G-rooting for a superhero

It was a pleasant Sunday morning and a crowd had gathered at the bandstand corner of Cubbon Park. A green event was being held by FICCI FLO and saw celebrities such as MP Tejasvi Surya, Grammy-award winning Ricky Kej, singer and composer Vasundhara Das, Mrs Global International Classic 2017 winner Roopa Mauli, Mrs Charming Asia International 2018 Kajol Bhatia in attendance, among others. They delivered speeches on conserving nature and then proceeded to plant moringa seed balls in the park.

G-rooting for a superhero

Uncovering the moringa mystery
  • A team of scientists led by Professor R. Sowdhamini at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru, recently deciphered the transcriptome by purifying and sequencing RNA from five different tissues (root, stem, flower, seed and leaf) of the moringa tree. The tree tissues were collected from the Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra campus of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru. The sequencing data were analysed using a combination of computational algorithms and wet-lab approaches. The work was partly funded by a grant by Department of Biotechnology, India and partly by a J.C. Bose fellowship conferred upon Sowdhamini by SERB-DST, India. A full report has been published in the journal Genomics recently.
  • Sowdhamini’s group combined and compared the data with the already available Moringa oleifera genome sequence from a group in China (Tian et al., 2015).
  • (Information courtesy NCBS)

(left to right) Dr. Adwait Joshi, Dr. K. Harini, Dr. Shaik Naseer Pasha, Prof.
R. Sowdhamini, Dr. Meenakshi Iyer, Dr. S. Sajeevan, Mr. Mohammed Shafi

(left to right) Dr. Adwait Joshi, Dr. K. Harini, Dr. Shaik Naseer Pasha, Prof. R. Sowdhamini, Dr. Meenakshi Iyer, Dr. S. Sajeevan, Mr. Mohammed Shafi  

The event not only raised awareness, but also focused on taking action. About three generations ago, moringa trees were grown in abundance in backyards of homes. Unfortunately, in a fast-expanding city of apartment blocks and shrinking green spaces, it is a challenge to plant trees. Even so, there is greater urgency of planting trees at a time of rampant urbanisation. Keeping this in mind, the organisers of FICCI FLO conducted this event. The focus was clearly on children. One of the chief guests was 15-year-old Yathaarath Murthy, a LIMCA world record holder, who is an influencer and is two-time TED speaker. Five hundred students from Vyasa International School created 5,000 moringa seed balls that were distributed free at the event. At one end of the park, school children were seen busy at art work. “This is a painting competition,” explained Jyotika Kapoor, senior vice chairperson of FICCI FLO, and founding member of the city chapter, “It was held in association with two NGOS, for more than 100 children, and the topic given was: ‘Trees is my superhero’.

G-rooting for a superhero

The event, however, was attended by people from all walks of life, from environmentalists to curious onlookers. A group of bikers collected cartons of seed balls for distribution in various parts of Karnataka. “The idea of the event is that people can create greenery in their homes,” Jyotika said and added, “Anyone can make moringa seed balls because they sprout within two or three days, and the monsoons is the perfect time to plant them. You also don’t need to look after the trees. If you disperse the seeds, it grows into a small tree within a few months, and in another few months, it grows to six to eight feet and begins to produce drumsticks, a super food that is good for athletes, children, and women.”

G-rooting for a superhero

Nutrition facts
  • The leaves contain 30 times more iron and 100 times more calcium than spinach
  • “Indeed, iron, zinc and magnesium transporters were found to be highly abundant in the roots and stem parts of this tree,” says Dr. Naseer Pasha, first author of the paper. One of the key enzymes required for the production of vitamin C is also expressed at a significant ratio, in all the five tissues studied.
  • Kaempferol (effective as anti-cancer agent) was observed to be abundant in the flowers. The transcript of an enzyme that enables the synthesis of Moringine / benzylamine, usually observed in bacteria, is highly expressed in Moringa seeds.
  • Moringine is perhaps transported to the roots and is known to improve glucose-tolerance and lipid metabolism in mammals.
  • The Ursolic acid and Oleanolic acid products and synthesizing enzymes are observed more in the roots, and are known to act as anti-fertility and anti-cancer agents.
  • (Information courtesy NCBS. These are some of the key points in the study conducted by Professor Sowdhamini and her team)

Explaining the procedure of making moringa seed balls, Jyotika says: “They took soil and manure and mixed them into small balls. We then asked the children to put two seeds in each ball because if one doesn’t sprout, the other will. They created the seed balls quite fast and it was evident they enjoyed the activity!”

On a cautionary note, Jyotika agreed that trees ought not to be planted indiscriminately. “That is why we called biker’s groups because they would know where to plant. You can even plant them the seeds at home. They don’t grow into very big trees.”

Jyotika added that she is looking forward to working on more green projects. “FICCI FLO is an organisation of women entrepreneurs and it is the women’s commerce body of FICCI. We started a green vertical and the moringa seed ball distribution is our first event. We are also looking to work with BBMP to transplant trees. I also want to create butterfly parks,” Jyotika concluded.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 6:07:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/g-rooting-for-a-superhero/article28318404.ece

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