Wheat is staple food crop and important source of calories for all economic sections of society especially in North India. According to Global Food Security Index 2016, 15.2% of the Indian population is undernourished. India also has the high diabetes prevalence (9.3%) according to Diabetes Atlas 2015 and it is on rise in urban poor population. Higher body weight and cholesterol are also major problems. This is the result of sedentary lifestyle and bad food choices. NABI has developed Biofortifiedcoloured wheat (black, blue, purple) with high anthocyanin content 40-140 ppm) compared to white wheat (5-15 ppm). It is rich in Anthocyanins- a pigment that can impart health benefits similar to fruits like blueberries. But fruits are also rich in sugars that have bad effect on health. Anthocyaninsact as antioxidants and remove free radicals from the body and help in prevention of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, inflammation, cancer, obesity and aging. Coloured wheat developed at NABI also has enhanced Zinc content –one of the most deficient micronutrients in the developing countries. Zinc deficiency leads to skin problems and reduced ability to fight infections.
It has been developed by routine way of plant breeding. It has been developed by crossing high yielding Indian cultivars PBW550, PBW621, HD2967 with colored wheat procured from Japan and America. The color is due to genes from wild species. Our work has been published in American journal of cereal science.
We have carried out biochemical, cell lines based and mouse model studies on this wheat. Compared to white wheat, colored wheat lines showed good antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory activity, reduced obesity (high fat diet induced), helped in reduction of blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and formed good quality bakery products.
Last year at farmer’s field average yield of the crop was 13 quintals per acre, some farmers could get as high as 17 quintals per acre in the late sown condition. Average yield of normal white wheat at farmers field was 20 quintal per acre. Produce of last year was purchased at double the minimum support price. This year we are not buying back the produce, rather farmer will be able to keep the produce. We are selling the seeds of purple wheat at NABI @Rs. 1800/- per acre @ 45Kg. Interested farmers can contact us.
Coloured wheat products have been protected by filing patentand registration with plant variety protection and farmers rights authority (PVPFRA). Besides this material has been registered with National Bureau of Plant genetic resources (NBPGR)
Price of products will be higher due to lower yield, but compared to the price of milled rice that sells from Rs. 22/- per Kg to as high as Rs. 150/- per Kg, colored wheat flour price would be much lower (Rs. 35-50/-) with significantly higher health benefits attributed by anthocyanins, zinc and dietary fibers. These days health is gaining priority. Nutritionally enriched wheat will benefit malnutrition, obese and normal population as it can be consumed in significant amount and is reasonably affordable.Coloured wheat is a healthy product that can be consumed daily without guilt.Normal household spend 10 Rupees for daily wheat, but the expenditure on other utilities and food items is much higher (Rs. 100-500/-). Additional cost of 10 rupees is not expected to discourage the purchase of beneficial colored wheat. Several national and International companies have shown interest in development of products from colored wheat.
About the Author :
Dr. Monika Garg is Scientist at National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI), Department of Biotechnology, Government of India at Punjab, India