Updated: March 15, 2021 9:11:08 am
A few farmers in Saurashtra have started experimenting with black wheat, a variety developed by the Mohali-based National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI), in an attempt for better earnings and are marketing the product, claimed to be having a range of health benefits.
Paresh Dangodara, a computer application graduate, has sown black wheat in two bigha of land, out of his total holding of 15 bigha, in Vajdi village of Una taluka of Gir Somnath district. Raju Nandvana, another farmer in the neighbouring Bhacha village has sown this variety in 1.5 bigha out of his plot of 15 bigha. Hitesh Kidecha, principal of private management college in Bhacha, has leased six bigha land in Bhadiyadar, Bhacha and Dhokadva villages for sowing this variety of coloured wheat.
“I was working as an e-commerce business development manager in Surat but was forced to return to my village during the Covid-19 lockdown last year. Then I took up agriculture, my passion. After cultivating cotton and groundnut in Kharif season, I decided to do something new in the Rabi season. While searching for new crop varieties, I came across the coloured wheat varieties and decided to experiment with it. I ordered 30 kg seeds of this variety from a firm in Indore,” 28-year-old Dangodara says. His father Nagjibhai is also a farmer.
“As multiple stems grow out of one seed of this variety, only 10 kilograms of seeds is required per bigha as compared to 20 kg for the commonly cultivated varieties in Gujarat. It takes a couple of weeks more for maturing but I expect to harvest at least 12 quintals of black wheat from my two bigha field. This is as good as popular varieties like Gujarat Wheat 451 (popularly called Tukda in Gujarati),” Dangodara, who has also worked for Information Technology (IT) cell of the Una taluka Unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), adds.
“I have not used inorganic chemical fertilisers and pesticides. My wheat is ready for harvest and I already have enquiries from cities,” he says.
Nandvana of Bhacha village followed Dangodara’s lead. “I had sown onion in Rabi season but the crop failed. I asked Dangodara, whose land shares borders with mine, for help and he suggested to grow black wheat. He arranged for seeds and the crop looks good. My elder brother Vijay, who is plumbing contractor in Mumbai and younger brother Jagdish, who is a mechanical engineer and works with a firm in Ahmedabad have promised to help me sell the crop,” says 38-year-old Nandvana who has studied till Class XI.
Kidecha says that he wants to experiment with various crops to provide an option to the next generation. “The first thing a graduate thinks is about landing a job. But agriculture has the potential to offer good returns and help one lead a better life if innovative practices and new crops are adopted. Being a teacher, I wanted to demonstrate that this is doable. I chose black wheat because black crops such as black sesamum seed and black rice fetch higher returns than conventional varieties,” says the principal who has taken land on lease to cultivate the crop.
Dangodara says that he plans to sell black wheat at Rs7,500 per quintal, much higher than average Rs 2,000 per quintal popular varieties such as GW-451 and Lok-1 fetch. “We are confident of finding a market for our product as black wheat, as per Dr Monika Garg of NABI, has high anthocyanin content which is anti-oxidant and which, in turn, can have potential health benefits such as preventing diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, aging, etc.,” says the farmer.
Mukesh Kasundhra, joint director of agriculture (extension) of Junagadh region, which also includes Gir Somnath district, says his office is aware of the experiments by farmers. “A few farmers have sown black wheat on an experimental basis in Gir Somnath, Junagadh and a few other districts of Saurashtra. They are claiming that this variety has added health benefits. But these claims have to be studied. We are talking to scientists of Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU) to get some studies done on this,” Kasundhra told The Indian Express.
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