Sugarcane in vitro culture technology: Opportunities for Kenya’s sugar industry
Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) is one of the most important crops in Kenya and has wide range of economic importance. The sugar industry contributes up to 15% to the country’s agricultural gross domestic product and an estimated 25% of the population depends on the industry for their livelihood. However, the industry has been facing several challenges including declining yields due to use of poor quality planting materials. There is an increasing pressure to enhance the productivity of sugarcane in order to sustain profitable sugar industries in Kenya, while there are several diseases attacking sugarcane and reducing its quality. Seed multiplication of newly released varieties of sugarcane is one of the major constraints in Kenya as it takes 6-7 years to produce sufficient quantity of improved seed material. In vitro culture offers a practical and fast method for mass propagation of disease-free clonal materials. Successful protocols for shoot tip culture, callus culture, embryo culture, virus free plant production and somatic embryogenesis have already been established. Thus, in vitro technology can be used to enhance productivity of sugarcane in Kenya. Despite several advantages of applying micro-propagation technique in sugarcane such as quick multiplication of newly released varieties, rejuvenation of old deteriorated varieties; production of disease free seed; easy transportation of seed material; elimination of viruses; high cane productivity and sugar yield etc., this technique is not gaining popularity up to the desired extent. There are several constraints like the high cost of production and appearance of some variants in micropropagated population among others. The present article describes the status, challenges and opportunities of in vitro technology for the sugar industry in Kenya. Though, some problems have now been resolved to considerable extents which have been described in this review however, some constraints still require intensive research work to be resolved so that a safe and efficient exploitation of this technique can be ensured in sugarcane seed production programmes for enhanced yields and quality.
Keywords: Sugarcane, somaclonal variation, in vitro culture, meristems, micro-propagation, callus