With growing awareness on the nutritional benefit of maize and more people wanting to consume complex carbohydrates, the government is trying to fortify it with more beta-carotene (vitamin A). Scientists at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University are trying to develop a fortified hybrid variety of the crop, which will make maize a healthy food alternate for children as well as adults.
TNAU’s department of biotechnology and department of millets are developing the biofortified maize. “The usual hybrid varieties of maize like CO6 have around 0.5ppm of beta-carotene. We are targeting the fortified varieties to have 10ppm of the pigment,” professor of biotechnology Senthil said.
As a result, the usually yellow-coloured corn will have a deeper orange tint. It will make maize richer in vitamin A, essential for healthy eyes, skin and boosting immunity.
Maize is also a considered to be a rich source of other vitamins like vitamin B and minerals like magnesium and potassium. Being a low-fat complex carbohydrate and high in fiber, many dieticians recommend it for weight loss.
While 80% of the maize is consumed by the poultry industry as feed, the remaining 20% is consumed by humans. “It is now being consumed in the form of cornflakes, biscuits and popcorn. Now rotis are made with a mix of wheat and powdered maize,” said Senthil. “Foreseeing an increase in human consumption, especially among children, the government wants to fortify maize. However, overheating maize while cooking could lead to around 20% loss in beta carotene content,” he said.
Maize is cultivated on around 3.6 lakh hectares of land in Tamil Nadu. The acreage vary during the drought years because the staple food is a short-duration crop suitable for cultivation in dry conditions.
The five-year project, which began in 2016, will go on till 2020. It is now in the breeding stage. The biotechnology department has handed over the parent lines with modified genes to the millets department. The millets department will now cross the lines and breed them to develop a new variety of maize.
“We are now breeding the parent lines and are conducting trials of the new varieties,” head of the millets department Ravikesavan said. “We are confident of coming out with a hybrid variety that has the targeted amount of beta carotene.”
Originally posted in The Times of India. See original article link here.