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N-power to increase shelf life of fruits

- Experts discuss the use of gamma rays to preserve food

Rays of hope are in sight to increase the shelf life of litchis from Muzaffarpur and Jardalu mangoes from Bhagalpur.

Scientists and officials attending a workshop in Patna on Tuesday stressed that the use of nuclear energy could go a long way to preserve fruits, much in demand in the state, and vegetables.

Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour, vice-chancellor (VC) M.L. Chaudhary said with irradiation technology, litchi can be preserved up to 48 days. Normally, the small luscious fruits are destroyed in three days. Similarly, he said, Jardalu mango from the Bhagalpur area can be preserved for 10 to 15 days against the usual three to four days.

He added that the use of nuclear energy in agriculture could particularly help in the development of new varieties of seeds.

The workshop on the use of nuclear energy in agriculture, food and veterinary services was organised on the Bihar Veterinary College campus in Patna by the Sabour varsity. In attendance were officials from the Department of Atomic Energy and scientists from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc), Mumbai.

KAP Sinha, joint secretary, department of atomic energy, said: The use of irradiation technology in food processing can be of a great help. Litchis from Muzaffarpur and Jardalu mangoes from the Bhagalpur area can be exported to other countries where they are much in demand.

He added that potatoes and onions can also be preserved for more than four to five months by passing them through gamma rays.

Explaining the technology, the Bihar Agriculture University VC said that passing gamma rays through the cells of fruits or vegetables increases their energy level. The rays also help in changing the protein content of the items as well as increasing their life.

He added that the university was planning to tie up with Barc as chief minister Nitish Kumar had instructed the varsity to find ways for developing the food processing industry in Bihar.

Sinha, the joint secretary, department of atomic energy, said the Barc would provide the necessary assistance to the Bihar Agriculture University in carrying out research and development works according to the states requirements.

In the first stage, 10 scientists from the Bihar Agriculture University would visit Barc to study irradiation technology.

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