Thursday, December 02, 2021
Agricultural Biotechnology Division

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Head, Agricultural Biotechnology Division

Dr Zahid Mukhtar

Dy. Chief Scientist

Overview

Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of Pakistan. The sector employees 50% of the labour, contributes about 22.5% to GDP and sustain major industries of the country. Pakistan has one of the fastest population growth rates and food security is the major issue for the nation. The total population of the country is around 220 million which is expected to rise to 250 million by 2025. The success of the Green Revolution of the earlier decades will now have to be repeated through a “Gene Revolution”. 

The Division has gathered research facilities, manpower with sufficient levels of expertise and a critical mass essential to realize goals mentioned above.Research endeavors in Agricultural Biotechnology Division have reached a stage that their exploitation at commercial level is becoming a reality. The program is focused on six different crops including cotton wheat, rice, sugarcane, potato and oil-seed crops (including soybean and canola). Several steps required to take technology to end-users have been taken that include technology transfer to public and private entrepreneurs, patenting of technology, approval for laboratory and field testing of genetically-modified crops by Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and National Biosafety Committee (NBC), Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan. A number of cotton and wheat lines have been approved by the Punjab Seed Council while plenty of others like cotton, wheat and rice are in the pipeline. Similarly indigenously developed insect resistant and herbicide tolerant cotton expressing two (cry1Ac, cry2Ab) and three (cry1Ac, cry2Ab, cp4-epsps)genes have been shared with the breeders at NIAB, NIBGE and NIA. Many different transgenic / genome edited lines having improved traits like fiber quality, biotic stress resistance (chewing and sap-sucking insects), abiotic stress (salinity, drought, frost etc.)tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, disease resistance (CLCuV, late blight, bacterial blight) are in the pipeline and are at different stages of development and testing. 

 

Activities:

Activities in the division are focused to: 

·       Understand problems that limit crop productivity, isolate relevant gene(s) that can confer novel agronomic traits, transform those genes into crop plants and characterize engineered plants under glasshouse and field conditions.

·         Reduce cost of production by developing plants that requires less inputs (such as water, fertilizers, pesticides etc.).

·      Develop and utilize DNA markers for marker-assisted selection of desirable traits. The program is ultimately aimed at characterization and enhancement of germplasm resources in the country which is vital for maintaining competitive edge of the country in agriculture sector and safeguard National interests in WTO regime.

·         Establish and utilize Genomics, Proteomics and Metabolomics tools for understanding key pathways important for crop productivity.

·         Establish gene / genome editing tools for improvement of food crops.

·         Establish bioinformatics facility for provision of services at NIBGE level.

·         Serve as a receiving unit for technologies developed elsewhere using molecular tools for the benefit of the country.

·       Incorporate both formal (M. Phil/Ph.D) and informal training activities for the development of trained manpower in Agricultural Biotechnology. This activity is aimed at providing young talented workforce for speedy accomplishment of research endeavors. 

·         Provide GMO testing, DNA testing, fiber testing and Transmission Electron Microscopy services to the end users in public and private sectors.

 

  

Salient Facilities:

·         Plant growth chambers, growth rooms and containment glass-houses

·         Biolistic guns (PDF-1000/He; Heliose)

·         Electroporation system (BioRad; BTX)

·         Genetic Analyzer (Beckman)

·         Real time PCR

·         Fluorescent microscope, dissecting microscopes, inverted microscope

·         ELISA reader

·         Ultracentrifuges, refrigerated centrifuges, microcentrifuges, incubators, incubator shakers, refrigerated water baths

·         Transmission Electron Microscope, ultramicrotome, vacuum evaporator

·         Insect rearing facility

·         High Volume Instrument (HVI)

·         Nanodrop

·         Ultra-low temperature freezers

 

Support:

·         Higher Education Commission (HEC)

·         Punjab Agricultural Research Board (PARB)

·         Agricultural LinkagesProgramme (PARC)

·         Agricultural Innovation Programme (PARC)

·         Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)

·         International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

·         Asian Development Bank (ADB)

·         Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation

·         Innovate UK

·         International Foundation for Science (IFS)

·         Pak-US ICARDA

·         King Abdullah University for Science & Technology (KAUST)

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