Of the total 286 reported species of orchids grown in Manipur, the research team of the centre, located at Henbung hill range in Senapati district, has collected 211 species so far apart from the 26 new species found in Senapati and Ukhrul districts, said Vij, who is a retired professor of Punjab University involved with orchid research for nearly five decades.
"We have preserved all the 237 species at the centre's orchidarium and field gene bank. Our team will continue to survey the remaining hill districts of Tamenglong, Chandel and Churachandpur. We are expecting the orchid species count to reach 500 if we scan the entire jungles of Manipur," he said.
Set up in 2010, the centre funded by the ministry of science and technology, is headed by Vij and has around 20 staff, including scientists, technicians and junior research fellows. The centre's host institute is Foundation for Economic and Environment Development Services (Feeds), a prominent NGO headed by Haokholet Kipgen, a former legislator.
On Saturday, the centre's new research and development laboratory building was inaugurated by T Ramasami, secretary of the centre's department of science and technology. Kipgen said the orchids are globally adored, are therapeutically important and are used to cure different human ailments.
Stating that India is rich in orchid resource and the Indian Himalayan region alone is home to nearly 1,000 species, Kipgen said full realization of their economic potential has, however, remained abysmally slow due to lack of awareness about these plants and non-availability of suitable planting materials.
About the centre, Kipgen said it has an ultra-modern laboratory, an orchidarium and field gene bank spread over an area of 250 acres. The centre will make orchid germplasm available to growers, research institute, forest department and different universities of the country, he added.
Kipgen said the centre will focus on training, technology for protecting, restoring endangered species, identification of useful species, cultivation, processing, packaging, marketing and maintain links with collectors, farmers and those who deal with medicinal plants.
RK Kishore, senior scientist in the centre said field survey to collect orchid species will be conducted very soon. SN Puri, vice chancellor of Central Agricultural University, Imphal and deputy commissioner (Senapati) PK Jha attended the inaugural ceremony.