KAU scientists use grafting to produce wilt-resistant vegetable seedlings

Vegetable farmers in Kerala can now look forward to better returns, thanks to the success achieved by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) in the fight against bacterial wilt, an infection that has blighted many a crop.

The university has come up with a grafting technology to produce wilt-resistant vegetable seedlings.

The methodology has been standardised following successful field trials across the State over the past one year.

The university has released three wilt-resistant varieties of brinjal, namely Surya, Swetha and Haritha; two varieties of chilli, Ujjwala and Anugraha; and three varieties of tomato, Sakthi, Anagha, and Manulakshmi, all of them suitable for cultivation in wilt-sick soils.

More production

“Immunity to bacterial wilt means a significant enhancement in vegetable production. It is a blessing for the farmers and a small but vital step towards self-sufficiency in vegetable production,” says P. Rajendran, Vice-Chancellor, KAU.

Bacterial wilt is caused by Ralstonia solanacearum, a soil-borne bacteria which enters the plants through root injuries.

Inside the plant, the bacteria multiplies and blocks vascular bundles, the chief conducting system of water and nutrients, leading to sudden wilting of plants.

In Kerala, bacterial wilt is common in brinjal, chillies, and tomato, and occasionally found in cucurbitaceous vegetables such as bitter gourd, snake gourd, cucumber, and ash gourd.

Field trials

“Field trials were successful, and the grafted seedlings are gaining popularity,” says C. Narayanankutty, Professor, Agricultural Research Station, Mannuthy, who developed the technology.

While brinjal and tomato seedlings were grafted onto wilt-resistant rootstock of Solanum torvum, hybrids of chilli and capsicum were grafted on to domestic varieties of wilt-resistant chilli.

Grafted seedlings

The Agricultural Research Station, Mannuthy, started supplying grafted seedlings of tomato, brinjal and chilli in large numbers last year.

“Reports indicate that the technology of combining the yield of hybrids and the wilt-resistance of selected varieties has become a landmark success in vegetable farming in the State,” a university spokesperson said.