Biotech potato reduces disease incidence and seed import in Bangladesh
Potato, the dominant vegetable crop in Bangladesh, is grown on 1 million hectare of land which produces around 9 million tonnes annually. The country needs around 1 million tonnes seed pototo each year out of which 2-3% are supplied by the government's Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC). Due to the predisposing conditions in the cropping season, the potatoes are vulnerable to viruses and other pests that poses great havoc to the potato industry.
In the recent past, Government and private initiatives tried to improve the situation by eliminating the viruses and other diseases through meristem culture in around 20 biotech labs in universities, research institutes, and private companies. Apart from these, several private institutes and companies such as BRAC Biotech Lab, Alpha Biotech Ltd, Square Biotech Lab, BADC Biotech Lab, AHZ Biotech Ltd, Hitech Seeds were engaged in producing microtubers and minitubers for disease free potato seeds.
The meristem culture-derived plantlets from the biotech labs are cultured sequentially to produce the breeder seed, foundation seed and certified seeds. With the rapid development of this meristem culture-based, disease-free seed potato production system in Biotech laboratories, the regular import of seed potato from abroad has fallen dramatically and the country is saving huge foreign currency.
At present, elite trained farmers adopted this technology and are already producing breeder, foundation and certified seeds on their own, purchasing the tissue cultured plantlets from biotech labs. Also many companies are employing contract growers to get their seeds grown. The central bank is allocating fund on this project and it is expected that Bangladesh will be self sufficient in seed potato in 10 years time.
Concomitantly, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute has also developed late blight resistant RB potato using its own cultivars in 2006 in collaboration with Wisconsin University and Indonesian University which are currently under glasshouse and field trial.