Loaded with “more nutrition” than the traditional variety, black wheat — developed by the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI), Mohali — has caught the fancy of farmers of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh etc. Experts claim that it is rich in anti-oxidants and helps in delaying ageing and reducing cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other disorders.

Having received an overwhelming response from the farming community from across the region, NABI expects that the area under cultivation would cross over 1,000 hectares in this season.

“Black wheat tastes similar to normal wheat but it has additional health benefits. The benefits are due to the colour-producing anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are anti-oxidants that prevent oxidative damage and help in delaying ageing, reducing cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other disorders. Anthocyanins also have a pre-biotic effect that keeps our gut bacteria happy, that in turn make human body healthier. Black wheat reduces protein losses during cooking,” said Dr Monika Garg, a scientist at NABI and developer of coloured wheat.

Compared to the traditional wheat, the yield of black wheat is lower by 20 per cent. However depending upon the marketing, it can fetch anywhere between Rs 30 kg to Rs 200 per kg to farmers.

NABI first started giving its specialty wheat seeds (purple and black) to companies in 2016 for its commercialisation. Its production, since then, is increasing 10 times every year, according to Monika. Several companies have started selling its atta at online stores like Indiamart, Amazon etc. “In addition to the store sale, this year, NABI is giving seeds to all interested persons. Farmers like growing it in organic way and using it for self-consumption. Its processed products like biscuits are also catching up,” she added.

NABI is continuously working for the fine improvement of coloured wheat. Through continuous research efforts, it has developed new black wheat lines, with soft grain texture that are more suitable for biscuits and cakes, lines with smaller grains, lower glycemic index and blood glucose maintenance properties. Commercial production of new lines will start in the coming years.

Black wheat atta is also being distributed to malnourished kids under the malnutrition removal POSHAN Abhiyan and ICDS by the Department of social welfare, women and child development, Chandigarh Administration.

Source: 22 November, 2021, The Tribune