By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A team of researchers from Visakhapatnam has found
a new way of increasing the yield in silkworms by simply feeding them
on the leaves of Arjuna, a tree revered by Ayurveda.
When silkworms were fed on Arjuna leaves, they gained 68.8 per cent in
body weight and 41 per cent in silk gland weight. The research was
conducted by the department of biotechnology, Gitam University,
Visakhapatnam. The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India,
funded the project.
According to Dr M Anitha, assistant professor, who led the research,
Arjuna leaves could help in increasing the silk production in the
country. Arjuna or Terminalia arjuna is an important medicinal plant
recognised by Indian medical practitioners almost 15 centuries ago. It
is used widely in Ayurveda to treat a number of health issues in human
beings. The researchers have now found that it could also stimulate
the silkworm, trigger its growth and increase silk production.
“Scientific data shows that growth in insects can be increased by
opening the chromatin (genetic material in the cell nucleus). This is
achieved generally through drugs. We fed the insect with Arjuna leaves
and the results are quite startling,” Dr Anitha pointed out.
The team drew inspiration from a wild moth, Antheraea mylitta, which
thrives on the Arjuna tree in the wild. This worm produces a special
type of silk called tasar silk.
The worms showed improved economic traits in all respects. “These
results suggest that Antheraea mylitta larvae can be fed with drug
treated Terminalia Arjuna leaves for better growth rate and increased
silk production,” she added.
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