Agri Business

Blue roti for lunch, purple noodles for dinner

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on May 06, 2019 Published on May 06, 2019

Indian scientists develop coloured wheat crops that pack nutrition

Fancy eating breads of different hues, say blue, purple or black? These coloured breads, which pack more health benefits than those made with your ‘normal’ amber wheat, may come to your neighbourhood departmental store sooner than later.

The choice may not necessarily be limited to bread — you may see ‘colourful’ biscuits, semolina or noodles similar to the purple ones popular in Singapore.

Agricultural biotechnologists led by Monika Garg at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) in Mohali have not only developed these coloured wheat varieties, but also transferred the technology to various companies. A few companies with whom this Department of Biotechnology lab has signed agreements are already growing them.

“We have not released them for individual farmers as they may find it difficult to sell them, at least for the time being,” said Garg, who has been working on these varieties for nearly a decade.

Common wheat varieties grown all over the world are white (or amber) in colour. The unconventional ones get their colour from natural antioxidants abundantly present in fruits such as blueberries, blackberries and jamun.

While a very small quantity of anthocyanins is present in regular wheat varieties, the coloured ones are rich in them. For instance, black wheat packs 28 times more anthocyanins than its conventional cousin.

Health benefits

The coloured varieties offer a lot of health benefits, said Garg. Black wheat, for instance, may help prevent fat deposition, control glucose levels, improve insulin tolerance and lower blood cholesterol, as indicated by mouse studies at NABI. Besides anthocyanins, the varieties have relatively higher levels of proteins and essential micronutients such as zinc. The antioxidants present may also help ward off ageing, obesity and diabetes. The varieties have been developed using classic biotechnology tools that are commonly used by plant breeders. Through continuous breeding programmes over the years, the NABI scientists developed several generations of coloured wheat lines.

When they found them to have adapted well to local climatic conditions and produced satisfactory yield levels, the scientists transferred the technology to some companies. Garg said the institute has already signed MoUs with 10 firms from different States from Bihar to Gujarat and Maharashtra, apart from those in traditionally predominant wheat-producing States such as Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

“We want to make bakery products and atta from these unconventional wheat varieties popular among consumers, so that the benefits of antioxidants can reach the general public through their favourite cereal,” said Garg.

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Published on May 06, 2019
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