Quality Management in Plant Biotech
Gubba and FSII jointly hosted a virtual webinar on ‘Quality management in plant biotech’ on 29th May. The successful webinar was attended by more than 280 participants.
Ishika Sharma of Gubba welcomed the speakers and the participants.
Ram Kaundinya, DG of FSII, welcomed the speakers. He emphasized the need for maintaining International quality standards in the seeds that we sell in India. He also spoke about the new biotechnology traits that bring additional dimension of trait quality management in addition to the seed quality management. Farmer is the final customer for seeds and seed is the most important input for him. If the quality of seeds and biotech traits is not up to the mark it would lead to low performance of the crop which would make it a serious risk for the farmer’s income and life. If we want to build India as the seed export hub by achieving exports of Rs. 10,000 cr in this decade our seed quality has to be at par with International standards. He urged that seed industry should invest more in quality management and make it a driver of the future value of the industry.
Mr Gubba Kiran, CEO of Gubba group, made a presentation about the capabilities built by the Gubba group in providing various services to the seed industry. He talked about their latest Biotechnology laboratory and how they are offering several testing facilities to the seed companies. Gubba is planning to get deeper into quality testing facilities for seeds which would be a top class set up.
Dr Sanjay Kumar, Director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Seed Science, in his talk, covered a wide variety of topics related to seed quality. The seed certification system the government put in place decades ago has ensured maintenance of good quality in seed supplies to farmers. It is important that seed gives the crop that delivers the characters desired by the end users. Maintenance breeding ensures that seed quality is maintained at the genetic level. The recent advances in molecular breeding have made it possible to use markers for genetic purity testing too. Seed health management and testing are becoming increasingly important due to import and export of seed. Their institute has developed kits to identify seedborne pathogens that cause diseases. This early detection will help in managing the seed quality better. Seed enhancement technologies are the latest in improving seed quality. Seed treatments, seed coating, priming and polymer coating are some of the examples. Radio and electro magnetic treatments, molecular impulse technology are very modern technologies being tried out. Usage of nano particles of Zinc is being tested. Artificial intelligence will help us in future.
Dr Pankaj Bihani, Research Scientist – Biotechnology, Mahyco made a detailed presentation on the processes and technologies used in assessing the quality of seeds with GM traits. He explained the different aspects of detection, identification and quantification of GM traits in seeds using DNA based methods and protein based methods. The DNA based methods are highly sensitive and help us in detecting adventitious presence of GM traits which helps in exports and imports. As the usage of GM traits has gone up tremendously in the world during the last decade the importance of quality management of GM traits in seeds has gone up significantly.
Dr Manjunatha Bhimrao, Seed Quality Testing Lead APAC, Bayer gave a detailed account of the transformation required in quality testing of seeds in India. Current germination tests are slow and lead to delays. The answer lies in automation and digitization of the process to speed up the process. ISTA/Govt accreditations help in managing the transformation to modern methods. Vigour tests are slow and there is always a gap between test results and actual performance in farmers fields. Based on these tests it is difficult to predict how seed germplasm will behave in the future in farmers fields making it difficult to predict shelf life of seed, especially the market returns. Grow Out tests are very slow and time consuming and are based on manual observations. There is a great need to modernize this process using SNP based tests in molecular laboratories, automation and digitization. Seed health testing has to be strengthened by using molecular based assays for key diseases. Virus, Viroids make it very difficult for seed movement across borders. Lack of accreditation for Indian labs for seed health testing is a big constraint. Seed export potential is high but it will be difficult to achieve it without establishing quality labs that are accredited to ISTA, NABL, ISHI, etc. Modern videometer technology is very promising and discussions are being held with ISTA for recognizing the same.
Dr Sunil Kumar, National Manager from Eppendort made a detailed presentation about calibration of critical instruments in quality laboratories. Calibration at regular intervals is very important to maintain reliability of results. The frequency has to be decided by the user based on factors like the load, environment, how many people are using the instrument. But it has to be done every year at the minimum. He explained in details about the Calibration guidelines under ISO 8655, the precautions to be taken and the criteria to be used for selecting the calibration agency. This talk gave good information and knowledge to the seed professionals among participants on this important aspect.
An active session of questions from participants and answers by the panelists followed the above presentations. Dr Sanjay Kumar mentioned that there was a plan under development to set up ISTA accredited quality laboratories in different zones in the country to improve quality testing in the country. It is important for state governments to provide accreditation to good quality seed labs set up by private parties like Gubba. Answering another question Dr Manjunath mentioned that before farmers treat seeds with chemicals in the field they should make sure that they use recommended chemicals and at the recommended dosage only. This will help in improving the germination and vigour of the seed. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can be used in a big way for rapid testing of seeds. This needs to be brought under ISTA protocols. PT sample testing at NBPGR is a challenge and we have to get this system set up to ensure smooth flow of material. Work is going on to give different shelf life validity periods for different crops and in different geographies. Dr Sanjay Kumar mentioned, while answering a question, that Seed Health testing will be a major challenge once the new Seed Act gets passed by the Parliament. Threshold levels will be fixed appropriately and in due course of time all the govt labs would be made equipped to handle seed health testing.
The webinar ended with vote of thanks proposed by Dr Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director of FSII.
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