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North Dinajpur farmer cultivates energy-rich ‘Breadfruit Tree’ – New dimension to cultivation - GetBengal story

15 July, 2023 10:33:18
North Dinajpur farmer cultivates energy-rich ‘Breadfruit Tree’ – New dimension to cultivation - GetBengal story

Breadfruit has several health advantages

Throughout the world, in the following centuries, countries developed their own versions of bread. Some leavened, others not. Bread satiates hunger and it is the great leveler. Times have changed and now we have discovered Mother Nature bestowing us with breadfruit to combat hunger and satiate millions of starving stomachs. Surprised? Closer home in Kaliaganj of North Dinajpur district, breadfruit is being cultivated for the first time experimentally. A rich storehouse of nutrients, breadfruit is the new elixir of life and Gobindo Saha is currently farming this ‘magical fruit’ in his nursery. He got a few seedlings from Bangladesh and planted them experimentally in his nursery. He is very excited and hopes the state agricultural department will take note of his efforts and considering the multiple health benefits of the fruit, will help promote the growth and consumption of this fruit.

Breadfruit , a tropical superfood

Saha planted the breadfruit trees around September-October. The trees bloom in the middle of April and fruits can be harvested from this tree from early August to mid-September. Breadfruit offers several advantages over other staples. Breadfruit can be grown with a wide range of plants. The fast-growing perennial trees require far less labour, fertilizer and pesticides than crops like rice and wheat. They are also more productive. Trees begin to bear fruit in three to five years, producing for many decades. A single tree yields an average of 250 fruits a year and each fruit weighs between 500 grams and 6 kg. It can feed a family for generations. If mass-produced, breadfruit could provide a steady source of nutritious food for farmers and their families, and supplement their incomes. 

The wild ancestor of breadfruit is native to New Guinea and cultivated throughout the Pacific Islands, where it has been a staple for as long as people can remember. It is part of a diet that helped residents avoid malnutrition, obesity and diabetes until a few decades ago when people abandoned their traditional foods. A traditional staple in Hawaii, breadfruit is sometimes called the tree potato, for its potato-like consistency when cooked. Except breadfruit has higher-quality protein and packs a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. 

Breadfruit offers farmers a reliable staple crop with minimal upkeep

Breadfruit is an energy-rich food and a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc. This nutritious fruit also provides B vitamins, niacin, thiamine, and Vitamin C. Some varieties have high levels of pro-vitamin A carotenoids, nutrients essential to good health. Breadfruit is gluten-free and its protein is complete, providing all of the essential amino acids necessary for human health. According to physicians, breadfruit is rich in potassium and helps control blood pressure and improves heart health. It prevents diabetes and helps maintain sugar levels. It aids digestion, relieves constipation and improves brain function. Breadfruit is beneficial for pregnant women and lactating mothers. In a world with nearly 1 billion hungry people, 80% of whom live in tropical and subtropical regions, the conservation, study and use of breadfruit is extremely relevant today.

Breadfruit trees provide food security and contribute to diversified regenerative agriculture and agro-forestry, improved soil conditions and watersheds, and valuable environmental benefits including reduction of CO2. They also give shelter and food to important plant pollinators and seed dispersers such as honeybees, birds, and fruit bats. In addition to health and environmental benefits, breadfruit trees can provide economic opportunities.

Breadfruit belongs to the mulberry and jackfruit botanical families

Inter-planting breadfruit with crops like mango, papaya and sweet potatoes allows farmers to harvest food throughout the year. Besides, breadfruit's high productivity also allows them to support a range of breadfruit-based products from chips to flour for export. Thus, breadfruit can be grown to support food security, including hunger in some of those districts of the state that need food in addition to other crops. Meanwhile, Saha’s fame as the sole cultivator of breadfruit in Kaliaganj has spread far and wide and many enthusiastic tree lovers make a beeline for Saha’s nursery to collect breadfruit tree saplings.

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