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October-December 2013 Issue (Vol. 15 No. 4)

Anne Camille B. Brion

Coming from the same family to which wheat, rice, and corn also belong, adlai is one of the crops that have been extensively promoted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in line with its goal of attaining sufficiency in food staples in the country. Due to the crop’s potentials that can complement long-established major staples such as rice and corn, the Adlai Research and Development (R&D) Program was initiated with the title, “Development and Promotion of Adlai (Coix lacryma-jobi L.) as an Alternative Staple Food for Rice.” The Program pushes for the development, utilization, and promotion of adlai as an alternative crop to our food staples, and as an additional source of income and livelihood in non-traditional corn and rice areas. Coordinated by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), adlai promotion, through the conduct of adaptability yield trials, has brought about the development of site-specific recommendations for different areas in the country.

Status of Adlai R&D Program

In February of this year, BAR organized and facilitated the conduct of a review and planning workshop to assess the accomplishments of the projects being implemented under the program. After the trials conducted for both dry and wet seasons, it was found that adlai adapts well in some regions of the country, particularly in high elevation areas such as the hillsides of Nueva Vizcaya and Zamboanga del Sur, and in some parts of Regions 2, 4A, 5, 9, and 10. It has also been found out that adlai is accepted as an alternative staple food by Indigenous Peoples (IPs) such as the Subanen tribe in Zamboanga del Sur, and in farming communities where rice and white corn remain scarce, or are not traditionally produced.

Through the program, DA research stations have put in creative efforts for the development of various products using adlai, most of which follow the recipes for rice-based kakanin. Now, it is already being promoted as food, feed, and drink. The latest of these is adlai breakfast cereal which was developed by the Northern Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center (NOMIARC) in Region 10. This product was hailed as among the “Best New Products” during the 9th National Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held in August 2013 wherein champion products from different regions of the country were showcased.

Consumption of adlai can provide the body with the daily requirement for essential nutrients. This prompted the DA-STIARC, in cooperation with the National Food Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (NFRI-DOST), to conduct the nutritional analysis for polished adlai. The results show that 100 grams of adlai grits contain 2 mg of sodium, 0.4 mg of iron, 5 mg of calcium, 84 mg of potassium, and 0.4 mg of zinc. Analysis for adlai bran is also being considered to further explore its potential as tea and as food/feed supplements.

As the market development of adlai is now also being focused on, Region 9 and BAR, with the assistance of Ms. Digna Narvacan of DA-STIARC, will facilitate the linking of the adlai producers to big potential markets such as Yazaki Torres. As such, the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) will be tapped for the development of quality standards for adlai grits.

As of August 2013, around 11,690 kilograms of adlai seeds were produced through different partner research stations and institutions in the country from about 185 hectares of land. Approximately 5.7 tons of the adlai seeds were distributed to farmers and other interested stakeholders. By December, a harvest of an additional 202.5 kg of seeds was projected with around 93 percent of the volume of the produce (189 kg) coming from Region 9.

To date, BAR is spearheading the registration of adlai varieties with the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) in close coordination with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

Zamboanga del Sur: A Thriving Place for Adlai

The most successful project sites in the country are in Zamboanga del Sur in Region 9 . With the vast expansion of adlai in its underutilized production areas, the region is undoubtedly one of the most productive implementers and adopters of the Adlai R&D Program.

Different trainings and promotional activities initiated by the Betinan Research Outreach Station (BROS) of DA-RFU 9 have spurred the interest of many farmers in planting the crop. For instance, in the town of Molave, a 1.5-hectare farm was planted with adlai. Each hill produces about 8-12 tillers that reaches almost 3 meters high. Another 1.5-hectare farm in the town of San Miguel where coconut used to be the only commodity grown is now also being intercropped with adlai. Meanwhile, a 3-hectare farm in the town of Josefina was initially dedicated to the planting of industrial and hardwood trees. But after attending a consultation meeting with experts from the BROS and the Municipal Agriculturist Office, the farmer decided to adopt and plant adlai together with coconut and rubber.

As of now, there are already 547 farmers in 11 municipalities who have successfully grown adlai in their farms. This translates to about 104 hectares of land where majority of the farmers are using the Kinampay variety. Proven effective in an intercropping system, adlai has become a common intercrop to major industrial crops and staples such as coconut, rubber, cassava, banana, gabi, and sweet potato grown through organic agriculture. The average yield for an organic adlai production system ranges from 1.5-3 tons/hectare/cropping.

Postharvest concerns especially during the milling of adlai seeds were closely considered in the assessment of gains and losses for the said commodity. An existing corn mill being used in the town of Molave in Zamboanga del Sur has been documented to have a 50-60 percent milling recovery. Aside from high milling recovery percentage, the milling machine can also separate and sort the different sized particles of the milled grains. An existing organization in the area called MANAGLAHI (Magsasaka Nagkakaisa Laban sa Kahirapan) currently manages the operation of the machine. To date, there are two on-going projects on the fabrication and development of adlai milling machines under the initiatives of PhilMech and the Cagayan Valley Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CVIARC).

As adlai keeps on feeding families and providing income to farmers, the research community should not stop in pursuing R&D efforts that will further improve and promote the crop. Ways on how we can sustainably nurture its potentials should be prioritized as we continuously search for more benefits that this useful crop can give to us. ###