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Rice and wheat losing their nutrients

Date: 22 June 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous


A new study involving Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has discovered that traditional variety of rice grown in India is losing its natural nutrients.



Rice is the staple food for majority of Indians and is being domesticated from 10,000 years in the subcontinent. The density of nutrients is not same anymore.



  • The study collected various varieties of rice seeds from gene banks across the country. It showed that density of iron and zinc was very low than earlier estimates.

  • The seeds were grown in the outdoor settings to emulate natural conditions. They were treated with fertilizers and the harvested seeds were studied.



  • The amount of iron and zinc was 59.8 mg/kg and 27.1 mg/kg respectively in studied samples during the 1960s. This amount fell to 43.1 mg/kg and 20.6 mg/kg in 2000s.

  • The wheat studies also showed that the amount of iron was 57.6 mg/kg and 33.3 mg/kg for iron and zinc in 1960s. It fell to 46.4 mg/kg and 23.5 mg/kg respectively in 2010s.


Reasons for depletion

  • Due to higher yield variety of hybrid seeds, nutrient concentration may have decreased. This is called 'dilution effect'.

  • The soil supporting plants may have low amount of those nutrients that were low in density. So rise in yield did not result in rise of nutrients.



Scientists are proposing biofortification method to supplement deficiency in natural nutrients. This process remains challenging.



  • Biofortification is a method of breeding and developing certain crops in order to increase their nutritional content.

  • This can be achieved either through genetic engineering or selective breeding. The process is difficult and takes time.

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