Apical Rooted Cuttings Could Make Potato Seeds More Affordable in India
Apical rooted cuttings could be the answer to India’s long-standing potato seed problem by decentralizing seed production and bringing it closer to the production belts, writes Outlook India. Apical cuttings are an alternative to the current aeroponic seed production system.
In India, potato seeds are produced in Punjab using seed plot technique and aeroponic technology and transported up to 2,000 km to potato growing states of eastern and southern India. The high transportation cost is borne by the poor farmers who have to pay high seed prices as well. The spread of aeroponic technology has been limited to Punjab because of its high capital requirement and long gestation period of nearly four years before any return comes in. So an alternative solution for producing convenient potato seeds is needed in the country.
Both aeroponics and apical cuttings involve tissue culture plantlets. In aeroponic, tissue culture plantlets are used to produce mini tubers using capital intensive aeroponic technology in screen houses, whereas in apical cuttings the tissue culture plantlets are used as mother plants in coco pits for producing cuttings.
In six weeks, one mother plant can be multiplied to produce 8 plants and the number goes to more than 15 in 12 weeks. These cuttings are transplanted on the seed bed and once rooted, are moved to net houses or open field for producing mini-tubers or seed tubers. This low-cost technology has been practiced in Vietnam for decades. Based on our back of the envelope calculation, a rooted cutting plant is likely to cost around INR1 or even less, and 25,000-35,000 cuttings are needed per acre. Each cutting can produce 7-10 tubers and sometime even more which are multiplied 2-3 times before being sold to farmers as seed.
According to the report, the International Potato Center in Vietnam is planning to set up an apical rooted cutting facility in Bengaluru in collaboration with the University of Horticultural Sciences (UHS) within their Bengaluru campus. This will include tissue culture facility that will include 20,000 in-vitro plants of popular varieties, 500 square meters temperature-controlled screen houses to produce more than 100,000 cuttings per season and 10 units of temporary net houses with each 0.25 acre to produce seed tubers from cuttings for further multiplications in the open field.
The research is prompted by the fact that in although India is the world’s second largest producer of potatoes, there is a wide variation in yield level within India, ranging from 31.5 tons per hectare in Gujarat to 10 tons per hectare in Assam.
Among different constraining factors for yield growth, the limited availability of quality seed material is considered as the most important factor for lower yield levels in eastern states. The high cost of seed (Rs. 60,000-75,000 per hectare), which accounts for 40-50 percent of the total cost of production, has been a key deterrent for small farmers to take up production in many of these states. So if a low-cost technology can be made available to produce seed potato at a cheaper price then these Eastern and Southern states have immense potential to increase potato production by improving productivity and lowering cost of production.
This is what the Vietnamese researches are trying to achieve in India. The report states that depending on the funding availability, facilities in Assam and Jharkhand will be set up. The locations will be used for demonstrations to progressive farmers and farmers groups along with protocol and complete business plans for them to take up potato seed production using this technology.