The Biological Sciences team in Derby , led by Professor Paul Lynch, is working in conjunction with the team of researchers at the University of Malaya to help protect local varieties of banana and to preserve biodiversity.
The research group is involved in a three-year British Council-funded exchange programme to develop technology to save certain varieties of banana - several of which are under threat from a fungal disease.
Next month, Professor Lynch travels to Malaysia to give a 'master class' on plant cryopreservation and biotechnology at Malaysia's National Science Centre, and discuss the progress of the project.Professor Lynch said: "It's a prestigious project working alongside the authorities in Malaysia and we have an important task because the banana is so important to the country's economy and culture."
Professor Lynch's team are experts in the field of cryopreservation - freezing plants to ultra-low temperatures in order to help protect rare and endangered species. Cultures are taken from the plants and frozen, before being replanted in culture and once they have regrown, are transferred to field trials.
The scientists are using the cryopreseravtion process to support breeding programmes, towards producing fungal resistant bananas and to support small subsistence farmers growing the banana, by providing them with cheap, elite plants.
The project is focussed on two types of banana, Pisang Mas and Pisang Malaccensis, which are of particular importance to Malaysia.It is hoped the work can help boost future breeding programmes of the banana and benefit the small scale farmers.At the end of last year, colleagues from the University of Malaya, visited the University of Derby for biochemical technique training.
The work is running alongside a multi-million research project involving a number of European countries called Crymcept, in which Derby is a leading member.
In the Crymcept project, Professor Lynch's team are applying the same principals to develop conservation approaches for garlic and olive.