11 Sep 2017

STEVIA (Stevia rebaudiana) is natures’ sweetner, which offers a lifeline to millions of diabetics as it comes without the risks associated with sugar consumption – a natural sweet gift for millions of diabetics who were deprived from the sweet quotient in their daily life. As per the world health origination report (2015), 346 million people worldwide are in the grip of diabetes whereas in India 69.2 million people are diabetic. Consumption of sugar-rich food is considered to be one of the main causes of increase in diabetic patients.

Stevia is a plant, which is widely known for the presence of sweet-tasting and low-calorie diterpenoid steviol glycosides (SGs) content present in its leaves. Amongst the known SGs, the most abundant glycosides in stevia leaf are stevioside and several types of Rebuadiosides, which are about 300 times sweeter than sucrose. The SGs are heat-stable and pH-stable. Global stevia market is rapidly increasing. In 2014, the global consumption of stevia as food ingredient was estimated at 5,100 tonnes, and it is projected to reach 8,500 tonnes by 2020.  Stevia extract has been used in many innovative ways to sweeten ones favourite dishes apart from beverages such as tea and coffee. It can also be used in lemonades and other drinks, sprinkled on hot or cold cereal or even smoothies and unsweetened yogurt. A pinch of SGs powder is equal to about one teaspoon of table sugar.

Major issues with stevia cultivation and processing are lack of suitable varieties, proper agro-technology and processing technology. In order to address these issues, CSIR-IHBT has developed an improved cultivar ‘Him Stevia’ through hybridization and selection approach. The cultivar has higher proportion of  Reb-A (7.34%) compared with stevioside (5.78 %) and total glycoside content of 14.49% on dry weight basis .Higher proportion of Reb-A is a desirable component, which provides better quality of sweetness profile.

The complete agro technologies of stevia have been developed by the CSIR-IHBT for higher biomass yield without compromising the quality for different agro-climatic conditions. The net income from stevia cultivation is 2 to 2.5 times higher than traditional crops. On an average dry leaf yield of stevia is 30-35 q/ha/year, which fetches market price of Rs.100 to 120/ Kg, resulting in net return of Rs. 2.00 – 2.70 lakh/ha/year.

CSIR-IHBT has also standardized processing technology for extraction of high purity steviol glycosides (>90%) from dry leaves. The technology is water based extraction process, which has been patented. In addition, formulation has been developed as an alternative to artificial chemical sweeteners.

The Institute is also promoting stevia cultivation for empowering the farmers. Thus, quality planting materials have been provided to the farmers of different states of India viz., J&K, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Uttrakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, the agro technology of stevia has been transferred to various farmers of India for large scale commercial cultivation in Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

CSIR-IHBT in its continuous endeavour to improve the life and health of the people and empowering farming community has thus once again risen to the challenge and has especially done a great service to diabetics and health–conscious people alike by popularising stevia cultivation, standardizing its agro techniques and developing its improved cultivar.

{Feature has been uploaded by CSIR (Unit for Science Dissemination), Ministry of Science & Technology, New Delhi}.

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