A team of scientists from Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana are working on a project to clone the famous pashmina goat,the success of which is expected to give boost to the dwindling trade in the sought-after fur.
Under a World Bank aided project,the scientists from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology and National Dairy Research Institute will use somatic cells from the ear of a goat to produce the clone.
“The work on cloning of pashmina goat has begun under an ambitious World Bank aided project National Agriculture Innovation Project in joint partnership between National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) and Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST),” Assistant Director Research,Animal Sciences,SKUAST,Dr Farooq Ahmed said.
Sanctioned by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research,the project comprises four components and has been granted Rs 9 crore aid by the World Bank. Out of this,SKUAST will get Rs 1.80 crore and rest will be given to NDRI,Dr Ahmed said.
The project ‘Value Chain on Zone Free Cloned Embryos Production and Development of Elite Germ Plasma Pashmina’ hopes to change the pashmina production scenario in the state.
Dr Ahmed said a six-member team will use somatic cells of the goat to clone the cell to produce new pashmina goat using a hand-guided cloning technique and the four-phased project would run for next three years.
The scientists would use small tissues from the ear of the goats to start the cloning mechanism. The oocytes (female eggs involved in reproduction) isolated from ovaries would be matured in-vitro (outside the womb and in a lab) and treated with enzymes to clear its outer coating. The egg will then be isolated with the help of a hand held fine blade.
Then somatic cells from the ear of a donor goat will be electro fused with oocytes,grown in the laboratory for a week and the resultant embryos would be transferred to recipient goats for the production of the offspring of desired gender.
One goat gives birth to one offspring a year and a maximum of five in her lifetime but under the cloning methodology,one goat can give birth to over 50 offsprings.
There are over 1,50,000 pashima goats in Chanthang plateau in Ladakh region,which contribute to 90 per cent of pashima wool production in the country.
There are 36,000 artisans associated with pashmina industry in Ladakh and Kashmir Valley and due to downfall in production,the industry is battling for survival.
Pashmina shawls are made from wool of the Pashmina breed of goat,which is mostly found in the Tibetan plateau and Changthan Valley,Karok and Karnaik areas of Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir and Chegu area of Himachal Pradesh.
Known for its softness and warmth,Pashmina is made with the fur of these goats and each fibre is about one-sixth the width of a human hair,and one shawl requires about 24 ounces of wool,the annual output of about four goats.