Organic potato on the menu

Shimla: With demand for organic produce increasing, Central Potato Research Institute is working towards organic potato production by trying to develop a blight free variety that can be grown in larger quantities.

“Being a highly susceptible crop to fungal diseases,” says Anil Kumar, a senior scientist at the premier institute here “at the moment organic potato can only be grown in a humidity free zones like Lahaul valley.”

Attempts are being made to incorporate a RP gene into the potato gene and it may become possible to develop a blight free variety of potato which could be then used for growing organic crops, he said.

Use of improved seed, crop rotation, manuring through organic materials (crop residues, animal excreta, nitrogen fixing legumes, green manure, off farm organic residues), bio-fertilizers , mineral bearing rocks and management of pests and diseases through non-polluting substances like bio-pesticides are being presently use to grow organic potato, says Shiv Shankar Lal, another scientist at CPRI.

It is by default that in many valleys of Himachal organic potato is grown because the climate monsoon sheltered areas in naturally protective for fungus that wreck havoc in other areas, says Anil Kumar. Kufri Chandramukhi a variety introduced by CPRI has become immensely popular with farmers, he added.

Being the international year of the potato says Anil Kumar, the challenge before scientists was to increase productivity and a concept of green agriculture was being adopted.

“Potato being a highly fertilizer responsive crop, green agriculture helped to minimize use of chemical inputs in the production process and does enable to increase productivity,” he said.

With the aim to create awareness about the role that potato crop can play in world food security, CPRI is collaboration with Indian Potato Association are to deliberate for three days, next week at the Global Potato Conference in Delhi, informed Kumar.

More than 500 delegates from 25 countries are expected to participate where issues pertaining to the expansion of potato production, processing and utilization around the globe to meet challenges of food security under the changed scenario of world agriculture will be deliberated upon.

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