Kazakhstan Institute Developing Eco-Friendly Plant Protection, Research May Apply to Efforts to Prolong Life

ALMATY – The Kazakh Research Institute of Plant Protection and Quarantine (KazRIPPQ) with the support of KazAgroInnovation and the Kazakhstan Ministry of Agriculture is now conducting extensive research into the development of biological agents to be used against agriculturally damaging insects.

“During the years of independence, Kazakhstan has rapidly expanded the range of plant products’ procurements. The transition from central planning to foreign trade and market economy has radically changed the system of combating biological risks. It is quite obvious that the work to counter threats of quarantine pests is carried out today, not only in the conditions of sharply diversified imports, but also in the important for Kazakhstan moment when we have begun to restore the agricultural sector of the national economy, thereby providing food self-sufficiency,” says Abay Sagitov, the institute’s director as well as an academician of Kazakhstan National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

The institute was founded in 1958 and its main mission is to help reduce crop losses from pests and decrease the use of pesticides. It conducts basic and applied research in strategically important areas of protective measures against pests dangerous to agriculture and forestry.

Worldwide research is being done into environmentally friendly technologies for plant protection because the use of traditional pesticides has been shown to damage human health and can lead to soil, air and water contamination.

Participating in international research programmes, as well as utilizing the latest technology and equipment, provides the opportunity for KazRIPPQ to make advances in the field of plant protection and to safeguard the nation’s plant health.

This work has generated strong interest and demand for beneficial insects and biological products among farmers, agro-producers and urban professionals who are responsible for the condition of forest areas. The institute in the near future is expected to launch a laboratory and manufacturing facility for small-tonnage production of biological drugs.

Modern optical devices and other equipment allow the institute’s scientists to conduct high-level research into the morphological features and different parametres of identified insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and weed seeds. Due to the development of rapid diagnostic methods, the institute’s laboratories of virology and bacteriology in recent years have been dynamically evolving. They conduct systemic monitoring of imported seeds and planting material of fruit, berries and ornamental plants.

In order to optimize research and introduce new methods of expertise in the field of plant quarantine, KazRIPPQ has signed agreements with research and production companies, including foreign institutes. Recently, the institute introduced the technology of artificial mass breeding of entomophages and hopes to be a leader in the field of measuring the biological strength, known as bioassay.

“This biological method, first of all, needs to be implemented in the ‘food zones’ around Astana and Almaty and in the regions of cultivation of vegetables, potatoes, fruit and grapes. Bioassay should become the basic method in protection of these fresh-eaten crops,” said Sagitov, adding that the national government has allocated 500 million tenge (US$3.2 million) this year for plant protection.

 

KazRIPPQ Research Assists Other Fields

 

The institute has also collected information that is not directly related to its area of research but rather focuses on prolonging and improving the quality of human life.

Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of the Nazarbayev University and Professor of Medicine Almaz Sharman said during a recent interview that a Centre for Life Sciences will be created in Astana to study the possibility of extending human life. He also expressed the idea of uniting under the auspices of the Nazarbayev University specialists and researchers from different fields of science. In this context, the scientific developments of KazRIPPQ would fall within the goals of the Centre for Life Sciences.

“In the mountains of Zaili Alatau at an altitude of 3,000 metres, we found a very interesting insect fungus called Cordyceps. The pharmaceutical value of the fungus is numerous trace elements. The tissues of insects killed by Cordyceps are not colonized by bacteria due to the formation of fungus of the natural antibiotic Cordycepin, which protects the substrate from microorganisms. Cordyceps ‘lives’ on the plains and open spaces, but only its alpine types have healing properties.  Our country is lucky in this sense: we have the opportunity that must not be lost to extend human life to 150 years,” said Sagitov.

Cordyceps restores renal function and has a pronounced therapeutic effect in the treatment of platelet and leukocyte deficiencies, including during radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as well as in the treatment of diseases of the cardiovascular system, insomnia and nervous exhaustion. It is also effective in the prevention of premature aging, acute and chronic hepatitis and various tumours, as well as in the prevention of respiratory diseases, diabetes and inflammation of the pancreas. Mushrooms such as Cordyceps, Shiitake Meytake and Reishi are considered to be delicacies by some and for centuries were used in imperial Chinese cuisine.

Institute director Sagitov also mentioned that the institute plans to work with the firm Molodit and Chinese scientists to develop the production of drugs from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Research has shown Ganoderma Lusidum treats pigment degeneration of the retina, decline of renal activity, increases visual acuity. It is also believed to have a soothing effect and increase the power of the heart muscle. In ancient China, people believed that Ganoderma granted immortality, said Sagitov.

He added that developing plant-based medicines can also help the country as a whole by attracting foreign investment and offers the possibility of Kazakhstan introducing new patented medications. Kazakhstan is also in a position agriculturally to provide Chinese partners with the bran and wheat they need for their own pharmaceutical production, as well as access for those pharmaceuticals to the markets of the Customs Union, he said.

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