National scientist Ramon Barba, man behind year-round availability of mangoes, passes away

National Scientist Dr. Ramon C. Barba (Photo from DOST)

National Scientist Ramon C. Barba, the scientist behind the year-round availability of fresh mangoes, died on October 10 at the age of 82, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said.

Barba was known for his achievements in the field of plant physiology, focusing on induction of flowering of mango and on micropropagation of crop species that earned him national and international accolades.

“His pioneering work on the induction of flowering and fruiting of mango resulted in the change from seasonal supply of fresh fruits to year-round availability of abundant fresh mangoes,” the DOST said in a statement Tuesday, October 12.

Barba developed the plant growth enhancer called “FLUSH”, which accelerates the growth cycle of the trees and advance their flowering and fruiting stages to assure continuous fruit bearing of mango trees.

“The discovery guaranteed regular or controlled flowering of mango trees and in many dry areas like Cebu and Guimaras, hence, the flowering period for the whole country was not just confined to March and April but has extended to several months, promising a supply of mangoes throughout the year,” the agency said.

According to the DOST, this mango induction technology was patented not only in the Philippines but also in other countries, such as the United States of America, England, Australia, and New Zealand.

“He did not collect any royalty from the patent so that ordinary farmers can freely use the technology,” it said.

“Nowadays, many mango producing countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Australia have adopted the technology for their mango production.

Furthermore, this technology has been successfully applied on other fruit trees including cashew,” it added.

The DOST noted that Barba and his team at the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) at the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños developed the tissue culture protocol for banana in order to produce large quantities of planting materials that are robust and disease-free.

He also established the tissue culture protocol for sugar cane that made possible the rapid production of large quantities of disease-free planting materials.

Barba completed his bachelors degree in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) in 1958. He served as Assistant Instructor from 1958 to 1960 at the Department of Agronomy, Fruit Crops Section, UP Collage of Agriculture, before pursuing his graduate studies in the U.S. from 1960 to 1962 at the University of Georgia for his Master of Science degree in Horticulture, and from 1962 to 1964 at the University of Hawaii with an East-West Center grant.

He finished his Ph.D. in Horticulture in 1967. In 2004, Barba was elected as member of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL), the country’s highest recognition and advisory body to the government and science community on matters related to science and technology.

He was conferred the Order of National Scientist in 2014, the highest recognition given to a Filipino man or woman of science who has made significant contributions in one of the different fields of science and technology.