Ludhiana: From lab to farm in half the time, PAU’s crop breeding centre paves the way - Hindustan Times
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Ludhiana: From lab to farm in half the time, PAU’s crop breeding centre paves the way

By, Ludhiana
Mar 18, 2024 10:52 PM IST

Dr Parveen Chhuneja, director, School of Agricultural Biotechnology, said that over five 500 square metres facility was equipped with helio-spectrum lights, air-conditioning and humidifiers that could create the kind of atmospheric conditions required to get the plant to mature faster

Punjab Agricultural University’s (PAU) recently-opened fast crop breeding centre, the first of its kind in any national institute in the country, will prove as a boon for farmers as it is expected to cut down the research time on a new hybrid by half, which usually used to take at least 12 years of testing time to reach the farm.

Research scientists working at the AccelBreed centre in the School of Agricultural Biotechnology at PAU in Ludhiana on Monday. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)
Research scientists working at the AccelBreed centre in the School of Agricultural Biotechnology at PAU in Ludhiana on Monday. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)

The AccelBreed centre at the School of Agricultural Biotechnology in PAU was inaugurated in January. The centre, which was made at a cost of around 5 crore, at present is experimenting on seven crops: peas, pigeon peas, chickpeas, basmati rice, brassica (sarson), tomatoes and wheat.

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It has eight chambers. One with five tables, three with two tables, and four with one table.

It was developed under the Centre of Excellence project at the Dr Gurdev Singh Khush Institute of Genetics, Plant Breeding, and Biotechnology.

Dr Parveen Chhuneja, director, School of Agricultural Biotechnology, said that over five 500 square metres facility was equipped with helio-spectrum lights, air-conditioning and humidifiers that could create the kind of atmospheric conditions required to get the plant to mature faster.

While the wheat crop cycle takes around six months in a field, the takes around 60-70 days in the facility, Chhuneja said.

“The plant doesn’t know if the light is from the sun or not. If the light is of a particular spectrum, it suffices for photosynthesis,” she said.

“Wheat is a rabi crop and as such it receives less daylight. But when we increase photoperiod (the time in light), the growth accelerates,” she added.

By using the controlled environment, and based on the observations, and conditions, Dr Palvi Malik, one of the project scientists, said the conditions could be adjusted.

The facility provides the researchers with the conditions needed to get six yields to develop stable lines, while also crossing in the meantime to introduce better genes to make plants more resilient to diseases and conditions. This process so far has taken six years. After this, the lines were sent to the field where they were tested in natural conditions to see if they fared as expected. Only after that, the seed thus produced could get to the farmer.

The school, according to Chhuneja, till now was using a PAU research farm in Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, to expedite the process by growing wheat in summer. While that did give them two yields per year, it took a lot of time and money in the logistic process, she added.

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