They intend to find the gene that makes it disease-resistant

Scientists are examining the genetic traits of disease-resistant traditional varieties of pomegranate from the Himalayan and Kashmir region to help find a solution to the problems of the pomegranate farmers in South India where high susceptibility of this fruit to disease is a cause of concern.

The idea is to identify the relevant gene in the natural varieties of pomegranates that have survived for hundreds of years in the Himalayan and Kashmir region without succumbing to disease.

Disclosing this to presspersons during his visit to the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research in Bangalore on Friday, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Deputy Director-General N.K. Krishna Kumar said the ICAR had taken up the above project in association with several agricultural universities in the country and the National Research Centre on Pomegranate at Sholapur.

He said scientists were trying to find out if any of the pomegranate varieties from Himalayan and Kashmir region were resistance to diseases prevalent in southern States.

Referring to the huge losses being suffered by the pomegranate farmers due to high susceptibility of this fruit to disease, Mr. Kumar said the problem was basically due to the fact that pomegranate was an arid crop. “Districts like Bijapur and Gulbarga were not irrigated when this fruit was introduced there for cultivation. However, a large part of this belt has now been irrigated with the implementation of the Upper Krishna Project. So the arid crop, which has come from Afghanistan where the weather is very cold and dry, has been brought to a place that has high humidity. This has brought several associated problems like susceptibility to diseases,” he said.

He expressed confidence that it would be possible to tackle the problem by following “good agricultural practices”.

Antioxidant tomatoes

The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) has developed and also patented a technology to for producing a tomato variety with high antioxidant properties which will cater to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry, said Mr. Krishna Kumar. He added that it could be developed by infusing genes from flowering plants.

“However, at present we will not use this technology and its future use would depend on the policy to be adopted by the government on related issues,” the Deputy Director-General of ICAR said, and made it clear that the new patented technology would not be made public at present.

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