Two wheat varieties and one pomegranate variety developed by city-based laboratories have been selected to fight malnutrition in the country.
Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unveiled 17 bio-fortified crop varieties. Bio-fortified varieties of rice, maize, peal millet, lentil, groundnut, linseed, mustard, soyabean, cauliflower, potato, sweet yam and greater yam, too, have been identified for the cause.
As much as 15.2 per cent of India’s population is undernourished, and 38.5 per cent children, below the age of five, have stunted growth due to poor nourishment. Thousands of children continue to remain iron and zinc deficient and are experiencing anemic conditions.
Iron, protein, zinc and Vitamin C-rich variants of wheat and pomegranate have been mentioned in the latest book titled ‘Bio-fortified Varieties :Sustainable Ways to Alleviate Malnutrition’, released by the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR).
Agharkhar Research Institute developed the wheat varieties, whereas the Vitamin C-rich fruit has been developed by ICAR-National Research Centre on Pomegranate.
Scientists say that the first wheat variety, identified by the name MACS 4028 (durum), can be cultivated in soil with low fertility, supported by rain-fed sowing, in rabi season. This wheat variant offers an yield of about 19.3 quintals per hectare. While popular varieties of wheat contain less than 10 per cent protein, the MACS 4028 contains 14.7 per cent protein.
With 39.5 ppm and 37.8 ppm of iron and zinc, respectively, the second variety, MACS 4058 wheat (durum), offers an yield of up to 29.6 quintal per hectare. Tests have been successfully carried out of both these variants, which mature in 102 days. They are presently under cultivation in both Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Semi-arid regions are best suitable for cultivating the ‘Solapur Lal’ pomegranate developed by NRCP, Pune. With a yield of 23 to 27 quintal/hectare, this fruit is rich in iron, zinc and Vitamin C.