Somatic Embryogenesis in Commercial Crops—An Overview

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  • 1 Centre for Biotechnology, SPIC Science Foundation, 110, Mount Road, Guindy, Chennai600 032, India

Many researchers regard somatic embryogenesis as a system of choice for in vitro propagation of superior varieties of crops such as coffee, mango, datepalm, and rose. While there are advantages, commercialization has not been possible so far in coffee, mango, and rose. The work highlights some reasons for this and feasible alternatives. We have established somatic embryogenesis in four elite Indian arabica coffee genotypes. Plantlets (3500) of all the four varieties are now being field-evaluated. The cost of producing these propagules is 15 times the seedling cost at present. A major constraint is the long time (6 months) needed to reach the five-leaf stage in vitro prior to release for acclimatization. This period can be reduced to 2 months using exvitro development after the two leaf stage. There are many reports of somatic embryogenesis in mango. Results on establishing free-living plantlets have not been encouraging.We found a number of abnormalities in the shape of the somatic embryos in cv. Rumani. However, except for the “rod”-shaped ones (that lacked cotyledonary expansion), all embryos germinated satisfactorily (75% rooting).We have encouraging results in reducing the time required to generate suitable plantlets for field acclimatization and in standardizing the procedures for grafting. Our laboratory has developed methods for ex vitro germination of mature embryos in datepalm,which yield more numbers of free-living plantlets (50%–60%) in only 3 months with an average of four leaves per plant. This compared favorably with in vitro germination that takes 6 months and produces plantlets with one or two leaves only. A novel protocol for obtaining somatic embryogenesis in rose from petal derived calli was developed by us (Murali et al., 1996). The number of embryos induced was too low for commercial application. [Murali et al., 1996. Euphytica 91:271–275].

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