The Mundra Date Palm Research Centre (DPRC) has set up India's first field gene bank with an aim to preserve the famed Kutchi dates. Kutch is the biggest date palm producer in India. According to latest figures, the region produces 180,000 tonnes of dates annually.
The cultivation is spread on 17,000 hectares. However, rapid industrialization, pollution and climate change pose a potential threat to several varieties and agriculture scientists fear that these may get extinct if not preserved properly through genetic engineering.
The 1998 Kandla cyclone had ravaged thousands of date palms across Kutch. Moreover, the rapid industrialization in Kutch in last two decades has resulted in vast tracts of agriculture land getting converted into the industrial zones.
Talking to TOI, CM Muralidharan, research scientist at DPRC, said: "The number of date varieties is vast. We have already created clones of 200 varieties over the last three years and are adding more and more. We identify the varieties that are strong and clone them."
Kutch produces dates that are red, yellow and green and there are various sizes of the fruit too. During the process of cultivation, scientists identify certain rare characters in plants which are rare but natural and that can be used in future genetic engineering. In future, they can even create a total new variety from the gene bank using biotechnology.