Dr. Samir C. Debnath, P.Ag. is a Research Scientist at the St. John’s Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Newfoundland and Labrador and an Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He has authored and co-authored more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals including review papers and book chapters. He has been a keynote speaker and an invited speaker at a number of international and national conferences and meetings, was the President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Institute of Agrologists (P.Ag.) and the Canadian Society for Horticultural Science, and the Editor-in-Chief of the journal: Scientia Horticulturae. He is the Country Representative for Canada and the Council Member of the International Society for Horticultural Science. His research concerns biotechnology along with conventional method-based value-added small fruit and medicinal plant production, propagation and genetic enhancement. Much of his current work focuses on wild germplasm, antioxidant activity, biodiversity and micropropagation for berry crop improvement using in vitro and molecular techniques combined with conventional methods.
Plant tissue culture and molecular techniques are important biotechnological tools that can be used in combination with conventional methods for horticultural crop improvement. Micropropagation is now a multi-million dollar industry and is the most important biotechnological approach practiced all over the world. The technology is used commercially for mass propagation of selected cultivars and parental stocks in a hybrid development program, to maintain pathogen-free (indexed) germplasm and to produce plants all the year-round. DNA markers are used to identify variation of DNA sequences in horticultural plant species, to monitor trueness-to-type of micropropagated plants and to identify germplasm and assess genetic relatedness for practical breeding purposes through genotype selection and proprietary-rights protection. Small fruits and vegetables are health-promoting horticultural crops with anti-tumor, anti-ulcer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. The presentation focuses on: wild small fruit (Vaccinium, Rubus and Fragaria species) germplasm collection, characterization, maintenance and their utilization in hybrid development using in vitro and molecular techniques. Epigenetic studies in small fruit micropropagules and wild berry germplasm biodiversity using various molecular markers will contribute significantly in planning future breeding and production programs of horticultural crops. Emphasis is given with research conducted at St. John’s Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.