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The ‘wheat’ we eat today is so different from its ancestor plants that it’s not surprising !
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So the earliest forms of wheat, einkorn and emmer were diploid (having two sets of seven chromosomes) and tetraploid (having four sets of seven chromosomes).
For many centuries, these varieties, which yielded a flour denser than what we use, reigned supreme. In fact, the Egyptians are credited with the discovery of making the dough rise by using yeast.
While not exactly native to India, wheat travelled to the subcontinent via the silk road from central asia, over 8000 years ago. Today, it’s the second-largest crop in the country, after rice. and while we do grow the 14-chromosome emmer and durum varieties, over 85 per cent of the cultivated wheat in the subcontinent is of the 42-chromosome hexaploid variety.
our native crops were rice, millets and barley. lentils such as black gram and moong were integral to Indian agriculture for thousands of years. pulses (chickpeas, kidney beans and black-eyed beans) were domestic crops in the Indus Valley civilization.
a few thousand years ago, modern wheat, which is hexaploid, made its first appearance via another mating process. It had a higher yield, so it soon took over. Currently, about 95 per cent of the wheat grown worldwide is hexaploid (which contains six sets of chromosomes, a total of forty-two). Most bread wheat is hexaploid, and most of the remaining 5 per cent is tetraploid durum pasta wheat.
but the wheat we eat today bears little resemblance to even the original hexaploid plant that developed organically. american agronomist Norman borlaug (who spearheaded the Green revolution and received the Nobel peace prize for his efforts to save people from starvation by exponentially increasing the food supply), developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties through his agricultural research in Mexico. he also led the introduction of these varieties into Mexico, pakistan and India, nearly doubling the yields in India and pakistan. India witnessed a major increase in agricultural productivity in 1965 with the advent of the Green revolution.
To be continued....