New tissue culture lab in Basra

A new date palm tissue culture lab has been set up in Basra by the Basra Governorate. Following HSAD’s surveys and recommendations, the Governorate has upgraded and equipped the lab, which was approved by USAID on January 14, 2014. It is expected that the tissue culture lab will produce 500 plants in 2014.

Tissue culture plays an important role in agricultural development, and allows the mass production of crop plants, stronger immune defenses, and year round production. Tissue culture involves separating the growth cells from the main body of a plant and then growing them independently in a controlled environment. This means that growth cells can be taken from a plant with good environmental characteristics, and the volume of production can be increased without needing to wait for seed creation and germination. The short production cycle also allows labs to quickly respond to periods of high demand for particular plant species or breeds, such as the most requested variety of date palm – Bahree.

By taking developing cells from a mother plant, production costs are lowered, as no time is spent tending unproductive seeds, and the controlled environment reduces the loss of young plants to bacterial and fungal infections and diseases. By growing the plants in a lab, climatic and seasonal factors are also removed as a potential cause of crop loss, and plants can be grown throughout the year as needed.

Elsewhere, work is progressing well at the Zafrania lab in Baghdad, following training courses run by HSAD. Two procedures have already been carried out, and HSAD’s experts have made regular visits. The HSAD biotechnology team have also visited other labs in Thi Qar and Basrah, and spoken to staff about protocols and future production plans.