This article throws light upon the five applications of somaclonal variations.
The five applications are: (1) Production of agronomically useful plants (2) Resistance to diseases (3) Resistance to abiotic stresses (4) Resistance to herbicides and (5) Improved seed quality.
Somaclonal variations (and also gametoclonal variations, described later) are highly useful in plant breeding programmes. The genetic variations with desirable (or improved characters), besides the existing favourable characters can be introduced into the plants.
In general, the methodology adopted for induction of somaclonal variations are simpler and easier compared to recombinant DNA technology. Hence, they are preferred by some workers. The important applications of somaclonal variations are briefly described.
Application # 1. Production of agronomically useful plants:
As a result of somaclonal variations, several novel variants of existing crops have been developed, e.g., pure thorn-less blackberries. In Table 46.3, somaclonal variations in a selected list of crops with useful and improved morphological characters are given. The crops include rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, potato, carrot etc.
Application # 2. Resistance to diseases:
Somaclonal variations have largely contributed towards the development of disease resistance in many crops e.g. rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, tobacco, apple, tomato. Selected crops somaclonal variants, with increased disease resistance developed, without in vitro selection and within vitro selection are respectively given in Tables 46.1 and 46.2.
Application # 3. Resistance to abiotic stresses:
It has been possible to develop biochemical mutants with abiotic stress resistance.
i. Freezing tolerance e.g. wheat.
ii. Salt tolerance e.g., rice, maize, tobacco.
iii. Aluminium tolerance e.g., carrot, sorghum, tomato.
Application # 4. Resistance to herbicides:
Certain somaclonal variants with herbicide resistance have been developed. Selected examples are given
i. Tobacco resistant to glyphosate, sulfonylurea and picloram.
ii. Carrot resistant to glyphosate.
iii. Lotus resistant to 2, 4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid (2, 2-D).
Application # 5. Improved seed quality:
A new variety of Lathyrus sativa seeds (Lathyrus Bio L 212) with a low content of neurotoxin has been developed through somaclonal variations.