Now, a pungent yet healthy mustard oil

Agri-entrepreneur helps take low-erucic acid variety from lab to land.

Written by Harish Damodaran | Published: January 14, 2016 1:30:23 am
A farmer near Nagaur growing Pusa Mustard-30 in his two-acre field. A farmer near Nagaur growing Pusa Mustard-30 in his two-acre field.

A mustard oil that is healthy and yet retains its characteristic pungency is something many consumers — especially in northern and eastern India — would consider as the ideal cooking and frying medium.

That ‘ideal’ combination may have become real now, with the release of a new variety, Pusa Mustard-30. Developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), it has an erucic acid content of less than 2 per cent of total fatty acids. The normal Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) typically have over 45 per cent erucic acid, linked to increase in risk of cardiac muscle impairment.

The high erucic acid levels in Indian mustard have led to a growing market for imported rapeseed or canola oil (Brassica napus). Belonging to the same Brassicaceae family, but of a different species (napus), canola oil has the advantage of low erucic acid (below 2 per cent), but lacks in glucosinolates, organic compounds that catalyse reactions in the broken seeds imparting the pungent taste associated with mustard oil. While the glucosinolates content in Indian mustard is about 150 micromoles per gram of seeds, it is less than 30 for canola.

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Pusa Mustard-30 also offers high crop yields. “The seed yields are 11-12 quintals per acre, with 40 per cent oil content. This is as good as what farmers are getting from regular mustard varieties, though the oil is of much superior quality,” says Bhagirath Choudhary, founder-director of South Asia Biotechnology Centre, which has done the major lab-to-land work of taking Pusa Mustard-30 from the IARI to farmers’ fields.

Choudhary sourced 5 kg breeder seeds of Pusa Mustard-30 from IARI and planted in the 2014-15 rabi season to produce about 30 quintals of commercial mustardseed. In the current rabi season, he has undertaken contract cultivation of the new variety across 110 acres in Jabalpur, Nagaur (Rajasthan) and Moga. “This year, my production should cross 1,200 quintals. I am also paying a premium of Rs 200/quintal over the market price for regular mustard to incentivise farmers to grow this variety,” Choudhary notes.

The 40-year-old agri-entrepreneur has even promoted a separate venture, Arpan Seeds Pvt Ltd, to produce and market the oil from Pusa Mustard-30 under the ‘Lifegard’ brand. “I want to position it as a premium healthy Indian mustard oil. I hope to get some support for this 100 per cent Made in India startup initiative,” he notes.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has also called Choudhary’s initiative as a “first of its kind effort by ICAR-IARI under public-private-partnership mode to launch an indigenously developed health value product with improved oil quality”.

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