Dr. Gavino Torno Jr., professor emeritus and UPMSI national scientist at the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute.

Dr. Gavino Torno Jr., professor emeritus and UPMSI national scientist at the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute.

J dropcapames Konstantin Galvez writes in the Manila Times that red algae, or lumut, which many people there consider insignificant, offers huge economic benefits as a source of food and components for industrial products, according to a new study by the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UPMSI).

Dr. Gavino Torno Jr., professor emeritus and UPMSI national scientist recognized for his contributions to marine phycology, cited a particular species known as Halymenia durvillei Bory de Saint Vincent. Japan and Hawaii consume the alga as a component in their vegetable salads and soup. “Derived from this high-value natural product are lambda-like carrageenan and phycobilin pigments, r-phycoerythin and r-phycocyanin, which are extensively used in the cosmetic, biomedical, and pharmaceutical industries,” Dr. Torno said.

Research on the project, which was funded by the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Agricultural Research, started in November 2011. A culture technology was developed for the species using vegetative propagules (cuttings). The studies were conducted at the UP-MSI Bolinao Marine Laboratory in Bolinao, Pangasinan.

Dr. Torno’s team conducted monthly assessments to evaluate the growth and development, and reproductive periodicity of H. durvillei in natural populations in the three sites in Pangasinan: Santiago Island, Cangaluyan Island, and shoreline of Patar.

The study showed that spores prefer to grow and develop in clamshells and coral blocks. The research demonstrated the feasibility of using spores as a source of sporelings for use in the open sea culture system.

“Any successfully implemented project on species with economically important and high-priced natural products will attract business companies,” Dr. Torno said.

At present, one foreign company dealing with natural products from marine resources has already applied for funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for pilot-scale production and processing of natural products, while another big local company has also expressed interest in acquiring the culture technology.