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Rice Bean

Rice Bean is a grain legume grown in hilly areas of Nepal and northern India. It is an under utilized crop which is grown by only resources lacking farmers. Though this small grain possesses immense capability of being a fully potential crop it is generally grown as an inter crop with maize. Its potential to be a boon in improving the livelihoods of many poor people is yet to be fully tapped. Today when the world is booming with scientific advancements, chances are full that simple steps will make this crop a huge rage as a widely cultivated crop.

A small, vine with characterstic hairy appearance bears bright yellow flowers and later small edible beans. These beans vary in their color however prominently red and yellow color is dominant in all.

 

Scientifically known as Vigna umbellata, this vine is an annual crop. Generally it is treated as a minor crop and fodder crop and at times as a weed as well. However with enormous qualities that this bean possesses it is really a pity for the under treatment it is subjected to. We can say that due to lack of knowledge and awareness many of us are unable to see its qualities.

It is very easy to cultivate Rice Beans as they can endure a wide range of soils. Being highly pest resistant, it does not need extra care and instead it is equipped with large amounts of nutritious elements to prove a great animal fodder as well as a high quality grain. A little genetic improvement can show great results in its production as a valuable crop.

Due to lack of attention and absence of any kind of scientific breeding has left this crop as a neglected one. However little research and work on its qualities can enhance its properties according to our requirements and this crop which is highly adaptive to all sorts of marginal areas and soils can rise as a great source of edible nutrients for the poor people residing in those areas.

 

Nutritious Qualifications
Rice bean has a comparatively higher content of proteins than other cereal crops. It contains about 20% protein content. Its favorable protein content ensures high digestibility and therefore makes it a fit food item for little children, women and older people with weak digestion.

Amino acid content is well suited for human digestion. And this makes it a trustworthy edible crop.

The content of minerals and some vitamins is favorable compared to staple cereals. The lower fat content and a relatively high proportion of healthy, unsaturated fatty acids makes it a nutritious health package.

 

Other Benefits of Rice Bean
Being a legume crop it fixes the nitrogen and enhances the fertility of soil to a great extent. When inter cropped, it increases the yield of maize and other staple crops. It also provides a stealthily good soil cover and reduces erosion, and is often planted on terrace risers. The plant residue is valuable livestock fodder and is well known to increase milk production.

Rice bean is commonly grown on marginal and exhausted soil, fixing nitrogen and replenishing the nutrient balance. In Eastern Nepal, it is cultivated in rotation with ginger and other cash crops, for the benefit of soil nutrients and to reduce pests and diseases.

 

Medical Benefits
The red Rice Bean are used to relieve edema in some illnesses and are an integral part of traditional Chinese therapy.
These beans also help in lessening the irritable redness of the eyes when combined with Angelica Sinensis.

Looking at the multipurpose benefits of Rice Beans it has been suggested that these Beans should be subjected to special scientific and biological treatment so as to enable these Beans to acquire their proper status as a beneficial and important crop. FOSRIN is one such project which has been

funded under the EC's INCO programme to popularize the under-utilized crop which can otherwise become a full fledged potential crop. This project involves eight partners - universities, research organizations and NGOs in Europe and Asia, and has adopted a client-oriented approach, working closely with farmers and other stakeholders. The nearing future thus seems to enlighten a hope of a solution to poor farmer's never ending problems.

Under this project various aspects involved in the cultivation of this crop will be looked upon:

 

Marketing ( which will include supply chain networks and demand)

Characterization

  • Genetic diversity and indigenous knowledge
  • Molecular diversity
  • Germplasm characterization

Nutrition and health
Each of these areas require proper work, research and specialized strategies. And these strategies will be devised by well known specialists and scientists expertise in an assured hope of reviving new cross breeds which will ensure increased yield as well as enhanced features of the crop.

Some features which make this crop handicapped are as follows:

  • Low seed yields
  • Photo-period sensitivity
  • Indeterminate growth
  • Sporadic and asynchronous flowering
  • Dihescent pods and small, hard seeds
  • Susceptibility to pests and diseases
  • Shatter susceptibility

However all these features can be looked upon through diverse researches and an be worked upon thus enabling new varieties to overcome these hindrances.

A few words of caution
Ricebean contains phytic acid, polyphenol, tannins, trypsin inhibitors, other anti-nutrients, and flatus producing oligosaccharides. However, the content of all these is lower than in many comparable pulses. The effects are strongly reduced through common cooking practices such as soaking, germination, dry-roasting and cooking, it has also been discovered that Rice Bean does not contain any toxic or allergic components.