We rarely see the flower of Potato or at least people of these regions are not familiar with potato flower. During the year 1993, I had a chance to see and eye witness the flower of potato in Horticulture seed production farm at Nagicherra, Agartala, West Tripura.
Again, during the 1998 and 2000, I had that opportunity to see the potato flower in potato field of south India. Potato as I know is native and originated in Andes hills but potato now already made India as its second home.
What I learnt is; potato flowering depends on day length that is wherever, there is sufficient day length, flowering induces. In Tripura, since potato is cultivated during the winter season it gets no sufficient sunlight due to shorter day during the cultivation time so, there happens to be only chance flowering.
Now, coming back to my first encounter of potato flower in Nagicherra, Agartala, West Tripura, scientist under the patronisation of State Government had taken up a pioneering move for production of True Potato Seeds.
A good infrastructural facility had been created for production of true potato seeds starting from provision for artificial light to seed treatment and experimental trial etc. I had witnessed the some of the controlled activities that are being required for production of true potato seeds.
Here, what the scientist does are: through enhancement of total day length potato plants are induced for flowering. On flowering, two parental lines of potato are cross fertilised in controlled condition and a seed thus produced is termed as True Potato Seed.
The seeds are very minute, thin and light weight; I find its similarities with Brinjal and chilly seeds at least, as far as shape is concerned. Scientists, there at Nagicherra Horticulture seed production farm had deliberated the techniques and advantage of using True Potato Seeds for production of potato in the state and else where.
It is said that one of the most important advantage in using True Potato Seeds is total cost of production could be significantly reduced and total yield in unit area would be more compare to traditional system of Potato Cultivation.
It was deliberated that total cost of production could be reduced significantly up to 55 per cent compare to traditional system of using seed tubers. Yield level had been projected up to 35 metric tons per hectare.
Here of course, requirement in terms of other basic inputs like fertilisers (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium), manures and plant protection chemicals remains or almost remain same. Now coming to the next most important aspect that is actual cultivation of potato by using True Potato Seeds and how it is achieved.
This involves 2(two) stages of operation one, raising of potato seedlings two, cultivation of potato seedlings in the main field.
Raising of Potato Seedling: -
This involves lots of care start from seed bed preparation to nursing of Potato seedlings. Raised seed beds are prepared with lots of tilling and mixing up of manures etc. In the raised seedbeds of standard dimension (length, width and height) True Potato Seeds are sown in the rows with sufficient space in between seed to seed and row to row.
Immediately after sowing of True Potato Seeds in raised seed beds, watering are must but care should be taken that in the process of watering of seedbeds, no seeds are displaced and uncovered.
True Potato Seeds as sown in the raised seed beds should be provided shed for conserving and maintaining soil moisture. In due course of time, seeds are germinated and tiny seedlings come out.
For enhancing seedling growths, foliar application of urea (0.01 %) is advocated after 2(two) weeks on every alternate day. When seedling reaches to the 25 to 28 days old with 3 to 4 leaves, it is considered to be right time for transplanting in main field.
Transplanting of Potato Seedling in the main field:-
By the time, seedlings are raised, main field has to be prepared with thorough tilt and all the inputs have be applied and finely mixed.
One of the important preparations which need to be done at later stage of field preparation is making ridges and furrows. Ridges of 15 centimetres height and furrows of 50 to 60 centimetres apart in east and west direction are made.
One day before transplanting of potato seedlings, main field is irrigated. Care should be taken that ridges are not collapsed during irrigation that is to say that flooding is not advocated. The furrows which are provision for water channel should be irrigated in 7.5 centimetres height so that ridges are soaked but not swamped.
In the next day, potato seedlings are transplanted in the northern edge of the ridge at half the total height (at 7.5 centimetre height) of ridge. The idea is to protect the seedling from the scorching sunlight. The next follows as usual to normal package of practices.
Expectation and present trends of True Potato Seeds:-
True Potato Seeds is a project that was under taken to revolutionise the potato cultivation in the state by reducing the cost of cultivation and maximising the yields. However, after twenty years of its existence and operation, how much it has penetrated and influenced the potato farmers of the state is important question.
It has been emphasised that True Potato Seeds that are produced in the farm fetches good price and demands in the foreign countries. But, how much it has revolutionised in the state is some what professional do not like to mention.
In Tripura, potato growing belts are south and west districts where potato production is maximum. My analysis on the aspect of adoption of True Potato Seeds will indicate or show the picture.
Potato cultivation by using True Potato Seeds is very meagre and reason for sluggish moment in adoption may be many however, I would like to point some factors that could be acting as barrier.
• New practises involves 2(two) stages of operation so is time consuming and no way required less labour component.
• Transplanting involves lots of sensitive operation which normal farmers failed to activate.
• Field preparation needs extra boost and also demanding for operation like making ridges and furrows with controlled irrigation.
• Many farmers end up with production of tuber lets sized potato tuber instead of marketable sized.
Here, the first two steps that is raising of seedling and transplanting of seedlings in the main fields are more crucial. It is here, most farmers’ fails, therefore, scientist should work on these two areas for devising alternate methods which is pragmatic and practical and also easy to follow.
My opinions in these two areas are; the transition from seedbed to main field should be easy and less risky. It may well be tried by adopting poly bag system of raising seedling which would be easier and less risky in terms of survival of potato seedling in the main field.
Well, a pioneering approach is achieved but roads to reach the destination are yet to be travelled.