Yield Improvement using Plant Tissue Culture


Plant tissue culture is used for large scale plant multiplication and improvement of crop yields with the help of an artificially simulated culture that supports the growth of an embryo. Production of plants and crop cultivation can be majorly categorised into traditional methods of propagation and those devised in the field of biotechnology. Plant tissue culture is a collection of techniques to grow plant cells, tissues or organs with the help of a homogeneous nutrient culture medium under sterile and aseptic conditions. A single explant can be used to produce plants of the same kind on a continuous scale within a confined space. These plants that are created through this process are cultivated in a simulated environment that is most adequate for its growth. The conditions to provide a nurturing environment for plant growth include pH, adequate temperature, suitable gases and liquid environment as well as a proper supply of nutrients.

This technology germinated from a simple idea by Schleiden and Schwann in 1868 which suggested that a cell is the smallest living unit within an organism. Moreover, if it is provided with suitable conditions- cell division could take place and ultimately a whole new plant could be regenerated. Therefore this method is based on toti-potentiality of the cell. Followed by which; German physiologist, Gottlieb Haberlandt made an attempt to culture a single isolated palisade cell. Although this experiment was not successful, this idea was carried forward and is now a technology that is widely studied. Apart from this field advancing in terms of research, plant tissue culture technology has made industrial progress in the arena of disease elimination, plant improvement and production of secondary metabolites. 

One innovations in the field of plant tissue culture technology would have to be Open plant tissue culture. In this case, a part of the plant body is taken and it is immunized on a synthetically generated bactericidal medium. The sample is cultured under an artificially simulated ecosystem.  Therefore it goes on to form a complete plant eventually while it continuously proliferates. The main region where this technology is different as compared to in virto is the fact plant tissue culture is generally performed in an, “aspectic environment”. In order to provide this sterile environment, supplies for autoclaving, aseptic operation and aseptic environment culture are necessary. Therefore, the technical requirements are strict. Instead of making use of the equipment that provides a sterile atmosphere, this experiment can be performed in the presence of efficient fungicides within a culture medium that has been inoculated. Due to elimination of equipment required to produce a sterile environment- the cost incurred during this process is way lesser because of which this technology is adept for farmers and use in large scale agriculture.

Micropropagation is the most widely used method to produce plant clones. This method is particularly useful for nurturing a culture that is suitable for endangered and threatened species of plants.  This technology is considered to be extremely proficient for crop improvement by the production of somaclonal and gametoclonal variants. Somaclonal variation refers to a progeny of plants with a genetic variation that have been developed with the help of somatic cells in virto. While, gametoclonal variants represent a variation of plants regenerated from gametic cells in culture. 

Plants of superior quality can be developed with the micropropagation technology. Useful variants of plants are regenerated and recuperated in an automated environment designed particularly to enable the growth of the plant. This artificially simulated atmosphere results in useful variants of plants with well adapted and high yielding geneotypes that have better tolerance to stress and high disease resistance. One of the major applications of plant tissue culture is in the pharmaceutical industry. The benefits incurred from a whole-plant system can be combined artificially with those of microbial and animal cell cultures for the production of therapeutic secondary metabolites which are considered valuable. 

Therefore in virto culture plays a key role in the Global market for sustainable crop based agricultural industries. Some of leading markets for in virto culture include North America, Europe, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, India, Central as well as South America, etc. This market is segmented on the basis of Type and Application. The type segment in this section covers the different types of variants under study which is inclusive of reagents, consumables, instruments, etc. The application section takes care of different utilities of these variants which covers scientific research, agriculture, food production, etc. In 2019, the global Plant Tissue Culture Products market is anticipated to extend and further expand with a CAGR of 6.3%.

Some of the leading companies in plant tissue culture include-Plant Biotech Pty Ltd. This company is based in Australia and they are one of the leading contract plant propagation specialist involved in massive scale production of tissue culture plant. Apart from this other companies like CLF Plant Climatics focuses on plant biology instrumentation and plant growth environments. They are suppliers of plant growth and entomology chambers to most of the leading research institutes in Europe. This company is based in Wertigen, Germany. 

One major obstacle faced by the European market is the high labour costs when it comes to skilled manual processes inherent to micropropagation. Therefore due to this particular bottleneck- the European market has not been able to fully exploit this technology. Moreover, this process is applicable only to certain plant species and not all of them. Several plants are unresponsive to tissue culture. Therefore due to these challenges endured by the industry, the competitiveness within this sector in the EU is comparatively low. According to the European market’s perspective, in order to increase the competitiveness within this market two measures can be taken. The key objective here is to optimise the workforce and increase efficiency. Development of high technology micropropagation methods which could in turn reduce labour is a solution that can be devised, followed by the production of plants of a superior quality than those produced with the help of tissue culture. 

The grey areas of the EU plant tissue culture industry described above clearly suggests a new strategic approach which majorly concentrates on extensive research input. According to the cost analysis and the economic drawbacks of this project- a viable step to take was suggested to be mass production of a specific crop. Therefore, studying and understanding the plant tissue culture mechanism and its application as well as the reason for this method to portray selectivity. 

The vision when it comes to talking about future crop production and agriculture would be low input and high productivity as well as quality in terms of the product. To obtain this objective, propagation in virto is absolutely necessary. This is because currently, a large sector of the agricultural field is dependent on propagation by means of traditional methods. The traditional methods are rather slower when it comes to yielding products but with the help of this method, the process becomes faster. During the growth phase of the in virto plants, the plants can be prepared for optimal growth after which it can be transferred to ex-virto conditions. It is observed that after such manipulations, tissue cultured plants outperform traditionally propagated plants. 

Through process innovation other processes such as somatic embryogenesis that could be potentially faster can be looked into. Somatic embryogenesis focuses on propagation in liquid medium or an automated culture.

In order to maintain and improve competitiveness in this field, it is essential to look at the factors influencing the market negatively. Hereafter, 60-70% of the costs incurred in the plant tissue culture industry are the labour costs therefore more effective and cost optimal means of study need to be made use of so that this market can be explored thoroughly. Furthermore, in virto culture is the future of sustainable forests and improved crop production in Europe as well as on a global scale. 

Currently, North America is the largest supplier in the cell and tissue culture market followed by Canada. This is majorly due to increased R&D in this field which causes a consequent amount of technology advancement thereafter increasing the nation’s market revenue. Asia was expected to experience high growths as well, this is due to the increased outsourcing of biopharmaceuticals in the region. Moreover, infrastructural advancements that support research have also been made in countries like China and India therefore accelerating their market growth. However cost benefactors, strict license and accreditation procedures as well as complexity in cell culture techniques which requires a highly specialised work force are some of the drawbacks of this industry that need to be worked around. 

However, the market revenue can take a huge hit and decrease majorly by the implications of the pandemic since it has been altering the economy. Therefore, since the need of the hour accounts for pharmaceutical products that help prevent or cure the pandemic-plants that have been used for their health benefactors can help with the market revenue.