Pakistan is poised to become self-sufficient in potato seed by mid-2022. The country is going to start producing high-quality, virus-free, third-generation potato seed. It will apply the aeroponic technology that it received from South Korea. The move will reduce the import bill for potato seed, which is $400 million per annum. This aeroponic method is for producing pre-basic seed with a higher yield more quickly, more sustainably and with greater profits than conventional methods. The technology is highly suitable for tuber enlargement and easier to supply oxygen to the root zone.
Currently, Pakistan imports about 15,000 tonnes of potato seed from various countries. The availability of aeroponic techniques for potato plants grown with the help of fine droplets without soil or substrate support presents a new hope, said Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC).
The end of import reliance will save the exchequer $400m a year. This technique will lead to higher growth rates and healthy, uniform and vigorous potato tubers. This will make potato production more efficient and reduce the number of cycles in potato seed multiplication, thus reducing the threats to health and quality, he said. Pakistan-South Korea joint activities will help introduce innovation in agricultural technology and techniques in seed development, which will improve smart farming and enhance small farms’ productivity besides increasing income levels of small farmers.
With the special interest of South Korean Ambassador Suh Sangpyo, the transfer of technology became possible following the establishment of the Korea Programme for International Cooperation in Agricultural Technology (KOPIA) at the National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), Islamabad in 2020, with the objective of promoting bilateral cooperation in the agriculture sector. Different potato-growing countries have already started adopting this technology.
Under the agreement, a KOPIA-Pakistan Centre has been established in NARC followed by the establishment of an aeroponic greenhouse. The Rural Development Administration (RDA) of South Korea has provided funds for this project.
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