Artificial seed is an encapsulation of somatic embryo, shoot buds or aggregates of cell or any tissues which has the ability to form a plant in in-vitro or ex vivo condition. Artificial seed is a promising technique for the propagation of transgenic plants, polyploids with elite traits on seed producing plants and plant lines that has problem in seed propagation. Artificial seed is clonal technique and it cuts short the laborious procedure of conventional recombination breeding and can bring the advancements of biotechnology to the doorsteps of farmer in a cost effective way.
A seed is basically a zygotic embryo with food storage tissue (endosperm) and covered with a protective layer and this layer protects the seed against desiccation and increases its durability and protects it against external damages. Seeds with zygotic embryo are combination of sexual reproduction between two parents. After the discovery of somatic embryogenesis in 1950 now it was possible to have the alternate of conventional zygotic seeds. Somatic embryo produces from the somatic cell of single parent. They differ from zygotic embryo because are produced in in-vitro culture technique without protective coats and they do not become quiescent.
There are many advantages of artificial seeds. One of the main advantages is large scale propagation and variety of genotypic plantations. It is also important source of germplasm conservation of superior, extinct and endangered species. Artificial seeds are easy to handle, transport and transport charges are very low due to their small size. In addition during the production of artificial seed one can study seed coat formation, fusion of endosperm in embryo development and seed germination. Synthetic seed production is cost effective when compared to traditional method.
Artificial seeds have a wide range of applications in agriculture.
1) Propagation of hybrid plants is very easy through artificial seeds.
2) Genetically modified crops and endangered species of plants can be propagated through artificial seed technology.
3) Germplasm of elite lines and endangered species can be preserved with artificial seed technology.
4) Cereals crops, fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants can be studied anywhere in the world using Artificial (synthetic) seeds.
5) Genetic uniformity of crops and varieties of crop can be easily maintained by using is Artificial seed technology.
6) Artificial seed provides disease free conditions to plant material or explants which is present inside of capsule.
7) During the production of artificial (synthetic) seed encapsulation herbicides can be added to the formulation, this herbicide will provide extra protection to the explants against pests and diseases.
8) In cross pollinated crops like maize where the production of hybrids is wide spread practice. Artificial seed technology helps in production of hybrids without creation of parental lines that are costly and time consuming.
9) Synthetic seed crops are easy to maintain because of uniform genetic constituent.
10) Artificial seed technology improves the food production and also produces environment friendly plantation.
The writers are from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.