Pakistan has a diverse climate for potato seed production throughout the year but potato yield could not be increased according to its true potential due to poor seed quality used by farmers. Potato is one of the main cash crops Pakistani farmers grow and the country's main horticultural export. It ranks as the fourth most significant crop, mainly contributing to the country's domestic consumption and dietary requirements.
In an interview with WealthPK, Dr Muhammad Iqbal, Principal Scientific Officer at National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), said that 500,000 tonnes of potatoes are produced each year on 194,000 hectares of land. “The potato seeds available in Pakistan are of poor quality. Therefore, Pakistan imports high-quality seeds to meet its demand. In fact, Pakistan imports far less seeds than it needs -- only 15k tons as opposed to the four lakh tons that it needs,” he pointed out.
“The main issue with potato production in Pakistan is plant virus attack. If potatoes are planted with harvested tubers from the previous season, their output is reduced," he added. Dr Iqbal mentioned that every year 10% degeneration occurs due to these problems. “Of the seeds we import, only 2% are certified. The other 98% are informal seeds obtained from conventional methods, and can also be contaminated," he pointed out.
He said Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) is already experimenting with tissue culture and aeroponics to produce potato seeds. “Due to the high initial cost, poor farmers cannot afford to use aeroponic technology. However, if used, it will produce a higher yield of potatoes than those grown in traditional manner. If produced through conventional methods, one plant gives five tuber seeds. But if we produce the same plant through aeroponics, then the plant will give us 40-50 seed tubers,” he said.
The NARC in collaboration with the Korean Program for International Cooperation in Agricultural Technology (KOPIA) has established the third aeroponics greenhouse to produce virus-free seed potatoes for enhancing local output of the crop. Speaking at a seminar organised by the National Institute for Genomics and Advance Biotechnology (NIGAB), PARC Chairman Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali thanked the South Korean government for helping to establish the aeroponics system at PARC Islamabad and providing technical assistance in this respect. He said Pakistan has a variety of climates throughout the year that are suitable for producing potato seeds.
Credit : Independent News Pakistan-WealthPk