifera, Musa, Piper, Dioscorea, Amorphophallus, Zingiber, Amomum, Curcuma, Cinnamomum, Vanilla, Vigna, Garcinia, etc. few medicinal plants and cultivated crops of Nicobarese were collected (Table 1), besides herbarium specimens of economically important species. In general, small samples of seed/fruit materials of target taxa were collected, according to availability. Wherever, fruit/ seed materials not available, live plants (about 5-10/ accessions) were collected, for instance, wild mango, tuber-bearing species, etc. Phenological information, locality details, herbarium and photographic documentation of collected species were made for fine grid exploration in near future. A part of the germplasm was planted in ICAR-CIARI, Port Blair as a safe duplicate. Orthodox seeds are being deposited in the National Gene Bank at NBPGR, New Delhi, with an active set for regeneration and utilization at Regional Station, Thrissur. Perennials are under regeneration at RS Thrissur and would be subsequently transferred to National Active Germplasm Sites after accessioning. All the perennial and recalcitrant sample collections have been planted in the nursery maintained at RS, Thrissur.

Some salient germplasm collections include: Horsfieldia glabra and Garcinia nervosa from Galathea; Knema andamanica, Myristica andamanica, Mangifera camptosperma and Cerbera manghas from Little Nicobar; Mangifera griffithii and Piper clypeatum* from Afra Bay; Piper miniatum, Piper betle (wild) and Ziziphus horsfieldii from way to Koppenheat; Curcuma rubescens and Gossypium barbadense var. acuminatum cultivated by Nicobarees as medicinal and fibre crop respectively; primitive brinjal from Little Nicobar; Musa indandamensis, Mangifera nicobarica* and Vanilla albida from Mount Thullier. We observed good variability in chilli, cultivated citrus, wild betel vine, coconut and arecanut. Some crop wild relatives like Alpinia conchigera, Amorphophallus hirsutus, Dioscorea glabra, Mangifera nicobarica, Piper pedicellatum, P. clypeatum*, Vigna marina, etc.
were also collected. Dioscorea piscatorum and Ziziphus subquenervia are new distribution records for India and both are wild edible plants with potential for crop improvement. We documented the edible use of Dioscorea glabra (tuber), Cerbera manghas (mango substitute), Rhopaloblaste augusta (palm cabbage), Dinochloa scandens (tender shoots), Asplenium nidus (edible fronds) and Alpinia conchigera (ginger substitute) by Nicobari tribes.

We found some interesting species which are seldom reported from GNBR, for example Cucumis melo L. subsp. agrestis, Ipomoea littoralis, Tragia involucrata and Vigna stipulacea (all communicated to research journals). Nineteen years back, Sinha (1999) in the Flora of Great Nicobar reported Rhaphaloblaste angustata, Macaranga nicobarica, Dioscorea glabra and Garcinia nervosa were of rare occurrence, the exploration team found good populations of these species, first two towards Galathea riverside and the latter two throughout. Further he mentioned that Mangifera nicobarica was not being collected after type (specimen) collection. However, we found about 50 trees, especially along Galathea riverside and towards Mt. Thullier. We also confirm the occurrence of Artocarpus chama and Piper clypeatum, which were mentioned by Sinha (1999) as species of doubtful existence, besides some species not reported by him but reported by later workers e.g. Bentickia nicobarica, Nageia wallichiana, Musa sabuana, Mimusops andamanensis, etc.

General impressions: There exists high level of species diversity in under-utilized crops/ lesser known economic plants and crop wild relatives of perennial horticultural crops in GNBR; therefore this treasure house is worth exploring further for tropical humid zone genera like Mangifera, Artocarpus, Piper, Musa, Zingiber, Ziziphus, Dioscorea, Amorphophallus, Curcuma, Garcinia, Syzygium, Myristica, etc. and many potential economic plants including wild edible plants and wild ornaments, which were reported but not collected during this trip owing to reasons like lack of proper understanding of phenology/ best time for collection of propagules, incomplete coverage of representative parts of GNBR, especially the western side and northern parts adjoining Mount Thullier. Some accessions (esp. Myristica group, Dioscorea, Piper) need further authentication for correct taxonomic identity, which needs flower and fruit characters which warrants further survey in different season(s). Invasive alien species such as Mikania micrantha, Chromolaena odorata, Parthenium hysterophorus and Mimosa diplotricha, besides other naturalized species such as Hyptis capitata were observed to be spreading at an alarming rate posing threat to native/endemic species. Except Knema, Myristica, Hornstedia and Musa sabuana, no other species was in ripe fruit stage. The area needs to be visited again for further in depth study and collection of germplasm.

Table 1: Germplasm collected (16/01/2018 to 27/01/2018)

  Species Name Accs   # Species Name Accs
A    Forest Habitat   B   REVENUE LAND
1. Dioscorea bulbifera 2   1. Solanum torvum 1
2. Dioscorea spp. (glabra) 1   2. Citrus hybrid (cult.) 4
3. Zingiber squarrosum 5   3. Colocasia esculenta 2
4. Myristica andamanica. (Knema andamanica, Horsfieldia) 8   4. Momordica charantia (cult.) 1
5. Garcinia nervosa 3   5. Cucumis melo subsp. agrestis 1
6. Piper spp. (clypeatum, pedicellosum, miniatum) 16   6. Curcuma longa (cult.) 1
7. Macaranga nicobarica 1   7. Curcuma rubescens 2
8. Cinnamomum bejolghota 2   8. Solanum melongena (cult.) 2
9. Mangifera spp. (nicobarica, griffithii, camptosperma) 7   9. Gossypium barbadense 1
10. Vigna marina 1   10. Tacca laeontopetaloides 1
11. Musa sabuana 1   11. Ocimum sanctum (cult.) 1
12. Vanilla sp. (albida) 1   12. Capsicum annuum (cult.) 3
        13. Ricinus communis (cult.) 1
        14. Vigna unguiculata (cult.) 1

(Source: Dr Joseph John K, OIC ICAR-NBPGR, Regional Station, thrissur)