Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

In 2018, Abhishek Srivastava (34) from Tandwa village in Uttar Pradesh’s Shravasti acquired seeds of indigenously developed black-coloured wheat, NABI MG, from the Mohali-based National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI). After harvesting 20 quintals from an acre, he posted a video on social media platforms detailing its deserves.

At a time when social media has develop into the go-to vacation spot for these in search of info on rising farm applied sciences, newly-introduced crops, and unique greens and fruits, Srivastava was flooded with enquiries from farmers nationwide.

“I multiplied the F1 hybrid seeds on my farm. I sold 100 tonnes of black wheat seeds, including what I harvested and what I acquired from neighbouring farmers, in the last couple of years. Over 500 enterprising farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat were the beneficiaries, ” claims Srivastava, president, Agri Junction, an Uttar Pradesh authorities initiative with 4, 000 retailers throughout the state. “I am told exporters have taken our black wheat even to Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Black wheat is like odd wheat, however when ripe, its ears flip black. Its flour is greyish, much like bajra (pearl millet) and in contrast to the common off-white wheat. Interestingly, the grain has an extended shelf life. Its flour can be utilized to make meals merchandise made with entire wheat, resembling breads, buns, biscuits, noodles, rotis, desserts and extra. Despite its benefits, not all is properly with this nutraceutical-rich grain, whose fame has been on the wane after the preliminary spike.

Benefits aplenty

“It took us seven years of research and development to come up with NABI MG. This is a cross of the Japanese variety EC866732 with the high-yielding cultivar of wheat, PBW621. It is rich in anthocyanins, protein, dietary fibre, iron and zinc, ” Dr Monika Garg (49), NABI scientist and venture head of black wheat, tells 101Reporters. “The coloured wheat provides more benefits without the risk of high blood sugar.”

A doctorate holder from Japan’s Tottori University, Garg started engaged on the venture in 2011 after NABI procured unique genome plasma from Japan and the US earlier than getting them tailored to India’s environmental circumstances by plant breeding. This is a technique of fixing the genetic sample of vegetation, together with by crossbreeding, to extend their utility for people.

According to Garg, a pioneer in black, purple and blue wheat analysis in India, the color of fruits, greens and grains turns into blue, purple or black attributable to an extra of anthocyanin, a pure antioxidant thought-about helpful for well being.

A excessive amount of anthocyanin is normally present in jamun, blueberries and blackberries.

“In common wheat, anthocyanin content is only 5 ppm. But in black wheat, it is 100 to 200 ppm. There is a difference in the amount of zinc and iron, too. Black wheat contains 60% more iron than common wheat, ” says the Punjab-based plant breeder, who has scores of papers revealed about her work in analysis journals worldwide.

NABI scientists declare that black wheat can scale back the possibilities of cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes and weight problems. Bio-fortified with zinc, it could combat malnutrition amongst kids, one of many well being challenges within the nation.

“The productivity of black wheat, a self-pollinated crop, is about 20 quintals per acre compared to 24 quintals of the high-yielding white variant. The size of black wheat seed is also smaller, ” says Garg. However, there is no such thing as a distinction within the agricultural practices adopted for regular and black varieties.

Initially, NABI transferred the experience to 10 corporations by signing memorandums of understanding with them. However, it didn’t go properly. Presently, the establishment sells its F1 hybrid seeds grown on 10 acres of its Mohali campus to farmers who ask for it.

Uttar Pradesh led the best way

In the previous few years, villages in Prayagraj, Kaushambi, Pratapgad, Varanasi, Chandauli, Raebareli and Gorakhpur adopted black wheat cultivation. It slowly unfold to virtually all of the districts in Uttar Pradesh.

Last October, agriculture division officers in Uttarkashi district initiated a pilot venture for black wheat cultivation in 20 villages of Dunda and Naugaon blocks to extend farmers’ earnings. Strangely, there is no such thing as a coverage in place to encourage black wheat from the Ministry of Agriculture or the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which additionally interprets into an absence of information relating to the acreage and the full variety of households cultivating it. No incentive is given to farmers to develop this grain.

Among those that initially took to the appeal of black wheat was Ravi Prakash Maurya (40), a profession journalist. Having returned to his village in 2016 following his father’s loss of life, he has been cultivating black wheat from 2018 on one bigha in his farm at Mansoorpur in Prayagraj.

Maurya, who additionally cultivates black rice, black tomato, niger seeds, black turmeric and black potato, is a daily invitee to the agricultural festivals held in numerous districts of Uttar Pradesh. He was additionally felicitated by the Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Department for popularising black wheat.

“I am a regular black wheat grower and have so far sold 12 tonnes to farmers keen on growing it in Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and West Bengal, ” he says. “My household has totally given up regular wheat. We consume rotis, dalia, suji and cakes made from black wheat.”

Like Maurya, Atul Singh Rajawat (35) of Urai village in Jalaun district has been rising black wheat on 5 bighas. His harvest has been round eight quintals per bigha. In the final 5 years, he offered 150 tonnes, having reached wannabe growers by Facebook and WhatsApp.

In Rajasthan, district-level award-winning farmer Kishan Singh (64) of Deoli village in Sirohi grows black wheat on two-and-a-half bighas. Ajay Singh (45) of Sikar district, who took to cultivating black wheat three years in the past, will get a yield of 20 quintals from an acre. He has develop into a go-to vendor after a YouTube channel featured him.

Dayaram Chaudhary (64) of Sandera in Tonk district eschewed chemical fertilisers resembling DAP and urea to sow 40 kg of black wheat seeds in a single acre. In return, he bought a yield of 20 quintals. However, there’s extra to it than what meets the attention.

Disenchanted growers

The curiosity in sowing black wheat is slowly waning among the many farmers as shares stay unsold. Kishan Singh has an unsold inventory of 17 quintals from final 12 months’s harvest, whereas Dayaram Chaudhury needed to launch a misery sale final 12 months. Ravi Prakash Maurya has 15 tonnes of unsold inventory in his residence ready for patrons. Normally, the worth per quintal is between Rs 2, 200 to 2, 400, whereas the enter value is Rs 12, 000 to 14, 000 per acre.

“In villages of Prayagraj, farmers have either stopped growing it or reduced its acreage. Similar is the case in other districts, ” says Indrajeet Gupta, who till lately was the District Krishi Sahay Adhikari of Prayagraj and now has been transferred to Kaushambi.

“The sole reason is the lack of a market. No mandi [marketplace] accepts black wheat, mainly because the prospective consumer is unaware of such a product and its merits.”

Only a handful of individuals market black wheat flour. Balkumari Agro Foods of Uttar Pradesh’s Farrukhabad retails it beneath the model title DR RBL’s black wheat flour for Rs 250 a kg. Unwilling to share its gross sales figures, GC Katiyar of the model informs, “Black wheat is not very popular due to a lack of awareness. However, the market is growing as the first-hand experience of its use is getting shared.”

In such a state of affairs, a farmer from Maharashtra is exhibiting the best way forward — specializing in black wheat’s value-added merchandise somewhat than plain flour. For the final three years, Akshay Jagtap (28) of Kinjal village in Satara district has been encouraging farmers to develop black wheat by giving them seeds that he had acquired from a farmer in Indore.

“In Wai taluka, we have eight farmers who collectively grow black wheat on 10 acres. We buy the harvest, paying them an attractive rate. Our women’s self-help groups make dalia, rawa and sewai, which we sell to the shops in Mahabaleshwar, ” says Jagtap.

Can an ecosystem be created for black wheat, in order that farmers proceed to develop it and the neighborhood at massive advantages from it?

“I would suggest that agricultural universities should be involved in popularising it. Food start-ups should be encouraged to invest in it as has happened in the case of millets. Chefs should be onboard to develop recipes, ” Vinod Sharma, District Agriculture Officer, Raebareli, tells 101Reporters. “But most importantly, authorities need to fix the minimum support price of black wheat, introduce it in mid-day meals and distribute it through the public distribution system, ” he says.

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