A mamnthus, collectively known asamaranth or pigv.’ted, isacosmopolitan genus of herbs. Amaranths arc fast gr0\\1ing cereal like (pseudo· cereal) plants that produce high protein and minerals.Amaranths belong to the fa.mily Amaranthaceae andarcreferred as pseudo-cereal to distinguish them from true cereals which belong co family Gramineae I Poaeeae.A.maranlhs arc erect, annual, fast growing semi-hard planeswidl brood leavesand have creamy, pink ish or reddish inflorescence lhat produce very small round seeds of varying coloursand lustreand are rich in proteinsandminerals.The plants vary frombranchedIO unbranched types.There areabout 75 species of genus tAmaran1hus ‘.Two seccions are recognized in this genus:Amarantbotypu.s Domort (Out crossi ng species) and Blitopsis Domort (Species with largoextentH of :;clf-pollioation). Thegrainspeciesbelong tosection Amaranlhotypus. Some of the species in this group arc dioecious. bu t most of the species are monoecious having compound inflorescence. The uscfuJ species of grain amaranth aregiven in Table 1.
|Table||I.The useful species of grain amaranth|
|I.||Grairi type||Amarafl/hus lrypocltondriocus(L),|
|A, crunJu.s, A, cauda1ttus,A.1dulis,|
|2.||Veictable t)’pc||A, dubius.A. bolitum, A. viridis.A. tricolor|
|3.||Vegetable and||•. h idus|
DISTRIBUTION AND ADAPTATION
- Amara nths arc widel y distributed throughout theOld and New World. Sixty specie<. of the genus Amoranthus are reported nativeIO 1eNew World and about15to the Old World and Australia. In Asia-Pacific region covering India, China, Manchuria, Nepa], Bhutan. Afghanistan, Indonesia, Japan, ThaHand >ndIsrael, these arecultivated asminor crops.in India, the Carecultivated both in hillsaswellasplainsco\’eringstates of Jammuand Kashmir, HimaclW Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh. Maharishi(ra, Gujarat, Orissa Karnataka, KeraJa and Tamil Nadu.
- THE exact infonnation about the statistics on area and production in India is lacking. However, it is estimated to be grown inabout 40-50thousand ha The cropismainly cultivated in mid and high hills of the Himalayan region asapure as well as mixed crop. The crop is sporadically grown in other partsofthecountry including North Eastern region. In Gujarat, theareaunder this crop is increasing, particularl y in Banaskantha district where this crop replaces wheat and potato on account of water scarcity. At present theareainthisdistrictalone isestimated to be around 6000ha and the grain market at Palanpur receives about 6 – I0 thousand tonnesgrainsannually.
- This crop possesses AN exceptionally high nutritive value with high content of protein, lipids and minerals (Table 2) as well as balanced composition ofessential amino acids (Table 3). The tiny seeds ofgrainamaranths compare favourably with maize and othertruecereals in nutritional value and yield. Amaranth has very high nutritional value dueto itsprotein quality and other nutrients. It is an excellent source of iron and karoteneandthus can help in circwnventing ironand vitamin ‘A’deficiency Presence of higher amount of folic acid also helps in increasing the blood haemoglobin level.Amaranth isthusan idealcrop having better nutritional properties and endowed with c4 metabolism suited to survive and thrive in an environment affected by climate change. The protein in amaranth seedsbeingofhigh quality,’AMA- 1’gene hasbeenisolated from this crop and isbeing introduced into other important foodcropslikerice and potato. In potato the product withhigberyield andproteincontent has been found to be safe. The producthas cleared testsrelated to toxicityand other sideeffects.The leaves arealsorich inproteinandare extreme1yfulfiou1humannutrition viewpoint Qualitj•lr..itsof released varieties ofgrainamaranth aregiven inTable4.
|Table 2. Comparative food value of grain amaranth with other|
|Crop||1Protei11 (%)||Carbohydrates (%)||Lipids (%)||Minerals(%)|
|Table 3.Amino add composition of grain amaranth with other cereals (g/100 g protein)|
- Amaranth has multiple uses. Its tender leavesareused asvegetable.
- The grains are used in various culinary preparations. Popped grains areused in the form of puddings or mixed with sugar syrup to make sweet balls (laddoo) with honey to make flat round breading and with milk and sugar to make porridge. The grains are also used for mak ing candy. The grains can be used in the preparation of breads, biscuits, flakes, cake, pastry, crackers, ice-cream, and lysme rich baby foods. Its flour can be used for making chappatis when mixed with maize and finger millet flour. Grains can also be fermented for making beer.
- Amaranth is reported to have several other agro-in dustrial uses as well. It has great potential for application in high quality plastics, cos metics, pharmaceuticals and natural dyes. The grains are also used in preserving meat and apple fruits. Amaranth oil, containing ‘squalene’ a cos metic ingredient and skin pen etrant, is also used asa lubri cant for computer discs.
- Black seeded cultivars are used as cattle feed. Plant parts are also used as pig feed. High forage yields, high protein and low lev els of oxalates and nitrates inamaranth offer a good scope for its utilization as a promising forage crop
- The tribal people use its grains for the t reatm ent of measlesand snake- bites as well as for foot and mouth diseases of animals. The stem and leaf ex tract is used in the treatment of kid ney stones. The topopherol fraction of ama ranth oil contains important cholesterol lowering agents, some of which could be use ful intreating cardiovascular diseases. The plant is also used in piles to purify blood. The leaves are used to relieve chest congestion.
- Selection of site: Well drained soilswithnear neutral pH (6.00-8.00) are best suited for cultivation of grain amaranth. Amaranth being susceptible to acidicand alkaline conditions, the soils and waters affected by salts should not be used for its cultivation
- Field preparation :Grain amaranth being a small seeded crop requires a fine seed bed for proper seed-soil contact and good germination. For this purpose,soil is turned with a mould board plough prior to onset of rains. This is followed by two to three ploughi ngs and plankings on receipt of soakingrains.At thetime of sowing, thefield must have fine grainstructure, adequate moisture and should be free from weeds.
- Sowing time: In hills, the crop is generally sown in the months of May-June soon after onset of monsoon. However, in plains itcanbesown either inRabi or Kharif season. But, generally it is cultivated in Rabi season and is sown in months of October – November.
- Crop spacing :Sowing the seeds 2 cm. deep inrows 45 cm. apart with 10-15 cm distance between plants have been observed to give good yields.Thinning I gap filling should be done after two weeks of gennination tomaintain proper plant to plant distance.
- A seed rate of l.5 kg/ha isenough forobtaining desired plant stand.Ifthe rains are delayed in Kharif and irrigation is not available in time during Rabi season, dry sowing can also be done.The seeds will germinate after downpour or as and when irrigation isgiven.
- The crop gives agood response up to fertilizer application of60:40:20kg N:P:K/ha HalfofN with full dose of Pand K should be given asbasal application.Remaining halfdoseof N can be given after 30 days of sowing. lnlight soilsof Gujarat, additional application of FYM @ 5 tons I ha is recommended. ln boron deficient soilsof Orissa, soil application of boron @ 1kg/ha or foliar spray of 0.33% boron increases grain yield by 8-1O %. Substitution of 25 % N by FYM or Neem Cake results in higher grain yield as compared to application of chemical fertilizer tlone.
- Weed Con trol: Weeds compete with the crop for space, light, nutrients andrnoistwe andcan cause considerable loss if not controlled in time. The period between 20 to 50 days after sowing (DAS)has been observed to be critical for crop-weed competition in grain amaranth. Therefore, two hand weedingsat 25 and 40 DAS are recommended foreffective weed control.
- Irrigation: Grainamaranth is mostly grown asrainfed crop inthe hills during Kha ri f season. However, in plains,when grown during Rabi season, it has been found to respond favourably to application of irrigation. Optimal irrigation schedule for grain amaranth has been worked out to be 0.6 IWI CPE in northern plains and 0.8 IW/CPE in Gujarat. Depending upon theseconditions about 3-4 irrigations are sufficient forgetting good yield inamaranth
- Irrigation: Grainamaranth is mostly grown asrainfed crop inthe hills during Kha ri f season. However, in plains,when grown during Rabi season, it has been found to respond favourably to application of irrigation. Optimal irrigation schedule for grain amaranth has been worked out to be 0.6 IWI CPE in northern plains and 0.8 IW/CPE in Gujarat. Depending upon theseconditions about 3-4 irrigations are sufficient forgetting good yield inamaranthmaximum advantage from the mixed crop and to facilitate separate harvestingof component crops, the crops should be sown in different linesand in appropriate row ratios. Inhills, intercropping French bean and amaranth in 2: l ratio and applying fertilizer doze recommended for French bean only (N:P:K@ 20 :40:20 kg/ha) resultedinhighest B:C ratio (2.57). Suitable intercropsystemsand row ratios for intercropping grain amaranth indifferent regions are given inTable 5.
T ble 5. Suit.able intercrop systems and appropriate row ratios f’ormixed cropping of grain amaranth
S. No /ntercrop system Appropriate row ratio Region/or wit/cir recommended I.23.4.5.
French bean + amaranth Rice bean + amaranth Ragi +amaranth Groundnut + amaranth Pigeonpea (90 cm row to row distance)+ amaranth Pigeonpea (75 cm row torow distance)+ amaranth 2:12:16:26:11:2
Hill regions Hill regions Kamataka KamatakaKamataka, Orissa Orissa
- Plant protection :There is no report of serious problem of pests and diseases in this crop. However, leaf head blight, white rust, dampingoff, mycoplasma and viral diseases may affect thiscrop. Among pests, leaf webber, caterpillars, aphids,blister beetle, flea beetle,bugs,stem weevil and stem borer have been reported to afTect this crop. Use of disease resistant varieties, spray of fungicides(DithaneZ-78forblight, Karathane for white rust and Bavistin fordampingofl) @O. l%, use of Lindane 10%@ 25 kg/ha dust for caterpillars, beetles and bugs, Phorate 10 G @3.5 kg/ha for stem weevils and borer and Malathion forcontrollingaphidsare recommended.
- Yield : The average productivity of grain amaranth is estimated around 16 q/ha. The grain amaranth yield upto 40 q/ha have beenobtained in hill regions and 25 q/ha inplain regions.There isaample scope for increasing the yield of grain amaranth in India through efficient agronomic managementofthe crop.
- By adopting improved technologies and varieties as described above, the yield of grain amaranth inhills and plains can be substantially increased. It will not only ameliorate economic conditionof the farmers dwelling inthehills and plains,butwill also enhance the availability of nutritious food to check malnutrition inhuman beings.