Recent advances in plant tissue, cell, and protoplast culture combined with genetic engineering have opened up new and exciting possibilities in propagation, gene manipulation, crop improvement, and germplasm conservation in many plant species. Micropropagation has been established as a sound commercial proposition, especially in ornamentals and plantation crops to produce nuclear stock free from pathogens and viruses. Technologies like anther, pollen, and protoplast culture will speed up the process of producing better varieties. All these developments have contributed to the acceptance of in vitro culture techniques as viable and valuable tools. In addition, the potential of in vitro conservation and cryopreservation to conserve genetic resources, plant varieties, cell lines, and pollen through the establishment of in vitro gene banks is becoming a reality. It is now possible to manipulate genetically cultured cells and tissues to produce improved plants and high-value substances.
The cell- and tissue-culture techniques have a tremendous advantage in horticultural crops, especially those that are propagated vegetatively. Ginger is no exception, more so because the conventional breeding programs are hampered due to lack of fertility and natural seed set. Rhizome rot caused by Pythium spp. and bacterial wilt caused by Ralstonia solanacearum are major diseases affecting ginger that are spread primarily through infected rhizomes. Tissue-culture techniques would help in the production of pathogen-free planting material of high-yielding varieties. Since no source of resistance is available in the germplasm, somaclonal variation could be an important source of variability to evolve high-yielding, high-quality disease-resistant lines. Tissue-culture techniques could also be used for in vitro pollination and embryo rescue in ginger. However, the applicability of such techniques depends upon the ability to regenerate plants effectively within in vitro cultures. Protocols for micropropagation, plant regeneration, in vitro pollination, protoplast culture, the development of synseeds, and cryopreservation are available. These can be effectively used in ginger crop—improvement programs. All these aspects are discussed, reviewed, and updated in this chapter.
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