Micropropagation, a proven means of producing millions of identical plants by culturing plant tissues or organs under germ-free conditions, is an essential component of plant biotechnology.
India has pioneered a number of discoveries in the field of plant tissue culture. Unfortunately, most of these remained confined to the laboratory and were not fully utilized for commercial benefit till now.
Recently however, several plant tissue culture laboratories and commercial facilities have been set up, which are generating quite a large number of tissue culture-raised commercial crops and forest trees. However, India lacks organized testing of the quality of regenerants and freedom from viral comtamination. The most deleterious variants in tissue culture-raised plants are those that affect yields, quality, and carry viral infections that are difficult to diagnose.
To bridge the gap between research and the field and also to testing commercial crops, the DBT (Department of Biotechnology), Government of India, took the initiative of setting up pilot-scale facilities for mass cloning and testing.
The main aim behind the establishment of Micropropagation Technology Parks was to serve as an interface between educational/research institutions and industrial units. In other words, research work supported by Department of Biotechnology and undertaken at other institutions would be translated into technologies, which could be applied at the field level. The proven technologies can then be passed on entrepreneurs/industry for further commercialization. The scope of the production facility was widened and diversified to cover horticultural species also, including fruit crops, ornamental, medicinal plants, and forestry species.
Keeping in view the pressing need for large-scale production of planting material of elite forest tree species, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India had set up two Tissue Culture Pilot Plants (TCPP) for mass propagation of forest tree species way back in 1989. In December 1997, the TCPPs were upgraded into a Micropropagation Technology Park (MTP).
There are six Regional Hardening Units functioning to
provide quality planting material according to the region’s needs.
The Unit at WBCOST, Kolkata, successfully completed the first phase of support and two lakh plantlets of important horticultural and medicinal plants were produced for user agencies. The Unit has also been successful in creating awareness amongst industries/state departments and a number of training programmes etc., have been conducted. The WBCOST is now maintaining the unit; support for second phase has been provided for plantlet production and documentation at the rural level.
At TERI’s North-East Facility in Guwahati, large-scale production of important horticultural crops continued. Need-based research and protocol refinement is also being carried out.
Another regional Hardening Unit has been set up at the Regional Research Laboratory, Jammu for large-scale production of medicinal and aromatic plants and horticultural crops.
A Unit for micropropagation and scaling-up, hardening and establishment of bamboo and other floricultural species was set up at the Regional Plant Resource Centre, Bhubaneswar.
A Hardening Unit was set up at the G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Almora for establishing and providing planting material of endangered species.
At the Haryana Council for S&T, Hisar, the facility
is fully operational and the state government has constructed laboratories
and greenhouses. Large-scale production of sugarcane, eucalyptus and horticultural
crops has been initiated. Plantlets have been provided to user agencies
and state departments. A number of demonstration programmes have been
Biotech parks are being established in Tamilnadu,
Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and other places to promote R&D in all
aspects of biotechnology. The activities in the bio-tech park will include
exploitation of technologies available from various research institutes
and manufacturing of plant tissue culture, hybrid seed production, bio-drugs,
antibiotics, vaccines, organic acids and industrial enzymes.