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Aeroponics for Potato Seed (Mini-Tuber) Production

Potato is vegetatively propagated crops, commonly propagated by the seed tubers. Yield of potato is increasing with decline rate due to use of poor quality of seed by farmer. Farmers are using previous season’s harvested tubers as seed for planting. Such tubers favors a buildup of tissue borne pathogens and this leads to significant loss of yield and tuber quality due to seed degeneration.

Conventional techniques of seed production, involves the use of potatoes that are propagated by harvesting and replanting the tuber in the field, is routinely used by farmers. Although the method is suitable for small scale farmers, it has several disadvantages like disease and pest infestation, labor intensive, time and weather dependent, low yield (8 tubers per plant per growing season), and high land requirement, if seed produced at commercial level. Tissue culture technique, another method of seed production is poorly adopted by farmers due to several reasons, and has limited to production of disease and virus free initial plant material.

Production of disease and virus-free tubers for planting was the major challenge. To overcome the problem of quality potato seed tubers, aeroponics system technology has been introduced for potato seed production.Introduction of this technology in the production of the tubers has revolutionized the potato seed production scenario across the globe.

 

Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.Technology is to grow plants suspended in a closed or semi-closed environment by spraying the plants hanging roots and lower stem with an atomized or sprayed, nutrient-rich water solution. Technology has been successfully used for producing pre-basic potato seed with higher yields (up to 10times higher) more quickly, more sustainably, and with greater profits than conventional methods.

This technology has the following various advantages.

 Healthy plant growth

Healthy growth of plant requires the sufficient supply of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Oxygen (O2) in the root zone for root development and carbon dioxide concentrations ranging from 450 ppm to 780 ppm for photosynthesisis necessary for healthy plant growth. As aeroponics provides air combined with micro-droplets of water and nutrients, roots has unrestricted supply of oxygen, which leads to the healthy root development. Plants in a true aeroponic apparatus have 100% access to the CO2 concentrations for photosynthesis.

Disease free cultivation

As it do not involve the medium for the plant growth, plants remain free from the soil borne diseases.Aeroponics can limit disease transmission since plant-to-plant contact is reduced. It also has advantage of completely removing the diseased plant, if any, without disturbing the other plants.

Improved nutrient feeding

Aeroponic allows a greater range of growth conditions than other nutrient delivery systems. The interval and duration of the nutrient spray, for example, can be very finely attuned to the needs of a specific plant species. As monitoring nutrients and pH is easy, it provides the precise requirements of nutrients for the crop, thereby, reducing fertilizer requirements and minimizing risk of excessive fertilizer residues moving into the water table.

 

User friendly

The design of an aeroponic system allows ease of working with the plants.System can be operated by semi skilled workers.

 

Cost effective

Aeroponic systems are more cost effective than other systems. Because of the reduced volume of solution throughput, less water and fewer nutrients are needed in the system at any given time compared to other nutrient delivery systems. The need for substrates is also eliminated, as is the need for many moving parts.It uses nutrient solution recirculation hence, a limited amount of water and nutrient is used. Observing minituber formation is an advantage so as to get desired size.It also allows several picking during the season and every plant gives about 35-60 mini-tubers. It offers multiple crops depending upon the location. It can be installed in non-arable and water scarcity areas. Cleaning and sterilization of system is easy and cheap.

 

Research tool

Aeroponic system can be used as the research tool for studying the root architecture and nutrient uptake in plant.

 

Space efficient

It is very space efficient compared with the other seed production methods, with plants taking up minimum room. It exploits better vertical space for root and tuber development.

 

High yield

Apart from this many plants can grow at higher density (plants per unit area) than traditional forms of cultivation. The system also produces 324 as against 54 tubers per meter square in conventional methods. It also provides the unique advantage of multiple harvests of tubers.Technology yields Seven to ten times more number of mini-tubers from in-vitro plantlets as compared to cultivation under net house conditions and thirty five to seventy mini-tubers per tissue culture plantlet.

 

Time and weather independent

Aeroponics production system is time and weather independent, making production possible round the year.

 

Rapid

Rate of production of tuber is more is compared to the other methods.

 

Application in other crops:

Besides potato, this technology can also be exploited to other important crops like tomato, strawberry, brinjal, chilli, spinach etc.

 

Business prospective:

This technology has good business potential in India and other developing countries where shortage of quality potato seed material is always a constraint in potato production. The technology has high cost effectiveness compared to other technologies available at present. So far, ICAR-CPRI has commercialized aeroponic system technology to 10 different public and private industries on non–exclusive basis and approximately total revenue of about 65.00/- lakh has already been earned by the institute.

Potential challenges of aeroponics system:

Initial set up cost are much higher than conventional system

Nutrient content should be balanced, as it is the only source of plant nourishment

Strict hygiene standards should be maintained to prevent bacterial and fungal infection to the roots

The system also requires constant power supply throughout the growing season and ant prolong interruption of power to water-pumps may lead to irreversible damages of plants.

The system requires a number of maintenance operations which may be costly

It requires specialized skill and training along with additional knowledge of crop physiology

Aeroponic based seed production system (Taken from the ICAR-CPRI technology Flyer)

Source/Credit: Hemant Kardile, Vinay Bhardwaj, Krishan Gopal, Sukhwinder Singh, RK Singh, BP Singh, SK Chakrabarti

(ICAR-Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, 171001)


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Krishi Jagran