Big boost for jute
A recent photo shows farmers process jute in a pond, dried up amid scanty rain, at Monirampur upazila in Jessore. Scientists are working on different varieties of jute tolerant to natural adversities like draught or lack of rain. Photo: Star
Three years into the successful genome sequencing of tossa jute, Bangladeshi scientists led by Dr Maqsudul Alam have unravelled the genome sequence of deshi (white) jute.
This completes the genome sequencing of both genera of jute -- tossa and white -- thereby opening up scopes for developing more productive jute varieties in future.
Sitting by globally famed geneticist Maqsudul Alam, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced this yesterday at a press briefing at the Gono Bhaban.
“Earlier, our scientists decoded tossa jute plant genome and now they have decoded the genome of deshi (white) jute,” the premier said. “I hope the golden fibre will bring back our golden smile,” an enthusiastic Hasina added.
Genome sequence represents a valuable shortcut, helping scientists find genes much more easily and quickly. A genome sequence allows scientists to identify and understand how genes work together for the plant's different features like growth, development and maintenance as an entire organism. This allows them to manipulate the genes and enhance, reduce or add certain features of the plant.
Following the initial success in decoding jute (tossa) genome in June 2010, Maqsudul led a team of Bangladeshi scientists in decoding the genome of a fungi, deadly to jute, in September 2012.
The decoding of deshi jute genome has come as another success in knowing better the world's second most important natural fibre after cotton.
Bangladesh is the world's second largest producer of jute, after India, and the world's largest exporter of the fibre.
Maqsudul, who had earlier decoded the genome of papaya in the US and rubber plant in Malaysia, led the sequencing of both tossa and deshi jute genome.
The initiative for jute genome sequencing began in February, 2008 when Maqsudul started exploring the possibilities along with several other Bangladeshi scientists and academics. The whole process was kicked off with many long distance conference calls between Maqsudul and plant molecular biologists Prof Haseena Khan and Prof Zeba Seraj of biochemistry and molecular biology department of Dhaka University. Then the lead researcher had several meetings with Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury.
Talking to The Daily Star last night, Dr Monjurul Alam, a scientist at Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI), said, "We kept it a secret deliberately when we first decoded tossa jute (in 2010) so that any competitors can't know that we're up for decoding white jute too. Now we can put undisputed claims on decoding both tossa and white jute."
Terming the revelation a great success of the local scientists, the prime minister said, "Our continued success in the research of genome sequence has placed Bangladesh in a dignified position on the world stage."
Using the information on genome sequence, the scientists are constantly engaged in inventing different varieties of jute which would be tolerant to natural adversities and pest attacks, she said.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Maqsudul Alam also spoke on the occasion.
The prime minister said her government has taken steps to establish the intellectual property right (IPR) on jute and all scientific research on jute including its genome sequence.
She said the present government initiated the Basic & Applied Research on Jute Project (BARJ) by providing necessary funds to improve the productivity and quality of jute fibre by utilising genome information.
Blasting the past BNP government for "destroying the jute sector", Hasina said that in collusion with the World Bank, it closed the jute mills in Bangladesh, the highest producer of jute.
"They (BNP govt) closed the world's biggest jute mills -- Adamjee Jute Mills. Thus the international jute market shifted from Bangladesh to India," she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh earned about $ 1.6 billion from jute export last fiscal year and the total earning from this sector was around $ 3 billion in the last three years.