There’s a new twist to wheat. You now have varied choices of wheat. Biofortified coloured wheat with health benefits similar to fruits like blueberries has been developed.

The National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI), first agri-food biotechnology institute located in Mohali, has developed this variety of wheat by routine way of plant breeding.

“It is rich in Anthocyanins- a pigment that can impart health benefits similar to fruits like blueberries. Anthocyanins can act as antioxidants that remove free radicals from the body and help in prevention of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, inflammation, cancer, obesity and aging,” said scientist, NABI, Monika Garg.

Garg said Anthocyanin rich coloured wheat developed at NABI also has enhanced Zinc content. Zinc deficiency leads to skin problems and reduced ability to fight infections.
Garg said the coloured wheat has been developed by crossing high yielding Indian cultivators with coloured wheat procured from Japan and America.

Work on this wheat was initiated seven years back in 2010. In 2017 around 850 quintals of wheat has been cultivated at a farmers field. The 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 in Punjab is 20 quintal per acre. Coloured wheat was purchased at double the minimum support price of Rs 3250 per quintal. “So most of the farmers were benefited by the cultivation of coloured wheat. We wish to increase the farm income and at the same time give the benefit of its good nutritional quality to the public,” the scientist said.

NABI has signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with BONN group of industries that will be making healthy products from the coloured wheat and is keen on signing MoU with other baking and milling companies also.

Price of coloured wheat products will be higher due to lower yield and benefit transfer to farmers, but compared to the price of milled rice, which that sells from Rs 22 per kilogram (kg) to as high as Rs 150 per kg, coloured wheat flour price would be much lower with significantly higher health benefits, Garg said.