Biotechnology research at this Institute was initiated through tissue culture studies in late 1970s. Major activities of this section broadly covers developing protocols for meristem culture and in vitro germplasm storage; developing somaclones with improved agronomical and physiological characteristics; developing low cost production technologies for large scale distribution of disease free sugarcane seed material; molecular and transgenic studies for developing a viable and safe molecular breeding programme in sugarcane.

Protocols have been standardised for meristem culture of sugarcane. Several somaclones have been developed through tissue culture with improved productivity and eliminating certain defects like spines, leaf drying, disease susceptibility etc. Improvement in agronomic characters also has been obtained in somaclones. Protocols for in vitro germplasm storage through meristem derived plants with normal root and shoot system maintained in liquid minimal medium have been developed. Micropropagation technique in sugarcane and transfer of this technology to the Industry for adoption is a major contribution. This is now being widely used for the rapid multiplication of commercial varieties and is an important component of the sugarcane seed programme at present. Elimination of sugarcane mosaic virus from infected clones has been found to be effective through combination of heat and meristem culture.

Molecular studies were initiated during the 1990s for characterizing the Saccharum species, related genera and hybrids and to develop strategies for molecular breeding in sugarcane. RAPD and AFLP analysis for the elucidation of molecular diversity among Saccharum complex namely, S. officinarum, S. robustum, S. spontaneum, S. barberi, S. sinense, Erianthus, Narenga and Sclerostachya has been a major area of work by this section. Species and genus specific microsatellite markers and ISSR markers developed by the Biotechnology section are being used in identification of true hybrids. Molecular markers linked to biotic and abiotic stress factors have been identified. The resistance gene analogues are being studied with respect to red rot disease resistance in sugarcane. DNA finger printing of sugarcane varieties is being carried out with AFLP and SSR markers.

Research on transgenics in sugarcane commenced with the development of herbicide resistant plants. This was followed by the production of transgenics for red rot resistance using antifungal peptide DM-AMP1 gene, Rs-AFP2 gene and the chitinase gene. The genetic transformation with borer resistance genes Aprotinin and Cry1Ab was done by particle bombardment and Agrobacterium mediated transformation in sugarcane varieties. The transgene integration and expression were confirmed through southern hybridization and bioassays. A confined field trial of sugarcane transgenics with resistance to early shoot borer has been initiated in 2011. The section has Identified and cloned a new Port ubi2.3 promoter from Portaresia coarctata with higher expression than that of CaMV35S or Maize Ubi1 promoters both in monocots and dicots. A patent application was filed for this newly isolated gene promoter.

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The section has been actively providing training to a large number of under graduate and graduate students in areas of biotechnology. A number of research scholars are also pursuing their Ph.D research degree under the guidance


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