Indian government limits movement of seed potatoes to contain Potato Cyst Nematodes

Farmland in the Lahaul and Spiti valley (Courtesy: Jai Kumar / Tribune India)

In the gazette of India on October 12, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare had issued a notification that in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 4A of the Destructive Insects and Pests act 1914, the Central Government hereby prohibit the movement of seed potato from Himachal, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir to other states and union territories due to the presence of potato cyst nematode (PCN), a pest causing significant damage to potato plants.

Movement of potatoes was banned following an advisory from the CPRI.

The ministry has also identified five states including Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal to promote the export of potatoes.

Of course the measure came as a big blow to the farmers directly affected by the transportation ban.

Ramesh Kumar Rulba, Zila Parishad Chairperson, Lahaul-Spiti, a district in Himachal Pradesh cultivating a large amount of seed potatoes said it seemed a deliberate plot of someone to harm the economy of the farmers in Himachal Pradesh.

Update: Ban on marketing of Lahaul seed potato lifted

Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda:

“The Centre has lifted the ban on the marketing of Lahaul seed potato. Lahaul-Spiti is known for producing quality seed potato, which is in huge demand in other states.”
The minister said seed potato in Lahaul-Spiti was found free from potato cysts nematode. In a few districts such as Kullu, Kangra, Shimla and Chamba, where at some places seed potato was found positive for potato cysts nematode, the Agriculture Department would work to make it free from nematode.

The farmers of Lahaul- Spiti expressed their gratitude to the agriculture minister for raising the issue with the Central government effectively. Ramesh Kumar Rulba, president, Zila Parishad, Lahaul-Spiti, said that farmers of the district were greatly relieved. They were in a state of shock after the decision of the Central government to ban seed potato marketing out of the state.

Ramesh Kumar Rulba, president, Zila Parishad, Lahaul-Spiti:

“We are thankful to the minister, who took up the matter with the Centre without any delay.”

“The economy of the farmers in the district depend on potato cultivation and their exports to other parts of the country.”
Source: The Tribune, October 31, 2018
Ramesh Kumar Rulba:

“The decision of the Central Government to ban the marketing of Himachal potato seed in other states has shaken the economy of Lahaul-Spiti, where potato seed cultivation is the main source of livlihood.”

“The Lahaul potato seed has huge demand in other states because of its good quality. Farmers here fetch good price for it every year.”

“But the sudden decision of the Central Government to impose a blanket ban on the marketing of Himachal potato seed will hit the livlihood of our farmers, who are already bearing the brunt of snow this year.”
He called on the state government and the Central Government to offer a solution to the problem.

In Lahaul-Spiti, around 1,000 hectare land was covered under potato seed cultivation and estimate production of the crop was one lakh quintal (10,000 tonnes).

Dr Jayant Ratna, Agriculture Development Officer, Lahaul-Spiti, said earlier that the department took potato samples in Lahaul-Spiti to analyse the presence of potato cyst nematode.

Out of the 12 samples, two were found positive.

Update on Samples

According to an article in Tribune India dated October 28, 2018, Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda said the Agriculture Department took samples of potato seed from different parts of the state and found that these had the presence of potato cyst nematode.

He said 26 samples were taken from Lahaul and Spiti district and all were found negative and free from potato cyst nematode. Seven samples were taken from Kangra and all were found positive for the presence of potato cyst nematode. In Rohru area 15 samples were taken and a few were found positive. In Kullu district, all nine samples were found positive. In Chamba district, one sample was found positive.
Meanwhile, the government of Himachal Pradesh has set up a five-member high-level committee to assess veracity of the identified ‘potatoes cyst’ in the produce.

The committee will be headed by Desh Raj, director, state agriculture department. Other members include Ashwani Sharma, principal scientist and CPRI head, Kufri, Anjua Khanna, head of entomology department, Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry and Sanjay Sharma, director, seed certification centre, Shimla.

Dr Ram Lal Markanda, agriculture minister Himachal Pradesh:

“We have constituted a committee to ascertain the extent of virus in potato produce in the state. The Central Potatoes Research Institute (CPRI) had drawn samples from Shimla and Una, and not from Lahaul and Spiti.”

“The team will now draw samples from the spot where we received reports about the presence of pest in Lahaul and Spiti.”
Potato cyst nematode (PCN) is a serious pest of potatoes world-wide and is subject to stringent quarantine and/or regulatory procedures wherever it occurs. PCN can be a devastating pest for potatoes in temperate regions, if not controlled.

Infested plants are stunted and may wilt, with leaves turning yellow or displaying a dull colour. Affected plants have a reduced root system which is abnormally branched and brownish in colour. At flowering or later, minute white, yellow or brown spheres or cysts, about the size of a pin head (0.5 mm), can be seen on the outside of roots.