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CATIE Biotechnology Laboratory

The Biotechnology Laboratory was created at the end of the 1970s to develop and promote different biotechnology tools applied to the development of agricultural and forestry genetic resources of strategic interest to CATIE and its member countries.

Since then, the laboratory has made major contributions to knowledge generation about propagation, characterization, conservation and genetic improvement of tropical crops such as coffee, cacao, banana, plantain, abacá (Musa textilis or Manila hemp), roots, tubers, forest and ornamental species, among others. This knowledge has been transferred to a large number of professionals from most of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean through research for master’s degree theses and doctoral dissertations; publications, international training courses, workshops, symposia, technical advising and scientific meetings over time. Cooperation in the context of projects subsidized by national and international agencies and the spirit of institutional service has made these achievements possible with impacts inside and outside the region.

Applied research provides a framework for improving micro-propagation processes toward more efficient multiplication systems in the clonal propagation of selected genotypes. Somatic embryogenesis, organogenesis and cultivation in temporary immersion systems remain key in the micro-propagation of crops of interest.

The laboratory multiplies the F1 coffee hybrids developed in the context of the regional coffee genetic improvement program for Central America, led by PROMECAFE, CIRAD and CATIE for the last 20 years. The hybrids ‘Centroamericano’ (L13A44), ‘Milenio’ (L12A28) and L4A5 are prioritized for propagation, as these have been very well received by some coffee-growing sectors due to their high productivity and tolerance to leaf rust, mainly in middle elevation areas such as Turrialba. CATIE made innovations in the multiplication of these materials and uses somatic embryogenesis to produce juvenile mother plants that will then be used in clonal gardens in the greenhouse, where in a second stage the hybrids are multiplied using rooted cuttings. The combination of these two processes will enable coffee producers to obtain hybrids in a short time at much lower cost. We believe that the new propagation model will allow the integration of producers with large-scale multiplication operations, and most importantly it will facilitate rapid economic access to the hybrids for planting in production systems.

CATIE offers technological tools developed for the propagation of F1 coffee hybrids through the supply of plant material (mother and juvenile plants) and technical training on the stages of the easily implemented process that can be done by coffee-growers at their farms, cooperatives or coffee associations. This technology transfer is made possible by collaborative projects.

Micro-propagation is a powerful tool for the genetic improvement of trees where the genetic gain is evident in the multiplication of the selected clones. The propagation of native species such as Cedrela odorata and exotic species of commercial interest such as teak and melina is developed in our laboratory in joint projects with the collaboration of the Korea Forest Research Institute (KFRI), AECID, the University of Oviedo in Spain, ITCR and CONICIT.

The laboratory provides technical advisory services on topics such as:

  • Development of micropropagation protocols for different species.
  • Commercial multiplication of plant varieties, clones or other genetic materials.
  • Training on somatic embryogenesis of coffee and Musa species and the establishment of cellular suspensions and embryogenic culture management.
  • Installation and training on temporary immersion culture systems using RITA® containers.
  • Training on the cryopreservation of seeds and different vegetative propagules using different techniques.

Contact us!

Dr. María Elena Aguilar Vega
Head of the Biotechnology Laboratory
E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel.:+ (506) 2558-2386
Turrialba, Costa Rica