As the troops are set to spend harsh winters at the China border, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working on cultivating vegetables in the tough conditions here, for the Indian Army, with the technologies like passive greenhouse technology, zero energy-based technique storage, and microgreens.
The research for the same is being done by DRDO’s Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR).
While speaking to agencies, DIHAR’s Director, Dr Om Prakash Chaurasia said that the focus is now on to augment the availability of fresh vegetables in winters like summers.
“With DRDO technology and hill council, all vegetables can be grown in summer but now our focus is on winters that how to augment the availability of fresh items in winters. There are two approaches, one is to standardise the greenhouse technology. This (Leh) place has high intercity of solar even during peak winter period so we are working on a passive greenhouse. We will be able to grow cabbage, cauliflower, and even tomato even in the month of January where the temperature drops till -25 degrees. We have an underground greenhouse as well. Another approach is to develop the storage of vegetables grown in summers. It is zero energy-based storage technology. Potato, cabbage, cauliflower, Raddish, carrot can be stored for 4-5 months,” said Chaurasia.
Chaurasia also highlighted that DISAR is also cultivating superfoods like Quinoa, chia seed, seabuckthorn, and Goji Berries which are exclusively grown in Leh.
“Oxygen level is low and under stress condition in this area. So, we require foods which are enriched with nutrition. We are cultivating a superfood which is a food which you consume less and it is more effective. We are cultivating foods like Quinoa, chia seed, seabuckthorn, and Goji Berries,” he added.
In August last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned a special plant named ‘solo’ which is also known as the Sanjeevani herb that is found in Ladakh.
Describing the utilities of solo herb which is known as Sanjeevani, Dr Chaurasia said, “Himalaya is a treasure of herbs. Sanjeevani is one of the herbs found in the Himalayas. Its scientific name is Rhodiola. It cures fatigue, mountain sickness, and works on memory boosting. The roots of Sanjeevani have the fragrance of a rose. DRDO is working with UT administration for mass cultivation of it.”
DIHAR has worked on the microgreen plant which will help jawans grow plants in harsh conditions and can be grown in 10-15 days. The product can be used as a seasoning for farmers.
Talking about microgreens, Dr Dorjee, a scientist in DIHAR said, “In the far area, Army is deployed in harsh conditions and there is no availability of substrate or soil to grow vegetables. Through technology, we will be able to provide these microgreen plants to army jawan when he is having lunch or breakfast in those areas.”
“To grow these plants, we have to ensure that ingredients need to remain minimum like cocopeat, and after 10-15 days, these plants are ready for consumption. It can be used for seasoning too,” he added.
Dorjee further said that around 20 vegetables can be grown in this medium and it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.