Growers’ lack of access to quality potato seed mars yields

ISLAMABAD    -   The potato industry is a critical part of Pakistan’s agriculture sec­tor, contributing to food security, but the growers have limited avail­ability of quality seed varieties, which marred their outputs.

“The availability of high-quality seed varieties is crucial for ensuring optimal yields, disease resistance, and overall crop quality. However, Pakistan’s potato sector has been dealing with challenges related to accessing such quality seeds, lead­ing to implications for the entire value chain,” said Muhammad Iqbal, an official at National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC).

He said growers were faced with scarcity of approved seed variet­ies on the market, which not only reduced potato crop yield but also limited manufacturers’ capacity to satisfy quality requirements and market needs. According to him, around 500,000 tonnes of pota­toes are produced every year on an area of 194,000 hectares in Paki­stan. “Due to its diverse climate, it is possible to produce potato seeds throughout the year in the coun­try. However, the quality of potato seeds available in Pakistan is poor, leading to imported varieties.” He added that Pakistan imported 15,000 tonnes of seeds, which was far less than the required amount of 400,000 tonnes. “Of the import­ed seeds, only 2% are certified, while the rest is informal seeds de­rived from conventional methods, which may also be contaminated.”

Iqbal said that virus attacks and plantations carried out with har­vested tubers from the previous season also reduced outputs. He said that every year about 10% of degeneration occurred. “Addition­ally, the lack of access to modern seed technologies and practices, such as tissue culture techniques and advanced breeding methods, has worsened the problem. Many manufacturers still rely on tradi­tional seed sources, which may not always ensure the desired characteristics and performance levels necessary for competitive production,” he pointed out.

To address these challenges, he called for government support, in­vestment in research and develop­ment, and collaboration between public and private sectors. “Ef­forts to promote the adoption of improved seed varieties, provide technical assistance, and facilitate access to modern seed technolo­gies were needed to enhance the resilience and competitiveness of Pakistan’s potato industry.”

In this respect, he said the Paki­stan Agricultural Research Council was already experimenting with tissue culture and aeroponics to produce potato seeds. He said aero­ponic technology was cost-prohibi­tive for many farmers and therefore not widely used, but it did produce a higher yield of potatoes than the traditional methods. “For example, a plant grown through conven­tional methods will yield five tu­ber seeds, whereas the same plant grown through aeroponics can yield 40 to 50 seeds,” he added. He said NARC in collaboration with the Korean Programme on Internation­al Agriculture had also established the third aeroponic greenhouse to produce virus-free seed potatoes for higher local output.

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