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AGRICULTURE

India gets first biofortified sorghum with higher iron & zinc content
Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
India’s first biofortified sorghum (jowar), with significantly higher iron and zinc than regular sorghum, was formally launched recently. Developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the improved variety, ICSR 14001, was released as Parbhani Shakti for cultivation by Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth (VNMKV), Maharashtra.

It offers a cost-effective and sustainable solution to address micronutrient deficiency. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was inked by ICRISAT and VNMKV for large-scale seed production and dissemination.

Speaking at the programme to celebrate the launch, A S Dhawan, vice-chancellor, VNMKV, said, “We are glad to partner in this important initiative that offers a solution to a major concern like high anaemia rates among women and children in India. Extensive studies on Parbhani Shakti were carried out on our research fields, and we are happy to partner in efforts that will have a bigger impact.”

Peter Carberry, director general (acting), ICRISAT, said, “Our belief statement emphasises that all people have a right to nutritious food. Biofortification is an important approach we take, as it is cost-effective and sustainable. It addresses hidden hunger with no additional cost to its regular consumers, and often sorghum is the cheapest cereal available in the market.”

Talking of the many advantages of the new variety, Ashok Kumar, principal scientist, ICRISAT, said, “Parbhani Shakti developed through several years of work through conventional breeding has an average grain iron concentration of 45 parts per million (ppm) and zinc 32 ppm.”

“This is considerably higher than varieties that are currently being cultivated in India which have about 30 ppm iron and 20 ppm zinc. Besides it has higher protein (11.9 per cent) and low phytate content (4.14mg/100g) compared to 10 per cent protein and 7mg/100g phytates content in most sorghum cultivars. Low-phytate means increased bioavailability of nutrients. We are very happy that this kind of breakthrough has been achieved in India,” he added.

This improved sorghum variety was developed by ICRISAT under HarvestPlus – sorghum biofortification project and was tested as PVK 1009 in the state of Maharashtra and in the All India Co-ordinated Sorghum Improvement Project (AICSIP) Trials.

It was released as a rainy season variety (Kharif) but it can be grown in post-rainy (Rabi) and summer seasons. The yield levels are higher (more than 5.0 t ha-1) in post-rainy and summer seasons with irrigation. When grown in the summer, it can tolerate higher temperatures (41°C) at flowering and seed setting, but the flowering may be delayed (80 days).

Sunanda Shinde and Ahilyabai Shinde, farmers from Manoli village, Manvat TQ, Parbhani District, were a part of the participatory field trials. They said, “We got a higher yield of 10-15 per cent, and it also has the preferred market traits. This makes it an attractive option, and we are happy we are among the first farmers to use it.”
 
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