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Research Insights: A Study on Plant Remains of Ancient Crops

The nutrient value, especially the micronutrients of ancient cereals and pulses is much higher than that of current counterparts. Can history help to transform the tides on the current quality of food and nutritional problems?

Shivani Meena
Long stemmed varieties
Long stemmed varieties

What can we all learn from history for tackling the modern problems in food quality as well as nutrition? Dr. Fritz Heinrich posed this question that is assessing the nutritional components and quality of ancient crops with his colleagues at Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel(VUB).

He explained that “They are doing this with the help of a unique collection of preserved, desiccated plant remains from Greco-Roman of keranis in Egypt”.

These plant remains are now available and allowed for a research group to investigate the nutritional constituents of ancient crops such as nutritional trace elements.

From tall to short crops

Dr. Hienrich with colleagues researched the nutritional composition of ancient crops. Historians largely blamed the poor nutritional constituents of staple crops such as pulses and cereals. On the other hand, the finding suggests artificial fertilizers as the cause of low nutrition of cereals and pulses.

The introduction of Artificial fertilizers during the green revolution caused the plants to grow longer, which ultimately makes the crop more prone to falling and thus leads to loss of yields. To fight against this issue, crop experts developed high-yield varieties with a short stem.

Paying the price for productivity

The reduced nutritional quality was the price for higher yield.” As the yield was going up, the mineral content or the micronutrient content went down” the researcher stated.

In addition to this, it was seen that short-stemmed high variety crops were less efficient in routing micronutrients to their grain kernels.

Early findings

The cereals and pulses being studied by VUB researchers include rolled barley, lupins, safflower, and lentils. Using ICP-MS technology, the researchers can assess the micronutrient composition of the crops as well as the number of contaminants.

The researchers were subsequently able to evaluate the micro nutritional profile of the preserved organic material to current crops obtained nearby in Egypt, and also modern crops.

The researcher explained that there are many interesting Observations that the delegates of the team have already made. The most important finding is that the micronutrient content of the ancient crop is greater than that of modern counterparts especially when it comes to the mineral Iron. The Iron content of ancient crops is 45% higher than that of modern crops.

In addition to this, they also find out that the pollutants in ancient crops were less than that of modern crops.

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