Ancient wheat variety touted as revolutionary

CHANDIGARH: A 2,000-year-old desi variety of wheat — conserved at a home for destitutes in Amritsar and offered as ‘prasad’ to benefactors — is touted to bring revolution in wheat-growing.

Ancient wheat variety touted as revolutionary

editorial@tribune.com

Ruchika M. Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 7

A 2,000-year-old desi variety of wheat — conserved at a home for destitutes in Amritsar and offered as ‘prasad’ to benefactors — is touted to bring revolution in wheat-growing. This “climate-smart” wheat variety is presently grown on 800 acres in Jalalabad, and has the capacity to redefine agriculture in the state.

Eminent agriculture scientist Prabhakar Rao says two years ago, when he visited a Pingalwara in Amritsar, grains of this wheat variety (low in gluten and glycemic content and high in folic acid) were offered to him as ‘prasad’. This variety with round seeds is believed to have originated near Mohenjodaro and only a small quantity is being cultivated in Pingalwara as a tradition. About 10 grains of this wheat are offered as prasad by Pingalwara – a tradition started by Bhagat Puran Singh, its founder, says Rao.

“We conducted tests and found how this indigenous seed has the capacity to revolutionise wheat cultivation. It requires almost zero input as it is grown without any pesticide or fertiliser. The same seed is to be sown for the next season and the price realisation is high,” he told The Tribune.

Rao said Sona Moti, as this variety is called, is sown on 800 acres. “Even as wheat sowing is on, buyers of this variety have already tied up with farmers, expecting the crop to give a yield of 12-15 quintals per acre (the yield of other wheat varieties varies between 16-20 quintals per acre). My work was not restricted to just finding this indigenous variety of wheat, but also in developing a sustainable business model for farmers, propagating the seeds and marketing the wheat. There is a demand for this wheat variety among consumers who are health-conscious and diabetic. So we created a platform. We have a unified payment interface, Aadhaar, direct subsidy transfer and eNaam. The traceability of the seed is assured. We have roped in 8,000 farmers,” he said.

The scientist said the platform created by them has to be populated by farmers who multiply this indigenous seed, sell it and buyers again multiply and sell it further. With each new level of seed multiplication, farmers who first multiplied it and protected the seed, will get a small royalty.

Rao added that against genetically modified and hybrid seeds, these indigenous seeds are not to be patented and instead should be used by as many farmers as possible. “This variety is resilient to climate change, is a long-duration crop and requires no chemicals or fertilizers. In fact, if you add urea, it will shoot up and die,” said Rao.


Origin & tradition 

This variety with round seeds is believed to have originated near Mohenjodaro and only a small quantity is being cultivated at Pingalwara in Amritsar as a tradition. About 10 grains of this wheat are offered as prasad by Pingalwara to all – a tradition started by Bhagat Puran Singh, its founder.