New Bio Fortified Wheat Variety

  • Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, have developed a biofortified durum wheat variety MACS 4028, which shows high protein content.
  • The wheat variety MACS 4028 has been notified by the Central Sub-Committee on Crop Standards, Notification and Release of Varieties for Agricultural Crops (CVRC) for timely sown, rainfed condition of Peninsular Zone, comprising Maharashtra and Karnataka.
  • Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has also tagged this variety under the Biofortified category during the year 2019.

Need

  • In the peninsular zone of India ( for ex. Maharashtra and Karnataka states), wheat cultivation is majorly done under rainfed and limited irrigation conditions.
  • Under such conditions, the crop experiences moisture stress. Hence, there is a high demand for drought-tolerant varieties.

About MACS 4028

  • It is a semi-dwarf variety, which matures in 102 days.
  • The wheat variety has a high protein content of about 14.7%.
  • It has better nutritional quality having zinc 40.3 ppm, and iron content of 40.3ppm and 46.1ppm respectively, good milling quality and overall acceptability.
  • It has shown the superior and stable yielding ability of 19.3 quintals per hectare.

Benefit

  • The new variety has shown the superior and stable yielding ability It is resistant to stem rust, leaf rust, foliar aphids, root aphids, and brown wheat mite

Significance

  • The MACS 4028 variety is also included by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) programme for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to alleviate malnutrition in a sustainable way.
  • An endeavor to tackle the hidden hunger in the rural areas of India is being continued using traditional plant breeding approach to achieve the Vision 2022 “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”, the National Nutrition Strategy.

Hidden Hunger

  • Hidden hunger is a form of undernutrition that occurs when intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals (such as zinc, iodine, and iron) are too low to sustain good health and development.
  • Factors that contribute to micronutrient deficiencies include poor diet, increased micronutrient needs during certain life stages, such as pregnancy and lactation, and health problems such as diseases, infections, or parasites.

National Nutrition Strategy

  • National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) has been published by NITI Aayog in 2017.
  • Vision 2022: “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”.

Objectives and targets

  • 3 point percentage / year reduction in underweight prevalence in children (0-3 years) by 2022 from NFHS-4 levels
  • 1/3rd reduction in anaemia in children, adolescent & Women of Reproductive Age (WRA)

Key strategic areas of action

  • Governance reform
  • Leading by example
  • Convergence
  • Prioritise action
  • Intensification of Counselling to reach the critical age group
  • Continuum of care
  • Innovative service delivery models
  • Community based monitoring
  • Enabling actions

Durum wheat (Triticum durum L.)

  • It is an economically important crop grown worldwide including India. It is being cultivated in 10 to 11% of world area and accounts about 8% of the total wheat production.
  • It is the best wheat for drought conditions or under restricted irrigation conditions of Punjab, M.P., Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh.
  • Durum wheat is mostly used in fast food like noodles, spaghetti, lasagna, vermicelli, macaroni, pasta and many other products.


Biofortification

  • Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.
  • The main underlying assumption for this strategy holds that there can be an increase in nutrient accumulation to plants and, subsequently, to humans, without changing consumption patterns of traditional crop staples.

Examples of biofortification-

  • iron-biofortification of rice, beans, sweet potato, cassava and legumes;
  • zinc-biofortification of wheat, rice, beans, sweet potato and maize;
  • provitamin A carotenoid-biofortification of sweet potato, maize and cassava; and
  • amino acid and protein-biofortification of sourghum and cassava

The Process

Biofortification can be achieved in three ways-

  • Conventional biofortification: Selecting plants which naturally contain higher amounts of a micronutrient of interest and cross‐breeding using conventional methods to produce staple crops with desirable nutrient and agronomic traits.
  • Agronomic biofortification: Use of micronutrient‐rich fertilisers or sprays which are temporarily taken up by the edible portion of the crop.
  • Transgenic biofortification: Inserting genes needed for the accumulation of a micronutrient which would not otherwise exist in that particular crop (either at all, or in a bioavailable form).

Difference with Food Fortification

  • Biofortification differs from conventional fortification in that biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops.
  • Biofortification may therefore present a way to reach populations where supplementation and conventional fortification activities may be difficult to implement and/or limited.

Advantages

  • Biofortified crops offer a sustainable and long-term solution in providing micronutrients-rich crops to people.
  • Furthermore, biofortified crops with increased bioavailable concentrations of essential micronutrients are deployed to consumers through traditional practices used by agriculture and food trade which therefore provides a feasible way of reaching undernourished and low income group families with limited access to diverse diets, supplements, and fortified foods.
  • From an economic viewpoint, biofortification is a one-time investment and offers a cost-effective, long-term, and sustainable approach in fighting hidden hunger because once the biofortified crops are developed; there are no costs of buying the fortificants and adding them to the food supply during processing.
  • Biofortified crops are also often more resilient to pests, diseases, higher temperatures and drought – essential qualities as many countries become increasingly susceptible to climate change.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, March, 2020