Plant Biotechnology has been one of the thrust areas of the Department and major programmes have been supported on Forest tree, horticulture and plantation crops. The thrust is on application of tissue culture for regeneration of high quality economically important plant species, demonstration of large-scale plantation and validation of proven technology; germplasm characterization, improvement of crops through molecular biology tools, basic research, genomics initiative; host pathogen interaction, resolving of taxonomic problems by molecular interventions etc.
(i) Goals for 10th Plan
- Promoting application of tissue culture technology at grass root level and its adoption by the end user.
- Developing complete package for improvement of priority crops – Coffee, Tea, Apple, Citrus, Mango, Spices
- Multiplication / micropropagation of elite germplasm of cash crops (such as jute, sugarcane, banana, mango, guava, tea, coffee, spices), important timber and fire wood yielding trees.
- Development and use of micropropagation techniques for multiplication of root stock and scion in important horticultural tree species.
- Post harvest biotechnology for important horticultural crops
- Genetic engineering and molecular biology tools for forest tree improvement including reduction of generation time, production of horticultural and plantation crops with desired characteristics.
- Transgenics for improved yield, stress tolerance, balanced nutrition, keeping quality of flowers, fruits and vegetables, better nutrient and water utilization capacity should be produced.
- Mechanisms to control gene silencing in transgenics should be unraveled and incorporated in transgene technology application.
- Solanaceae genome initiative to sequence chromosome 5 of tomato and functional genomics.
- Unraveling the molecular mechanisms of disease incidence after infection and understanding the mechanism of host pathogen interaction.
- To study the signal transduction pathways in identified plant species so as to understand the mechanisms involved in responding to external stimuli and the process of adaptation to the changing environment conditions.
- Taxonomic identification and cataloguing of species of economic importance through the new biotechnological and molecular tools
- Cataloguing of accessions of wild and land races to study genetic diversity for resolving taxonomic problems.
(ii) Achievements vis-à-vis goals/targets
- Studies were carried out for developing / standardization of micropropagation protocols of important tree species.
- Under the horticulture crops, post harvest studies for improved shelf life of Tomato, Grapes and Banana were supported. Transformation systems have been established. Transgenics of tomato are undergoing field trial. Improvement of selected spices (black pepper, cardamom, ginger, vanilla) through biotechnological tools were supported concentrating on germplasm characterization and conservation and screening for disease resistance, developing improved varieties through transformation and mutation breeding.
(b) Micropropagation Technology Parks (MTP’s)
- Two MTP’s and 6 Regional hardening facilitates supported.
- More than 15 million plant of important species has been produced and field planted. Protocol of Apple and citrus root stocks multiplication have been perfected and are currently being demonstrated. Nearly 15000 plants each have been field planted. In addition the 2 MTP’s have served as a nodal point for supply of virus free indexed material of important germplasm – Bamboo, Apple, Citrus, Vanilla etc. Training of skilled human resource has also been an important activity. Transfer / demonstration of technology at grassroots has been attempted in collaboration with user agencies.
- Large scale production and demonstration of tissue culture raised black pepper was also taken up. 100 ha in 5 states have been covered so far.
- A Mission programme on field Demonstration of quality planting material of Bamboo was initiated with a target of covering 1000 ha in 12 states.
- Field demonstrations of bamboo plantations supported in Uttranchal, Northeastern India and Southern India have covered around 200 hectares
(d) Certification of Tissue Culture Raised Plants
- To ensure quality of planting material in terms of virus indexing and true-to-type a National Facility for virus diagnosis and quality control was set up with 6 satellite centers. Test procedures and diagnostic kits were standardized. A National Certification system is now being evolved. DBT has been authorized as the Certification Agency for Tissue Culture plants. Accreditation guidelines are being developed, alongwith standard for Tissue Culture plants production. Guidelines for potato have been notified. An accreditation Unit has been set up alongwith two referral centres on virus indexing and quality control.
National Certification system for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)
(e) Solanaceae Genome Initiative
- An International Solanaceae Genome Initiative has been launched with the aim of creating a coordinated network of knowledge regarding the Solanaceae family and address various key issues. The long-term goal of the SOL programme is to create a network of map based resources and information and address key questions in plant adaptation and diversification through this International effort. India joined the International ‘SOL’ programme and has taken up sequencing of chromosome 5 (12 Mb). Work has been assigned to three institutions including University of Delhi South Campus (UDSC), New Delhi (5 Mb), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) (5 Mb) and National Centre for Plant Genome Research (NCPGR), New Delhi (2 Mb). Functional Genomics has been supported for three traits of importance – Nutritional Quality, Disease Resistance, Fruit Ripening.
(f) Basic Research
(g) Molecular Taxonomy
- The thrust of the programmes supported under Basic research during 10th Plan was to study the signal transduction pathway in identified plants to understand the mechanism involved in responding to extend stimuli and the process of adaptation to these changed environment conditions. The study aims at identifying the components of signaling pathway with respect to (a) early signal transduction (b) transcription factors involved in gene expression and (c) molecular events leading to protein turn over. The role of hormones light and stress studies on plant behaviour, floral development and root differentiation. R&D projects have been supported.
- Molecular Taxonomic studies were supported on important plant species to resolve taxonomic confusions.
- Fingerprinting studies helped in segregating populations of plant sps. like Acacia catechu, M. latifolia, Solanum melongena species in Cassia, Trigonella, Cajanus species.
(iii) Performance indicators used for measuring success / failure
- Number of protocol developed and transferred.
- Field performance of Tissue culture plants.
- Technologies transferred
- Tissue Culture Protocols developed for important crops – Apple, Citrus have been developed for the first time.
- A National Certification System for Tissue Culture plants has been developed for the first time.
- Publication / patents demonstrations have been established by user agencies.
(v) Constraints / short – falls
- Various protocols developed still need to be taken further to reach the end users.