The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) of the Ministry of Agriculture is working hard to enhance productivity of fruits and vegetables through tissue culture technology.
According to Mr. Mussie Fekadu, Head of Bio-technology Research Unit, tissue culture is a modern plant biotechnology that is applied in many countries for mass production and superior planting material which is free from diseases. For this reason, tissue culture laboratory is rrequired to maintain high standard and innovative technologies.
Mr. Mussie stated that NARI established a tissue culture laboratory in 2014 at its headquarters in Halhale. The principal objectives of the undertaking were to produce virus free, large scale, healthy and improved high quality plant materials. Furthermore, the tasks incorporate production of genetically uniform and disease-free plant materials; and, rapid in-vitro multiplication which would, in turn lead, to higher productivity per unit area. Currently, the tissue culture laboratory is engaged in producing healthy plant materials of potatoes, date palms and bananas.
Mr. Mussie briefed this newsletter on ongoing efforts and achievements so far of tissue culture technology in the three selected horticultural areas. The scope of work spans three standard phases, namely; laboratory activities, net-shed house production and open field multiplication.
Potato Tissue Culture
In Eritrea, potato productivity was relatively low mainly due to prevalence of viral diseases. These viral diseases entail degeneration which is characterized by decrease in vigor and productivity after successive cultivation from the same lot of tubers. In this respect, production of seed tubers through tissue culture becomes an important mode of rapid multiplication of virus free seed potato. This has been pursued and the laboratory has the potential these days to produce 50-70 quintals of pre-basic (high grade) seeds annually.
As it happens, more than 350 quintals of potato per hectare, far beyond the country’s average, is being harvested in open field multiplication.
Date palm Tissue Culture
Date palm can be propagated through seed, vegetative offshoot and tissue culture. However, vegetative offshoot accumulates several bacterial, fungal and viral diseases which result in decline of productivity. Propagation through seed has many limitations such as seed dormancy, low rate of germination and progeny variation.
However, propagation using tissue culture is seen as one of well-proven innovative methods. Production of disease-free fruits, uniform growth, easy handling during transportation and high survival rate of seeds are among major advantages of using tissue culture approach.
According to Mr. Mussie, date palm tissue culture technology is much more difficult than that of potato and banana. Currently, micro-propagation of date palm has been carried out through somatic embryo-genesis and the ex-plants are found at shooting and rooting stages.
Parallel to this ongoing research in the country, a total of 7,800 vitro- plants of date palm were imported from a well-known tissue culture laboratory and kept at Massawa shed net for hardening. They are now being distributed to potential areas of date palm cultivation in the Northern and Southern Red Sea Regions. The first batch of 2000 date palms have already started to flower and bear fruits.
Banana Tissue Culture
Tissue culture in banana is a relatively simple technique that has been used for commercial propagations in several countries. In Eritrea, tissue culture technology is considered to be an appropriate option to provide sufficient quality and quantity of such materials to farmers. Tissue culture technology will augment easy access of farmers to large quantities of superior clean planting material with higher yield per unit area.
Mr. Mussie underlined that even though banana tissue culture is as its stage, 600 plantlets have been produced so far from Grandnein variety. These have now been planted for trial in Halhale, Golij and Agordet research stations.
Mr. Mussie further stressed that in the coming few years, this particular technology is expected to contribute significantly in higher productivity of the selected fruits and vegetables.
In very broad terms, plant tissue culture is a phased technique of growing plant cells, tissues, organs, seeds or other plant parts in a sterile environment on a nutrient medium. Culture media used for in vitro cultivation of plant cells are composed of basic components of macro and micro elements, vitamins, amino acids, carbon source, gelling agents and plant growth regulators.