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Amazing Apali: The lesser yam with great potential

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It is not as popular as potato, sweet potato, or yam but Apali (Dioscorea esculenta) is a lesser yam with a great potential. “Apali” as it is called in the South of the Philippines, is also known as “Tugi” among the Tagalog. It is a climate-resilient crop that can withstand adverse climatic conditions, particularly during long dry periods. It is high in dietary fiber, has longer shelf-life, and can be an alternative staple food source that can address food security issue in the country.

This lesser yam is native to Southeast Asia and is one of the first yam species that was cultivated. It is considered as an underutilized crop that is only remembered mostly during the long period of famine when people have nothing to eat. People would rely on Apali as it is always available. It can be stored for six months. It grows in rainfed or upland and marginal lands and can be grown as a backup crop during growing seasons of rice and corn.

Depending on the variety, Apali plant can grow up to 50 cm long and can produce 5-20 tubers per plant. The stems are cylindrical, pubescent, with scattered prickles. Physically, Apali has a smaller corm than other yams, looking like a long and narrow sweet potato but occasionally it can be a spindle or branched. Its flesh, which is smooth and has no fibers, unlike most rootcrops, ranges from white to cream color.

 DSC0508Often served cooked either boiled or roasted, Apali is high in Vitamin C, dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. It is low in saturated fat and sodium and promotes good healthy balance in human body against osteoporosis and heart disease.

Apali is minimally cultivated in the country either due to lack of awareness of the crop or due to its unexplored economic potentials as fresh and processed foods.

Given the great potential of Apali, the Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 11 embarked on a three-year study titled, “Collection, Evaluation and Identification of Apali Cultivars Suitable for Food Processing in Region XI”. Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the study aimed to increase the supply of Apali, identify the best variety that has long shelf life and best for processing, and develop Apali package of technology that the farmers can easily adapt. With the increased supply of Apali production, is also exploring the various product development initiatives that can be derived from indigenous crop.

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According to Jorgea C. Galindo, researcher from Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 11 who is also the project leader, Apali can be found in the tropical forest in the Philippines and is considered as an indigenous rootcrop that can substitute rice and corn. It can be processed into various products including cue, boiled, sweetened, jams, candies, and vegetable mixed or stewed with meat.

Due to its potato-like characteristics, Apali can also be sliced or diced and boiled or fried like chips or fries. In fact, the DA-RFO 11 has recently come up with the Pinoy version of French fries, using Apali. Dubbed as the “Apali Pinoy fries” it was found to taste very similar with that of French fries in terms of texture and appearance. The taste was found to be acceptable among those who have tried it during trade fairs and exhibits.

The project enabled DA-RFO 11 to produce Apali flour and various Apali-flour based products including cookies, crinkles, and munchkins. These products won the “Best Products Award” during the recently concluded “13th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition” organized by BAR. The award is annually given to product of research and development that is unique, has an appropriate packaging and labeling, possesses market potential, and is relevant to achieving food security and health and wellness. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz)

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Soybean industry in Region 2 prospers

20161201 144009In the early 90’s the Cagayan Valley Region cultivated almost 500 hectares of soybean, but this did not prosper due to poor appreciation of the crop. In 2011, through the launching of the Soybean Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the soybean industry in the region was revitalized.

Through the strong collaboration of the DA-High Value Crops Development Program, Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), headed by Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, and DA-Cagayan Valley Research Center (CVRC), led by Ms. Rose Mary G. Aquino, the promise of a blooming future for soybean production was slowly realized.

From almost zero in the beginning of 2011, the Cagayan Valley Region has now a total of 1,750 hectares (cumulative production areas) of soybean production area. This can be attributed to the growing appreciation of farmers who utilize soybean grains into quality raw materials for food i.e., milk and sapal-based products. This led to an improved consumption and nutrition in-take that eventually, became a reliable source of income generating activities.

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In 2015-2016, further promotion of soybean production and utilization was conducted. Potential farming areas and farming communities that showed interest on soybean seeds, food, and feed business enterprise and local consumptions were the primary clients of the agency for this program.

The Bacnor East Soya Farmers Association is one of the successful beneficiaries of the soybean program. Mr. Cancio Balais, production manager of the association sought the assistance of DA-CVRC. True to its mission on helping farmers, DA-CVRC provided every ounce of knowledge and effort by conducting technology demonstration trials on soybean as an intercrop to mango and calamansi and established soybean as a crop rotation to corn in Burgos, Isabela. To disseminate the introduced technology to farmers and other stakeholders a field day was also conducted.

The association is now supplying the soybean demand of Santiago City, Public Market (1,500 kgs/month) and Dondonayo’s Enterprise in Alicia, Isabela (1,500 kgs/month). Mr. Kim Whan II, a Korean entrepreneur engaged in the production of soybean sprout is also a client of the association. Sprouted soybean is distributed to Korean Hotels and Restaurants in Angeles City, Pampanga.

The Bacnor East Soya Farmer’s Association made a difference as it serves as an instrument to DA-CVRC to fully achieve its long term goal on soybean production—making soybean a hero not only for the association but for the whole Cagayan Valley Region. More importantly, through the association, CVRC was able to accomplish its main objective, the reason why it was established, which is to create a difference for the people, by the people, and with the people. ###

BAR supports research to explore other uses of onion

DSC 2745nion is a popular and commonly used main ingredient or condiments in every cuisine including as appetizer such as “onion rings”. But beyond its common use as fresh ingredients in preparing our foods, onion has other potential uses.

In response to the directives of Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol to explore possible research interventions to use and process onion leaves and shallots instead of seeds for onion production, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) convened a meeting to discuss possible researchable areas or projects.

First step taken was to have the onion leaves submitted by DA-Regional Field Office III analyzed for pesticide residues upon the concern of the heavy use of pesticide during onion crop production. The Bureau Plant Industry-Pesticide Analytical Laboratory Section (BPI-PALS) conducted a chemical analysis for Chlorpyrifos, pesticide active ingredient. Result of the analysis obtained by Gas Liquid Chromatography showed that the sample submitted was lower than the Limit of Quantification (LOQ) to Chlorpyrifos (>0.01 mg/kg) Interpretation shows that analysis of samples was negative to Chlorpyrifos, which is the active ingredient of the pesticide used.

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BAR, as the research and coordinating agency of the Department of Agriculture, recently funded three projects on onion. These include: 1) Development and Promotion of Cost-Effective Seed Production Technology for Onion; 2) Increasing Farmers’ Income through the Utilization of Waste Onion; and 3) Development of Products from Onion Leaves towards Increased Farmers’ Income. The first project will be implemented by the University of the Philippine Los Baños (UPLB) while the other two projects will be led by the Central Luzon State University (CLSU).

The three projects will cover the development of cost effective seed production technologies for onion; development of POTs for the processing of onion leaves into different products such as powdered onion leaves, dried onion leaves, vacuum-packed onion leaves, extraction of bio-actives for health purposes, etc.; and development of onion carbonizer, briquette, and biochar out of onion leaves.

Furthermore, UPLB’s study aims to characterize and monitor the composition of waste onion leaves as potential raw material for food and other high-value products. This would be able to respond to the Secretary’s instruction to look into the potential of dehydrated onion leaves as condiment in arroz caldo, mami, and as spice in Oriental dishes. ###(Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino)

 

 

Mushroom continues to ‘sprout’ in Central Luzon

01Mushroom initiatives in the Central Luzon region started way back in 2004. However, with very limited resources, the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 3-Central Luzon Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CLIARC) was not then able to fully carry out studies that will further explore the benefits of mushroom growing.

“It was in 2007 when we were able to take off once again, this time with funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR). Since then, we have embarked on researches and studies on the development of low-cost technologies such as tissue culture and the propagation of edible mushrooms for the establishment of mushroom livelihood projects at the community level,” said Dr. Emily A. Soriano, senior science research specialist and mushroom expert at the DA-RFO 3-CLIARC.

According to Dr. Soriano, their R&D activities aim to provide additional sources of income to farmers and the community especially those in the rural areas and those who do not own land. “Though Central Luzon is known as a rice farming area, people here are not landholders. Thus, on the part of the DA, we want to give them a source of continuous income. Apart from that, we also want to help conserve the environment by turning agricultural wastes into useful materials and even make profits from them. Agricultural by-products such as rice hulls, rice straw, and saw dust can be used as substrates in mushroom propagation,” Dr. Soriano explained.

As for the health benefits, Dr. Soriano said that mushroom contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, specifically, the Vitamin B complex, iron, calcium, and potassium. “From an analysis conducted by a food chemist at the Philippine Rice Research Institute, mushroom was shown to have as much as triple the calcium content of those from other calcium sources. Also, we found out that potassium in mushroom is twice what one can obtain from bananas,” she elaborated.

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When it comes to economic benefits, Dr. Soriano acknowledges the potential of mushroom for livelihood. “At the community level, only low capital requirement is needed because readily-available resources in the community can be used. And based on our studies, we found that mushroom can give 236 percent to as much as 800 percent return-on-investment,” she added. Dr. Soriano shared how a community-based mushroom cooperative in Brgy. Anao in Tarlac sustained its mushroom operation from 2009 until the present. “Members of the Anao Mushroom Producers’ Cooperative have come to earn an average daily income of Php300-700,” she said.

Upon seeing that mushroom production is indeed feasible at the community level, the DA’s National Rice Program supported the implementation of the “Community-based Mushroom Production (CBMP)” project on a national level in 2013. “Under the project, we were able to train DA personnel from each of the regions to serve as mushroom focal persons and handle mushroom-related undertakings in their respective regions. These include enterprise development activities and research undertakings on mushroom production and processing, among many others,” said Dr. Soriano.

Alongside the CBMP project implementation was the establishment of the Mushroom Technology and Development Center (MTDC) at CLIARC which was funded by BAR through its Institutional Development Grant facility. The Center paved the way for more quality researches regarding the production and processing up to the marketing of mushroom. It has catered to groups and individuals who wish to be trained on mushroom production and processing. The Center also houses a gene bank of 10-14 species of tropical and temperate mushroom species.

BAR has also provided support for mushroom product development-related undertakings through the National Technology Commercialization Program that have led to the development of mushroom-based products such as patties, sisig, bola-bola, tocino, ice cream, pasta, sauces, and many others.

“As of now, here in Central Luzon, we are scaling up mushroom production to exploit the potentials of venturing into larger scale operation. We are now focusing our studies on market linkaging. For instance, we were able to assist a private entity in Nueva Ecija that is now producing around 150 fruiting bags per cycle (three-month operation). Our initial initiative here at DA was to call a stakeholders meeting among producers, consumers, consolidators, traders, processors, and support institutions. Through this, we can see the demand of the market and identify the gaps and constraints along the value chain,” Dr. Soriano said.

 

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El Don Añeperbos farm experience

 

In the stakeholder’s meeting organized by the DA-RFO 3 through Dr. Soriano, brothers Don and Elmer Dumale were among the attendees of mushroom growers from Sto. Tomas, San Jose City, Nueva Ecija. Before Don became involved in mushroom growing, he was once a government employee working at the National Museum in Manila. At that time, he had to leave his family behind in Nueva Ecija. “I thought that I must find a way to look for an option where I can be with my family while earning an income. This is where mushroom growing came into the picture. We saw its income-generating potentials which we can do within the comfort of our home”, shared Don. “The DA, through Dr. Soriano, was able to link us with markets. Her team gave us technical support when it comes to addressing diseases and giving advice on how we can further improve our production,” Don added.

Their mushroom business is now a family business where Don is responsible for tissue culture up to planting in fruiting bags. From there, his brother Elmer takes over. “At the start, finding the market was really our biggest challenge. Our main market then was only through the public market. Dr. Soriano and her team helped us when it came to developing market linkages. Eventually, there came times when our supply could no longer meet the clients’ demand,” Elmer recounted.

When it comes to product development, it is Elmer’s wife, Wilma, who is into the processing of mushroom into a variety of products such as mushroom chicharon, burger patties, embutido, and atsara – recipes of which were mostly adopted from the BAR-supported mushroom product development initiatives.

But just like any other businesses, their mushroom farm also hit bumpy roads. “To those who want to venture into this business, there will be points when production will be low. But this should not discourage you. Seek guidance from the DA so you can improve your farming practices. Don’t stop and just continue with the endeavor. Start small, and then expand gradually. From our experience, we started with just 20 kilos of mushroom harvest per day, and now, we are harvesting around 150,000 fruiting bags per cycle which is around 150 kilos per day. When mushroom came into our lives, it proved to be a big blessing to us – helping provide for our family’s daily expenses,” Don said. (Anne Camille B. Brion)

 

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For more information, contact:
Dr. Emily A. Soriano
Senior Science Research Specialist
Mushroom Technology and Development Center
CLIARC Compound, McArthur Highway
Tarlac City, Tarlac
Tel. No. (045) 985-1256
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

CGUARD: Safekeeping native seeds, securing the future

CGUARD project in region 2Long before plant hybridization and other advanced breeding techniques were developed, early corn farmers have been practicing selective breeding. They examine the plants and save the seeds that possess the qualities that they like such as big kernels, tastier, and high-yielding. These seeds that they have collected and saved will be planted for the next cropping season.

With the world experiencing climate change, along with continuous increase in population and dwindling agricultural lands, farmers are compelled to produce more food. Thus, they rely on hybrid seeds which are more expensive and unsustainable.

“This calls for varieties that are tolerant to various environmental stresses and generally native varieties are just like that, they are stress tolerant,” explained Dr. Artemio Salazar of the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the Philippines Los Baños (IPB-UPLB). “Through almost five centuries of corn production in our country, we have tremendous genetic variability in the field. In fact, the most reliable source of genetic resistance to the then most serious disease of corn in Asia could be traced to our native variety, Tiniguib,” he added.

According to Salazar, native varieties, having been planted for centuries by early farmers, have already undergone natural, selective breeding including the various environment stresses that could affect its yield. “Most of our native varieties are low yielders but there would always be production no matter what. Also, they were selected by farmers for quality traits for eating and for storability,” he said.

Given this, varieties that do not need chemical inputs and have acceptable taste quality are the specific types that must be considered in addressing food security, climate change, conserving biodiversity, and sustainable agriculture.

 

Conserving, utilizing native corn varieties

 

To conserve the country’s native corn varieties, which were saved and developed by farmers for thousands of years, the IPB-UPLB, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plants and Industry (DA-BPI) and DA-Regional Field Offices (RFOs), is implementing a long-term program called Corn Germplasm Utilization through Advance Research and Development (CGUARD). Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the program, which was initiated in 2015, aims to collect, conserve, and develop native corn germplasm for agronomic response to different environment and physiological stresses including pests and diseases, soil acidity and salinity, soil fertility, drought, and water logging.

“The thrust of this program is really to focus on the utilization aspect which means breeding which will be used in developing the varieties that the farmers can use,” said BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.

Meanwhile, Dr. Salazar, CGUARD program leader, further that study showed that these native varieties have resistance to varying stresses naturally occurring in various corn farms.

The traits of the native varieties will be used to further develop good quality corn seeds for farmers. “By doing so, we are also protecting our novel local corn genetic resources, which is crucial in ensuring food security and safeguarding the future generations, that they too will still be able to see and taste this native varieties that, if not conserve will be gone on the face of the earth,” he said.

 

Accomplishments of the program

 

The collection of seeds is being done by the 16 participating DA-RFOs. “All the collections in the country will be done by the regions, they will coordinate with the farmers and the seeds collected will then be screened and characterized. This collection will be then be maintained and conserved as part of our genetic diversity,” Dr. Salazar explained.

As of February 2017, the DA-RFOs have a total collection of 2,116 native corn varieties. Half of the collection has been sent to the National Plant Genetic Resources (NPGRL) of UPLB for breeding while the other half has been characterized in their respective research stations.

“NPGRL is also our partner in this program. It houses all the germplasm collections of the country for long term storage. NPGRL also coordinates with the DA-RFOs and advices them on how to properly conduct the seed collection and conservation process,” reported Dr. Salazar.

Among the significant findings of the program included the identification of an early maturing variety, CGURD Cn N48 or “Abra Glutinous” which is harvestable as green corn in 55 days. Meanwhile, CGUARD Cn N34 or “San Jose White” and CGUARD Cn N10 or “Calimpus” were varieties identified to be high in lysine, an essential amino acid for human health.

Three native varieties that were identified to have high downy mildew resistance were CGUARD Cn N 15 or “Tiniguib D”; CGUARD Cn N33 or “Manggahan White”; CGUARD Cn N 17 or “Bulldog” while two were found to have potential resistance to Asian Corn Borer: CGUARD Cn N 42 or “Lawaan Bukidnon” and CGUARD Cn N36 or “Valencia Orange”.

 

Future activities

 

Director Eleazar emphasized that CGUARD is a long-term program that aims for a long-term impact, specifically the generations to come. “CGUARD is one of the priority programs of Secretary Piñol in line with the Food Security Program of DA. Corn is the second most important staple crop in the Philippines. As a staple crop, (white) corn substitutes for rice especially in the South and during rice scarcity. So this also supports the rice program of the government,” he said.

As this is a continuing program of DA, all RFOs will continue the collection and characterization of native corn varieties and develop their CGUARD posters by featuring the best native corn variety. Meanwhile, IPB-UPLB will continue the population improvement work for selected entries.

“What we are doing with this CGUARD Program is that we make the industry self-sufficient and food secured, that what we are eating is nutritious and healthy. At the same time, we want to provide our farmers with good livelihood. We are not only working for ourselves but for the future of the generations even after us,” concluded Dr. Salazar. ###(Rita T. dela Cruz)