PERFECT BLOSSOM: Research led by a National Cheng Kung University professor had slashed the amount of time needed to obtain results in the breeding of orchids
National Cheng Kung University professor Chen Hung-hua yesterday unveiled the results of her research on Phalaenopsis equestris — an orchid species native to Hsiao Lanyu Island (Little Orchid Island) off the southeast coast — which solved the entire genome sequence of the plant.
Chen led a team of 38 researchers from 13 international institutions and facilities in China, France and Belgium in successfully working out the sequencing of the plant’s 29,431 genes — a feat which they said would benefit future studies on breeding new orchids with shorter blossoming intervals and higher resilience against disease and pests.
According to the team, similar research previously required teams of investigators to work for decades, beginning with the 20 years needed to establish a new orchid species.
Results of controlled experiments on subjects such as the colors and fragrance of the blossoms begin to show only when the plants enter their flowering stage, resulting in a protracted trial-and-error process, they added.
Describing the development of new orchid species as a pursuit that has no certainty, Taiwan Orchid Growers Association chief executive Kao Chi-ching said that the nation’s global success with orchid breeding is built upon the endeavors of those who entered the business 30 or 40 years ago — including some who devoted their entire lives to research, only to find that the results were not very significant.
He said that the findings from Chen’s research team would significantly help the nation in international orchid breeding competitions and boost the competitiveness of Taiwan’s orchid farmers.
An article by Chen and her team was the cover story for Monday’s edition of the journal Nature Genetics.
By Wu Po-hsuan / Staff reporter