In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said the Central Potato Research Station (CPRS) at Muthorai in Udhagamandalam was carrying out research on specific diseases affecting the vegetable and helped farmers address them.
"It is understood from media reports that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has taken a decision to shut down the CPRS, a premier institute," he said in the letter.
"This CPRS is the only station in the whole of south India researching on potato cyst nematode and potato early blight, which are major diseases affecting potato cultivation and help the farmers to keep these maladies in check and grow the potato crop profitably," he said.
CPRS had released India's first nematode resistant potato variety in 1985, which "is still predominantly grown in many areas across the Nilgiris," he added.
The centre was one of the two institutes where potato farmers were getting disease-free seeds, Palaniswami wrote.
If the research station was closed, farmers of Tamil Nadu and other southern states have to depend on the Potato Research Station at Jalandhar, Punjab, which was located far away.
"Moreover, the (potato) varieties of north India are not suitable for southern hills. In the above circumstances, the closure of the said institute CPRS will have detrimental impact on the interests of potato farmers of this state and entire south India," he said.
Potato was being grown in hills in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, with the farmers taking it up over 5,500 hectares in the former, the chief minister said.
Founded in 1957, CPRS has been serving potato farmers for the past 70 years in coordination with the state government as well as with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) and was equipped with a hi-tech laboratory, seed production and multiplication facilities, he added.
He urged Modi to direct the Agriculture Ministry and ICAR not to close the CPRS, Udhagamandalam "in order to safeguard the interests of the potato farmers of this state as well as farmers in other southern states of our country."