Researchers claim hybrid vegetable has holistic qualities

2022-08-09 China Daily Editor:Li Yan

It seems it's not just apples that possess the magical property of keeping the doctor away, at least according to experts at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan.

Researchers said they have developed a new hybrid vegetable, a cross between the isatis root (the plant used to make indigo) and rapeseed, that when used in experiments on in vitro cells and mice is active in preventing H5N6 avian influenza with an effectiveness similar to that of antiviral medication, Tamiflu.

The hybrid also contains 17 kinds of amino acid and eight microelements including selenium, calcium and zinc, that benefit immunity, they said.

In October, the hybrid vegetable was granted a patent by the China National Intellectual Property Administration. In December, the team reached an agreement with Hubei Xiangxiangqie Ecological Agriculture Co to plant the hybrid rapeseed in Gansu and Hebei provinces.

Isatis root, also known as Chinese woad, and rapeseed both have a long history of being used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments like sore throats.

"It usually takes more than 10 years for successful hybridization to be achieved," said Ge Xianhong, professor of the College of Plant Sciences and Technology at Huazhong Agricultural University, and a member of the research team.

"After somatic hybridization, the hybrid can survive, but it is difficult to reproduce, because it may fail to bear fruit or produce pollen. Only after multiple generations of back-crossing are chromosomes retained in individual plants."

He said the hybrid vegetable has both nutritional and medicinal value but added that whether it will prevent the flu in people would depend on a variety of other factors.

The hybrid is slightly deeper in color than rapeseed, and can be used extensively in cooking, including being stir-fried or boiled in a hot pot. It has even begun to be used in some high-end restaurants in Beijing and Wuhan since July.

Qin Chuanding, chairman of Hubei Xiangxiangqie Ecological Agriculture Co, said the hybrid can be used as feed, and could potentially lead to the reduced use of antibiotics in farm animals. It can also be planted in winter when farmland is idle, to increase farming incomes, and will be planted on a mass scale, he said.

Ge said initial yields are expected to be about 150 to 200 metric tons, and should fetch twice the market price of standard rapeseed.

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