HP govt sets up high-level committee to access veracity of potato cyst

Two weeks after the Central government banned movement of seed potatoes from hill states to the plains, the Himachal Pradesh government has set up a five-member high-level committee to assess veracity of the identified ‘potatoes cyst’ in the produce.

On October 12, the Centre had issued a notification prohibiting the movement of seed potatoes from Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu to other states.

“We have constituted a committee to ascertain the extent of virus in potato produce in the state. The Central Potatoes Research Institute (CPRI) had drawn samples from Shimla and Una, and not from Lahaul and Spiti,” agriculture minister, Dr Ram Lal Markanda said.

“The team will now draw samples from the spot where we received reports about the presence of pest in Lahaul and Spiti,” Markanda said.

The committee will be headed by Desh Raj, director, state agriculture department. Other members include Ashwani Sharma, principal scientist and CPRI head, Kufri, Anjua Khanna, head of entomology department, Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry and Sanjay Sharma, director, seed certification centre, Shimla.

Ministry anticipated presence of virus

Ministry of agriculture in its notification had anticipated the presence of the pest- ‘Potatoes cyst Nematode’ (microscopic parasite).

“There have been reports of pest presence in potatoes produced in regions of the state” said a government official.

It banned the movement of potatoes, following an advisory from the CPRI. The ministry has identified five states including Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal to promote the export of potatoes.

India is second largest producer of potatoes in the world next to China. In 2017 and 2018, the potato production in India was recorded at 48.5 million tonnes. However, India could not tap the Europeans markets due to strict phytosanitary protocol.

Lahaul and Spiti district is the highest producer of seed potatoes in the state. The potatoes produced in the district is disease free and has it’s main market in Punjab, Gujarat and West Bengal.

What is potato cyst

Potato cyst nematode (PCN) is a serious pest of potatoes world-wide and is subject to stringent quarantine and/or regulatory procedures wherever it occurs. PCN can be a devastating pest for potatoes in temperate regions, if not controlled.

It was introduced into Europe from South America in the mid-1880s and was first discovered in Australia in 1986 at Munster in Western Australia. PCN was first found in Victoria in 1991 on potato crops in market gardens in the Wandin-Silvan area and subsequently in several other areas.

Symptoms in plants

Infested plants are stunted and may wilt, with leaves turning yellow or displaying a dull colour. Affected plants have a reduced root system which is abnormally branched and brownish in colour. At flowering or later, minute white, yellow or brown spheres or cysts, about the size of a pin head (0.5 mm), can be seen on the outside of roots.

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 10:14 IST

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