Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Agricultural chemistry involves the application of chemical and biochemical knowledge to agricultural production, processing of raw materials into foods and beverages, and environmental monitoring and remediation. It deals with scientific relation between plants, animals, bacteria and environment.
India is predominantly an agricultural country. Its major source of food production is agriculture. Indian agriculture began in 7000 BC and followed a traditional practice. After independence, rapid growth of population and urbanization made threats to agricultural production and it led to food scarcity.
Indian chemists and biochemists applied their knowledge and developed modernized agricultural practices which involve use of synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified crops, and equipments.
The goals of agricultural chemistry are to expand the understanding of the causes and effects of biochemical reactions related to plant and animal growth, to reveal opportunities for controlling those reactions, and to develop chemical products that will provide the desired assistance or control. It aims at producing sufficient nutritious food and feed the population in a sustainable way while being responsible stewards of our environment and ecosystem. Based on the issues and challenges in agricultural production, agricultural chemistry mainly focusses to achieve the following:
• Increase in crop yield and livestock
• Improvement of food quality
• Reducing cost of food production
Chemical principles and reactions are most widely used in agriculture in order to increase yield, to protect crops from diseases and to simplify the practice of agriculture. Various applications are give below.
Soil Testing: Crop lands may have different kinds of soil with varying pH. Soil pH is one of the main criteria to be considered for the selection of crop or remediation of soil. Soil testing involve determination of pH, porosity and texture.
Chemical Fertilizers: Fertilizers are chemical compounds added to crop field for supplying essential micro and macro nutrients required for crop growth. Ammonium nitrate, calcium phosphate, urea, NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium), etc. are some of the fertilizers. Depending on the nature of soil, these fertilizers are used singly or as mixtures.
Pesticides and Insecticides: Crops are prone to diseases caused by pests and insects. Chemically synthesized pesticides and insecticides are used to solve these issues. Chlorinated hydrocarbons, organophosphates and carbamates are used as pesticides and insecticides.
Food is one of the basic needs of human and animal. The food we eat also are made of chemicals. Any human might require the following three kinds of food:
Body building foods: These are required for physical growth of body. E.g. Proteins
Energy giving foods: These the foods that supply energy for the functioning of parts human body. E.g. Carbohydrates
Protective foods: These protect us from deficiency diseases. E.g. Vitamins and Minerals
Every human requires all these three kind of foods in right proportion for the smooth functioning of the body. The diet that contain all these three foods in right proportion is called Balanced diet.
Food chemistry is chemistry of foods which involves the analysis, processing, packaging, and utilization of materials including bioenergy for food safety and quality.
The main goal of food chemistry is to cater the needs of quality food to the population in a sustainable way. In basic research, food chemists study the properties of proteins, fats, starches, and carbohydrates, as well as micro components such as additives and flavourants, to determine how each works in a food system. In application research, they often develop new ways to use ingredients or new ingredients altogether, such as fat or sugar replacements.
Food we eat in our day to day life contains natural or synthetic chemicals. They serve different functions in human body.
Nutrients: They are the most essential chemicals present in food. They are required for the growth, physiological and metabolic activities of body. They are natural or synthetic. E.g. Carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals
Food additives: These are the chemicals added to food for specialized functions. The various types of additives of foods are given in Table 5.4.
Food colouring or colour additives are pigments-synthetic or natural-added to food to create a certain colour, enhance a natural colour and improve the overall aesthetic appeal of a dish. Food colouring can make food fun. Food colouring contains one or more of the certified colour additives commonly known by their numbering system. Colour additives are blended to create a brightness or intensity to the base colour. The other basic ingredients of synthetic food colouring are propylparaben, propylene glycol and water.
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