The Yellow Spice – Megha-1, Meghalaya’s other Lakadong Turmeric
Meghalaya’s Lakadong turmeric is perhaps the best in the world because of its high curcumin content of more than 7%. Scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) at Umiam, have developed a cloned variety, which carries the goodness of Lakadong and more. Zizira explorers met with the scientists to find out what went behind this effort. Read on.
The Benefits of High Curcumin
What does Lakadong’s high curcumin content have to do with the turmeric’s quality? For one, it’s economical. A pinch of it will be enough to give that necessary culinary flavour and colour to food. For another, the immense medicinal value of curcumin is the determinant of Lakadong turmeric’s desirability over others.
Lakadong and Megha-1, Two Sides of the Same Coin
Despite its high demand there are several drawbacks to Lakadong turmeric: It only grows in a small geographical area of Jaintia Hills district’s Lakadong. Farmers cultivate it in the traditional way without artificial or chemical fertilizers. An enhanced output is impossible because the Lakadong strain does not grow well in other soil conditions. Supply, therefore, cannot meet the demand. Then the country’s premier research Institute, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) at Umiam, Barapani, therefore came out with a clonal solution.
ICAR scientists took Lakadong’s local genotype rhizome and successfully developed the Megha-1 strain from that gene pool. They tested the new strain by growing it in Ri-Bhoi district through farmers from eleven Self Help Groups (SHG) of the Umroi-Nongpoh area. ICAR selected 122 farmers and provided them with necessary training, seeds and other input support. Wanting to know the methods employed, Zizira team thought it best to meet the scientists involved in the development of Megha-1 turmeric. Among the scientists a team of five was actively involved in successfully developing the strain. Team member Dr. H Rymbai tells Zizira the story.
Here Is How Megha-1 Was Developed
In order to develop the Megha-1 strain, the best of Lakadong local genotype rhizomes were selected for cloning. The rhizomes were cultured for up to three generations and emerged as the Megha-1 variety, a direct clone of Lakadong, which effectively makes it Lakadong. Apart from similar physiological and morphological traits, compositional characteristics were tested for varietal identity through the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique. Megha-1 is the same as the original genotype with a few important differences. Dr. Rymbai enumerated the salient features of Megha-1 as follows: Thus Megha-1 turmeric was successfully developed and tested by ICAR, coming out with very encouraging results. It matures in 300-215 days and has good vegetative growth because of higher disease tolerance. This translates to higher production and enhanced supply of quality turmeric. For farmers it means higher yields and returns for farmers. The table below tells the story: This higher yield naturally translates to better availability of quality turmeric for the consumer. How does turmeric help? Look at a few of these: