Life Life

24/01/2019 - 07:17

Ascending the mountain "to save" Ngọc Linh ginseng

Finally, I was also satisfied when accompanying the scientists of Hue University’s Institute of Biotechnology to the mountain of Quang Nam to see Ngoc Linh ginseng to be “saved” with my own eyes. It was more fun to hear about the dream of acclimatizing this rare plant to the Ancient Capital.

In order to get to the ginseng research zone, we had to drive through a very difficult trail

The "First" ginseng and the request

It is no exaggeration that Ngoc Linh is seen as the "first" ginseng. Compared with the superior types of Korean ginseng, Ngoc Linh ginseng has the most ginsenosid (the main ingredient in ginseng) against other species of panax genus in the world. The research results showed that the content of saponin (health-supporting substance) in Ngoc Linh ginseng is very high.

This type of ginseng has up to 24 saponins with the new structure not found in other types of ginseng, including ginseng from the US or Korea, so it is of extremely special value. Unfortunately, in Vietnam, Ngoc Linh ginseng belongs to the group under threat and currently only exists in some botanical gardens in the conservation areas of Quang Nam and Kon Tum provinces.

For more than 10 years, many scientists have pursued the research techniques of propagating and growing Ngoc Linh ginseng. Most of them have chosen the tissue culture because of the satisfactory propagation rate; seedlings have the same characteristics as their mothers, but the effect is not high.

The method the people adopt is to sow the seeds and pluck the seedlings for planting, making the rate of living trees low. Scientists from Hue University are different; they choose the method of applying scientific and technological advances on sexual propagation to improve the ratio and quality of Ngoc Linh ginseng.

The experts exchanged the development of ginseng

There is a big gap between theory and reality. Therefore, when successful in delivering the lecture to Department of Science and Technology of Quang Nam province (in 2016) to win the role of undertaking the project, Hue University experts brimmed with joy mixed with anxiety because of shouldering a great responsibility. The implementation of this project speaks volumes for the ability and desire to develop Hue University Institute of Biotechnology into a research center in Central Vietnam and the whole country.

Eating, sleeping with ginseng

It took more than 5 hours to drive from Hue to the center of Nam Tra My Town (Quang Nam Province). However, it paled by comparison with the next 3-hour journey sitting on the UAZ car over thousands of potholes and a long walk up the mountain to the ginseng research zone.

Researching the 2-year-old ginseng

Nothing is comparable with the hard efforts devoted to Ngoc Linh ginseng. For example, to "save" the ginseng, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Truong Thi Hong Hai, Director of Institute of Biotechnology has regularly "eaten and slept" with the ginseng right at the camp amidst the forest for two years.

At a height of nearly 1,600 meters, pressure changes cause persistent tinnitus for many days. Sleep was also just a few catnaps in the camp; even on account of the cold, the experts had to stay awake at some nights. The pains caused by yellow flies or mosquito bites made everyone’s body full of traces.

Ms. Hai did not hide anything at all. Every time returning to Hue, she had to take anti-inflammatory drugs or malaria prevention ones. The most strenuous thing to mention was to take forest- crossing trips after rain. In the first year of research, there was a female expert who slipped. It was so difficult, but Mrs. Hai revealed that strangely enough, everyone was eager and looking forward to the trip to the mountain "to visit" the ginseng.

On the days of accompanying the delegation in the forest of Tak Ngo Hamlet, Tra Linh Commune, Nam Tra My District, we had a comprehensive view of the scientific experts’ work. Sometimes they were "luxurious" with the image of intellectual researchers, but sometimes when they were muddy, sweated like farmers. Assoc. Professor Dr. Truong Thi Hong Hai shared that to pursue this research direction, Hue experts had to undertake a load of work.

Her pages of note about the ginseng research journey were rising: selecting a quality individual group; studying the factors affecting the germination ability of the seed or studying the factors affecting the survival rate, growth and development ability of the seedlings in the nursery stage; building a model of nursery proactive in some conditions to nurture seedlings before transferring research results to Ngoc Linh Ginseng Center and so on.

The research of germination alone has shown toil. Each seed of ginseng cost up to VND 120 thousand. To perform a related experiment, more than 700 seeds were required. The process of ginseng germination took at least 4 - 6 months. This was also the time when experts are anxious. They did not dare to neglect not to throw tens of millions of dong down the drain, so before conducting the research, they spent many days going on the field trips, reading hundreds of related documents. These all required meticulousness, careful consideration and, more importantly, wholeheartedly cherishing the ginseng

Ginseng researched is developing well

Thirst for bringing Ngoc Linh ginseng to Hue

However difficult the work was, Hue scientists were overjoyed, "Ginseng is a source of life for the people and contributes to enriching the country. Only when we see green ginseng fields do we, research workers, feel satisfied. ”

During the trip, the research owner, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Truong Thi Hong Hai did not hide the thirst for acclimatizing Ngoc Linh ginseng to Hue. Ms. Hai analyzed the height of the ginseng-growing zone from 1,500m, the canopy of primitive old forest. The temperature averages 18-22 degrees C, the day and night temperature amplitude is 5-16 degrees C, and the air humidity is 75-95%.

Ngoc Linh Ginseng is particularly fond of moisture and shade. The climate spectrum, conditions for growing this type of ginseng are very difficult, but Bach Ma is the ideal place to conduct the experiments. "If allowed to do this, we will try our best," Hai said confidently.

The dream of acclimatizing Ngoc Linh ginseng to Hue must be taken into consideration from many sides, but the research into the ginseng in Nam Tra My done by Hue scientists have so far reached two-thirds of the way and showed positive signals. That adds to the belief, if acclimatization can be done, the start-up will be faster thanks to the technological application studied in Nam Tra My.

For a long time, Hue University and the Institute of Biotechnology have always been concerned about the transfer of scientific research on technology to Thua Thien Hue. The thirst for contribution has become greater thanks to better resources when the Prime Minister issued Decision 523 / QD-TTg (May 14, 2018) to approve the project of developing the Institute of Biotechnology under Hue University into a National Biotechnology Center in Central Vietnam.

According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Truong Thi Hong Hai, if the test is done, it will bring great benefit to the province because the "more-precious-than-gold" value of Ngoc Linh ginseng is obvious to everyone. In particular, it can contribute more tourism products such as the ginseng nursery for tourists to visit.

On the days in Nam Tra My, I was told by many Xe Dang ethnic people about the story of becoming a billionaire from Ngoc Linh ginseng. And when leaving this mountainous area, looking at the ginseng nurseries at sunset, recalling the story told by ethnic minority people and the desire of Hue researchers, I thought about the dream of enriching the people of my native land, including the dream of traveling to Ngoc Linh ginseng nursery atop Bach Ma (White Horse) Mountain with white clouds all year round.

Story and photos: Huu Phuc