Radiation technique helps improve 39 crop varieties

Radiation and chemical-induced mutation and subsequent use in recombination breeding at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has resulted in the release of 39 improved crop varieties in oilseeds and pulses in India, said Dr Ratan Kumar Sinha, Director, BARC, Mumbai.
Delivering the 25th Annual Convocation address of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka, Dr Sinha said nuclear techniques in agriculture is particularly helpful in creating new genetic variability in crop plants, to improve one or two traits in well-adapted variety, to improve vegetatively propagated crops.
“I am happy to learn that our collaborative largeseed groundnut variety TDG 39 (TGLPS 3, Trombay Groundnut Large Pod Selection 3) has entered the seed chain due to large-scale breeder seed production by UAS, Dharwad,” he added.
“This groundnut variety can be of immense benefit to the farming community. I must compliment UAS Dharwad for large scale multiplication of our mutant varieties in order to reach farmers with quality seeds,” he further added.
Pulses are the major source of dietary proteins in India. This year (2011-12) pulse production is at 18 million tonnes (mt), a significant improvement from previous year's 15 mt. Dr Sinha said, “BARC's major contributions have been in blackgram, greengram and pigeonpea. Several of our pulse varieties have early maturity, resistance to diseases and suitability for residual moisture situations in rice fallows.”
“These varieties are very popular in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu. Majority of the mutant varieties have not only benefited the Indian farming community, but also are being used as genetic resource material in national/State breeding programmes,” he added.
While enhancing our agricultural production system itself is a challenge, it is further made tough by post-harvest losses due to microbial spoilage, insect infestation and so on, which add up to 10-30 per cent, depending on the commodity.
“As a nation, we not only need to increase our agricultural productivity, but also focus our attention on post-harvest management of our agricultural produce. Post-harvest technology, for conservation and value addition, is going to play an increasingly important role in the new world order. Radiation processing is one of the upcoming methods to achieve this,” he explained.

Radiation processing

Radiation processing of various foods and food-products involves controlled application of the energy of radiation such as gamma rays, X-rays and accelerated electrons. Dr Sinha said, “This ensures killing of pathogens and storage pests. Radiation processing is used for sprout inhibition in bulbs and tubers, delayed ripening of fruits, shelf-life extension of sea-foods, meat and meat products, hygienisation of spices and for quarantine purpose”.
“Radiation processing can also be used for non-food products such as cut flowers, health foods, herbal and ayurvedic preparations, cattle feed, pet foods and packaging material. It is an eco-friendly alternative to fumigants, which are being banned and phased out due to their deleterious effects on human health and environment,” he added.
The wholesomeness, nutritional adequacy and safety of radiation-processed foods were endorsed by world bodies such as WHO, FAO, IAEA and Codex Alimenatrius Commission.



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