Aeroponic Farming To Revolutionise Potato Sector

Published online: May 13, 2023 Articles
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Islamabad, Pakistan - Aeroponic potato farming – a modern technique – has the potential to revolutionise the potato sector in Pakistan.

With the country’s population growing apace and food security becoming increasingly important, there is a pressing need for sustainable and efficient agricultural practices that can increase crop yields while minimising environmental impact. Aeroponic potato farming offers such a solution.

“The development of aeroponic potato seeds is crucial for Pakistan since it has the potential to stop the import of potato seeds in a few years,” said Dr Aish Muhammad, Project Coordinator at the Korea Programme for International Cooperation in Agricultural Technology (KOPIA) while talking to WealthPK.

A potato plant yields five tuber seeds when grown conventionally, whereas an aeroponically grown plant can yield 40 to 50 tuber seeds, he explained. The programme is part of Pakistan-KOPIA cooperation to increase crop production, reduce post-harvest losses, promote farm-level processing, and increase farm revenue, particularly for small landholders nationwide, to reduce poverty in rural regions.

Pakistan cultivates potatoes on about 300,000 hectares, but it imports 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes of potato seeds each year because domestic seeds are of poor quality. The country needs approximately 700,000 tonnes of potato seeds each year, but farmers cannot afford to use the high-quality imported seeds, so their output remains low.

Pakistan can annually save Rs2 billion to Rs3 billion, which it spends on the import of potato seeds, by achieving self-sufficiency in potato seed production,” Dr Aish said. Presently, only one percent of potato seeds are produced domestically, he said. Explaining aeroponic potato farming, he said, plants were grown in a soilless environment with the roots hanging in the air. Instead of being planted in soil, they are grown in a nutrient-rich mist that is continuously sprayed onto their roots.

“This allows for precise control over the amount of water and nutrients that the plants receive and leads to higher yields and faster growth rates,” he said. Although potato is the fourth-most essential and lucrative crop after wheat, rice, and sugarcane, Pakistan faces challenges in potato production due to scarcity of high-quality seeds. More than 50 different potato cultivars are grown in Pakistan, but due to insufficient research and funding, these do not produce any potato seed.

Pakistan has established three aeroponic greenhouses at the National Agricultural Research Centre, Islamabad, in collaboration with the KOPIA, Dr Aish said. Several trained Pakistani scientists are conducting experiments to generate high-quality, virus-free seeds that would provide the highest yields. The surplus seeds could be exported to generate foreign currency. The project aims to establish additional greenhouses at the NARC to produce 400,000 nucleus seed potatoes, and in this way generate 150,000 tonnes of superior fourth-generation potato seeds within five years.

Aeroponic farming offers many advantages over traditional farming. “One of the main issues concerning potato production in Pakistan is virus attack, but the aeroponic technique now available in Pakistan has the capacity to grow 9,200 virus-free plants annually,” the project director said. Another major advantage of aeroponic potato farming is its ability to save water and power. In Pakistan, where water and energy scarcity are major problems, this is a particularly important benefit.

“With aeroponic farming, water is only used to create a nutrient-rich mist, which can be recycled, and there is no need to irrigate the crops. This can result in significant savings in terms of both water and energy,” Dr. Aish said. Aeroponic potato farming also offers high yield potential. Since the plants are grown in a controlled environment, the farmers can optimise the growing conditions to suit the needs of the crop. This results in higher yields per square metre than the traditional farming methods.

“In addition, absence of soil-borne diseases can also lead to healthier crops and higher yields,” he said. Aeroponic potato farming can also help reduce the environmental impact on agriculture. Since the plants are grown in a soilless environment, there is no need for chemical fertilisers or pesticides, which can be harmful to the environment and human health. In conclusion, it can be said that aeroponic farming can help the country ensure food security for years to come.