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Muga route to better lives

Jorhat, Jan. 7: The biotechnology and biological sciences department of the CSIR-North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) here will take up an ambitious programme to improve livelihood in the region through sericulture with emphasis on muga silk.

B.G. Unni, chief scientist and area co-ordinator, biotechnology and biological sciences department, NEIST, said one village in each of the seven states in the Northeast and one in Sikkim would be adopted as a model seri village after a survey which is under way and a programme launched in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, which is also working in this field.

“The main objective of the programme will be to develop and accelerate the existing sericulture activities among sericulture farmers, to enhance silk production in terms of quality and quantity and uplift the socio-economic conditions of these farmers, especially the weaker sections of society in the region,” Unni said.

The scientist said the model seri village would be adopted on the basis of persons depending on sericulture with a focus on muga silk and other non-mulberry silks like eri.

“In many places of the country, work is under way on mulberry silks and since the Northeast is the geographical indicator of muga, which is a lustrous and strong silk with anti-UV properties but costly, our main aim will be to better the lot of the muga farmers,” he said.

Unni, who has for more than three decades worked in fighting against muga silkworm diseases and enhancing fibres of non-mulberry silk through various techniques which he has developed, said the programme would also try to popularise pupal oil extraction from silkworms and IICT is working on.

He was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, London, UK, and a rare honour for a scientist of the Northeast, for his significant contribution to the area of insects (silkworm) biochemistry and molecular endocrinology.

Set up in 1833, the Royal Society is one of the oldest entomological societies in the world. Unni will get to sign the Obligations Book, which dates from the foundation of the Society and would be among signatories like Alfred R. Wallace and Charles Darwin.

Unni and his team had hit upon a formulation based on the commonly available xilikha fruit in the region, which causes the deadly flacherie disease in silkworms to a large extent. The formulation, when sprayed on the leaves of som plant on which the silkworms feed, was found to increase the length and strength of the fibre produced by these silkworms.

The formulation is now being produced as Muga heal.

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