Nutrient Loss in Wheat & Rice: ICAR Study

  • IASbaba
  • June 22, 2021
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Nutrient Loss in Wheat & Rice: ICAR Study

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health and GS -III – Agriculture 

In news

  • Recently, researchers from various institutes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya found depleting trends in grain density of zinc and iron in rice and wheat cultivated in India.
    • Zinc and iron deficiency affects billions of people globally and the countries with this deficiency have diets composed mainly of rice, wheat, corn, and barley.

Findings of the study 

  • Zinc Concentrations in Rice and Wheat:
    • For rice:Zinc concentrations in grains of rice cultivars depleted to 20.6 mg/kg (2000s) from 27.1 mg/kg (1960s)
    • For wheat: The concentrations of zinc dropped to 23.5 mg/kg during the 2010s from 33.3 mg/kg (1960s)
  • Iron Concentrations in Rice and Wheat:
    • For rice: Iron concentrations in grains of rice cultivars depleted to  43.1 mg/kg within the 2000s from 59.8 mg/kg (1960s).
    • For wheat: The concentrations of iron dropped to 46.4 mg/kg (2010s) from 57.6 mg/kg (1960s).
  • A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding. 

Reason for the Decrease

  • ‘Dilution effect’ which is caused by decreased nutrient concentration in response to higher grain yield.
    • This means the rate of yield increase is not compensated by the rate of nutrient take-up by the plants. 
  • Also, the soils supporting plants could be low in plant-available nutrients.


  • Improving the grain ionome (that is, nutritional make-up) while releasing cultivars in future breeding programmes.
  • There is a need to concentrate on other options like biofortification, where we breed food crops that are rich in micronutrients.
    • Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.

Initiatives Taken by India

  • Recently, the Prime Minister dedicated 17 biofortified varieties of 8 crops to the nation. 
  • Some examples:
    • Rice- CR DHAN 315 has excess zinc.
    • Wheat- HI 1633 rich in protein, iron and zinc.
    • Maize- Hybrid varieties 1, 2 and 3 are enriched with lysine and tryptophan.
  • Madhuban Gajar, a biofortified carrot variety higher β-carotene and iron content.
  • ICAR has started Nutri-Sensitive Agricultural Resources and Innovations (NARI) programme for promoting family farming linking agriculture to nutrition.

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