Colonial rule brought with it an exchange of cultures, languages and even plants and vegetables. Tea, potato and tomato, originally brought in from the British and Portuguese, saw great popularity among Indians. So much so, that it is impossible to imagine a day in our lives without any of these food items!
Even as the British introduced tea as a recreational drink, they took with them the original collections of herbaria—a collection preserved plant specimen—and other plant species, according to officials from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).
Nearly 71 years after the British left India with indigenous plant species, the BSI is set to bring some of them back home from London’s Natural History Museum!
A MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) signed between the BSI, and Natural History Museum will help Indian botanists identify other wild species of food crops.
What’s more, the MoU will also help strengthen food security in India.
Paramjit Singh, the director of BSI in Kolkata told Hindustan Times, “India has the second highest population in the world after China, and the Natural History Museum has plant specimens that are 20 to 300 years old.
They will provide us wild species that are an alternative to major crops like wheat, barley, rice among others.”
He also added that Indian botanists will now have access to over 6 million plant specimens kept in the British Museum, thanks to the MoU.
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Three botanists have already begun the work of identifying appropriate plant species from the museum, and by March 15, they aim to scan over 25,000 species. Digital images of these plants will be sent to the BSI for further investigation.
Botanists are also working on a similar project in the neighbouring countries of India such as Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. They will scan plant species and understand their genesis to “develop policies for growing alternate wild food crops as well as to ensure food security,” according to Singh.