India’s Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) conducted new research, which was aimed at the quality of food, not just quantity. The focus of the research was on nutritional security, not only “food security”.
Hence, the Ludhiana-based university has come up with a new wheat variety called PBW RS1, which contains high levels of amylose starch. RS is short for resistant starch.
It is known to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In a report published by The Indian Express, it’s mentioned that consumption of chapatis made from this wheat won’t lead to an immediate and rapid rise in glucose levels.
Experts have noted earlier that high-amylose starch has unique functional properties and nutritional values in food applications.
This form of starch is resistant to enzymatic digestion in the gastrointestinal tract and contains a higher fraction of resistant starch.
The high amylose and resistant starch make sure that glucose is released more slowly into the bloodstream, and it is said in the report that being slower to digest also increases a feeling of satiety.
Trials conducted by the university over four years showed that the new wheat has a total starch content which is almost equivalent to 66-70 per cent in other wheat varieties.
However, it has 30.3 per cent resistant starch content as against only 7.5-10 per cent for other varieties, including PBW 550, PBW 725, HD 3086 and PBW 766.
Achla Sharma, who is the principal wheat breeder at PAU, said as quoted by the media outlet: “Chapatis and biscuits made from its whole grain flour also have a lower glycemic index (a value used to measure how specific foods increase blood sugar levels), which is linked to the decreased digestibility of the starch. So, it can help bring down the prevalence of diet-related diseases, including obesity and diabetes (especially type 2).”
The report also highlighted a major problem with PBW RS1 as the average grain yield from the variety at PAU’s field trials has been recorded at 43.18 quintals per hectare.
The amount might concern the farmers as it is below Punjab’s average yield of 48 quintals, which has touched 52 quintals in some years.
As quoted by The Indian Express, the report mentioned that PAU vice-chancellor Dr Satbir Singh Gosal believes that the PBW RS1 might emerge as a start towards ushering in nutritional security.
Gosal told The Indian Express said, “Yes, lower productivity is a challenge. But then, PBW RS1 should be identified as a special-trait variety that will be priced high enough to incentivise farmers to grow it. We have pitched the idea for marketing it as a special quality flour to Markfed (the Punjab State Cooperative Supply & Marketing Federation).”
PAU is known for its role in the Green Revolution and was rated the country’s top state agricultural university in 2023, as per the National Institute Ranking Framework.