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Scientists to popularize Assam rice
New Delhi, Feb 22:
Published on 22 Feb. 2010 11:58 PM IST
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Indian scientists are trying to popularize a hybrid strain of rice that does not need cooking, reports the Sinlung. Aghonibora, a soft-kernel rice variety, which is ready to eat after soaking in cold water, was developed by scientists in the north-eastern state of Assam. While this rice is ready for consumption after soaking for 40 minutes in cold water, boiling water will make it ready in 10 minutes, just like instant noodles, experts say. Researchers point out that widespread use of the cereal would help reduce cooking fuel use, thus helping reduce greenhouse gases. The grains, similar to the other hybrid varieties, are soft after harvesting. Dr Srigopal Sharma, head of division Biochemistry, Plant Physiology and Environmental Sciences, Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) in Cuttack, Orissa state, says the strain is grown just like other varieties. “It is not a genetically modified rice and grown as any other rice. Its nutritional properties are almost as good as other varieties. “If boiling water is added to Aghonibora, it takes only 10 minutes to cook and no hard core is left. This is low amylase rice and normally rice contains 20-25 per cent amylose.” Aghonibora was developed by the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Titabar, in Assam in 2006-07. And later CRRI discovered that milled rice of parboiled grains could be cooked by just soaking in water. Dr Sharma said: “We have been growing it at CRRI farm since 2007 and studying it in greater details. As it is a released variety, this rice is freely available from RARS. We are multiplying it at our farm in limited amount to test if it can be grown successfully in various other parts of the country. Its market price should not be more than commanded by other common rice varieties.” When informed about the newly developed rice, Rekha Uniyal, a maid servant working in Delhi gushed: “If it becomes possible for this rice variety to grow in Punjab, I would recommend this to my parents, who have vast fields there and send us yearly stock of rice and wheat. It would also be simple for my young children to prepare this rice at home while I am at work.” CRRI is now trying to popularize it among the farmers and public through regular interaction. The scientist felt that the rice could be a boon for the poor. Also, its easier preparation makes it beneficial for the armed forces, travelers and farmers working in the fields and a perfect emergency staple during natural disasters. Scientists claim that Aghonibora is environment friendly, as it saves fuel and helps in reducing carbon emissions. “Carbon dioxide emitting out of burning coal — the fuel used most in Indian villages — is one of the worst pollutants causing global warming.” For the health conscious, the good news is that the rice is low in starch, which makes it ideal for weight-watchers. However, some point out the downside of Aghonibora. A representative from one of the leading rice brands marketed in UAE said, “It’s a shorter grain and being of hybrid variety, it lacks the original characteristics. Hybrid varieties are generally developed in laboratories so the process is not natural. It’s like pure basmati versus evolved basmati. While the former has aroma and natural sweet taste, the evolved varieties, though look similar, lack in both — taste and aroma,” the official said. Doubting its nutritional properties, he remarked, “Since its origin is from non-basmati rice, it will have medium glycemic index, which is the yardstick to measure sugar release in the body. Lower GI foods help in slower release of sugar into one’s body and are considered healthier.”

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