Gene transfer is the basis for almost all crop improvement including potato. Wild species of potato harbors myriad of genes providing resistance against biotic and abiotic stresses. Breeders have been tempted to utilize them for incorporating valuable genes ranging from resistance to grain yield, and produce quality. But many sources of useful genes cannot be included in crop improvement programme in potato due to tetrasomic inheritance, asexual mode of propagation, a heavy load of deleterious recessive alleles and varying levels of sexual and EBN (endosperm balance number) incompatibilities. Gene transfer through transformation, though possible, requires identification, isolation and cloning of the concerned genes. Somatic hybridization through targeted protoplast fusion between two dihaploids of tetraploid potatoes, or between a dihaploid and a wild diploid Solanum species across sexual/ EBN barriers, or between two monoploids of diploid/ dihaploid potatoes offers great opportunities for targeted whole genome manipulation vis-à-vis complementation. The technology is slowly being functionally integrated into the potato breeding program in India at CPRI, Shimla by developing parental lines with increased level of resistance against late blight and Potato virus Y.
Keywords Potato, protoplast fusion, somatic hybrid.