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Research to improve fruit size, fiber quality of Red Spanish pineapple underway

Red Spanish Pineapple 1The Red Spanish Pineapple is one of the four varieties of pineapple that are being grown in the Philippines, along with Smooth Cayenne or Hawaiian, Queen or Formosa, and Cabezona. But due to the fibrous, sweet and course taste of its fruit, the Red Spanish Pineapple is mainly grown for its fiber.

Compared to the other varieties, the Red Spanish fruit is relatively small weighing around 0.91-1.4 kg. Externally, it is orange-red while its fibrous flesh is pale yellow. The fruit turns hard when mature, and breaks off easily from its base during harvesting. This variety takes about 18 months to reach maturity and thrives well in open fields with sandy clay soil. The plant grows spiny leaves up to two meters in length which yield excellent fibers for handweaving.

Since the Red Spanish pineapple is mainly used for the production of the Piña cloth, the fruits, which are small, are mostly thrown away during the harvesting of the leaves.

Not wanting to see this champion crop go to waste, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol tasked the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) "to lead research initiatives on how to improve the size and the quality of the Spanish Red Pineapple fruits so that farmers will make additional income."

In response, BAR, as the lead agency for research in agriculture, immediately convened concerned stakeholders along with its pool of experts, particularly, representatives from the Aklan State University (ASU), DA-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 5, DA-RFO 6, and the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) to discuss and finalize the research and development (R&D) component studies to improve the size and quality of the Red Spanish pineapple.

According to BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar, as a result of that meeting, the group was able to come up with a concept note and an action plan showing specific R&D activities to be implemented by concerned agencies specifically on how to improve the fruit size without compromising the quality of its fiber. He added that initial discussion was also facilitated on the issues and concerns of the textile fiber production from the Red Spanish pineapple as this is the main use of the plant.

As discussed, the R&D components of the program will include: 1) profiling and market research of Red Spanish pineapple production (to be led by DA-RFO 6 and ASU); and 2) looking into the cultural management studies for production of large and sweet Spanish Red Pineapple, including cost-benefit analysis of producing/processing products (to be led by DA-RFO 5 and ASU).

This R&D initiative is Secretary Piñol’s proactive response to revive the once lucrative piña fiber Industry. “The piña fiber weaving was once upon a time a lucrative industry, especially in the province of Aklan where the Spanish Red variety of pineapple, known for its strong fiber, grows well. In recent years, however, the industry has suffered from very low supply of the fiber and the dwindling number of weavers who only earn as much as Php300 a day for the difficult work which strains the eyes,” said the Agriculture secretary. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz)

BAR readies for 13th agri and fisheries tech forum and exhibit

13thNTFRecognizing the importance of disseminating technologies generated from research and development (R&D) and providing new perspectives on technology commercialization, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) readies for the 13th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition (NTF). With the theme, “Bringing Products of R&D to the Filipino Farmers, Fisherfolk, and Agripreneurs through Technology Transfer and Commercialization,” the event will be held on 8-10 August 2017 at DA-BAR Grounds, Visayas Ave., Diliman, Quezon City.

BAR, a staff bureau of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and national coordinating agency for agriculture and fisheries R&D, annually conducts the NTF which serves as a venue to showcase projects and initiatives funded through the National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP).

The three-day event expects to draw in visitors from various stakeholders including representatives from DA family, government agencies, research institutions, local government units, private sector, people’s organizations, as well as researchers and students from state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Invited exhibitors comprising of DA-Regional Field Offices (RFOs), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Regional Offices (BFAR-ROs), SUCs, and other partner-institutions will showcase R&D breakthroughs including innovative products, services, and commerciable technologies.

The event will open opportunities for agriprenuers and enterpreneurs alike to capitalize on various R&D technologies for the farmers and fisherfolk to showcase their own produce as well as for the private sector to adopt these technologies on a commercial scale.

There will also be technology presentations in the forms of seminars, business matching for possible partnerships, and other ventures for profitable agricultural enterprises. ###

Rimas ice cream reaches Hong Kong; prospects deemed bright

MEAquino 2Putting a twist on the conventional flavors of ice cream, the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office 5 (DA-RFO 5), through the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC), developed rimas-flavored ice cream as part of their research and development (R&D) activities. The team proudly shared that 20 kilos of rimas ice cream have been shipped to Hong Kong for acceptability trials and that they have started to look for possible distributors. This was made possible through Global Mana, a company that focuses on food, energy, and water, and which had once sponsored a breadfruit conference in Hawaii.

Rimas ice cream was first showcased and presented to the public in the 9th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held at SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City in 2013. Organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the annual event showcases technologies and products developed by various R&D institutions in the country. The rimas ice cream which bagged an award is one of the innovative products featured in the said event because of its novelty, uniqueness, and market potentials.

With an interest in knowing more about rimas, Mr. Joshua Niel Echague of Global Mana came across one of BAR’s articles on rimas ice cream in the internet. Mr. Echague contacted DA-BIARC and the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division which, in turn, endorsed the concern to the project team who developed the product, led by Ms. Luz Marcelino, research manager of DA-BIARC.

Growing abundantly in the Bicol region, rimas or breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants, with a single tree producing up to 200 fruits per season. Recognizing its potential, BIARC embarked on a project titled, “Rimas Biodiversity Research, Conservation, and Propagation in the Bicol Region,” which was funded by BAR. Aimed at determining the biodiversity of rimas in the region, the project also intends to increase the awareness of the Bicolanos on rimas as an affordable alternative source of essential nutrients.

“It is abundant in carbohydrates and, therefore, can be a main source of energy. The fiber present in rimas is found to help the digestive system of our body, assisting in the digestion of food and helping reduce cholesterol levels,” Ms. Marcelino shared.

With abundant harvests and with the conventional notion that rimas is just for snacks, much of the crop is just left to rot. Thus, value-adding activities were developed by the team.

The Regional Food Laboratory of DA-BIARC is continuously undertaking product development given the succulent endosperm present in the fruit. To date, 15 recipes have been developed from rimas. These include pastillas, cheese cupcakes, chips, caramel, ginataan, fries, kimchi, torones de rimas, cookies, pork dumplings, rice balls, custard cake, spring roll, and muffin, aside from the rimas ice cream. The ice cream, composed of 80 percent rimas meat, now comes in three variants: rimas with sweet potato, with cheese and chocolate, and with langka. Other crops abundant in the region like siling labuyo, taro, and pili nut are also added into the mixture.

Ten kilograms of rimas fruit are needed to produce one kg of ice cream that can be sold at Php 150. “If we will just meet the present demand, we could process as much as 50 kilos of rimas thrice a week,” Ms. Marcelino said. Such an effort would be parallel to the objective of helping farmers increase their income as the raw materials are sourced from farmers in Tigaon, Camarines Sur and in Sorsogon.

Rimas ice cream has gained high acceptance in terms of taste, aroma, texture, and appearance based on the product acceptability survey that was conducted. Rimas ice cream and its variants can also be offered to trendy cafes and restaurants given the increasing demand for innovative offerings.

“Rimas ice cream has a high potential because of its distinct flavor and the use of organically-grown ingredients,” Ms. Marcelino added.

The team acknowledges BAR’s support to the development of products that utilize locally-available crops. “With this undertaking supported by BAR, we were able to see the economic importance of rimas as a crop which could respond to the goals of the DA of making food available and affordable, and in increasing the income of farmers. Gender and Development perspectives could also be mainstreamed into rimas ice cream enterprises as we are also giving importance to the empowerment of women in their roles in farming and food processing,” Ms. Marcelino shared.

The local governments of the six provinces in the region assisted the project in identifying potential farmer-cooperators and rimas growing sites. There is also the support from Sorsogon Dairy Farm, which has become a source of raw materials, and the Yulaik Food Company that is facilitating the conduct of feedback surveys for product improvement.

Through plant propagation techniques of tissue culture and grafting, the project was able to grow 100 plants inside the laboratory, and 50 potted plants (using tissue-culture technique) and 150 grafted rimas.

To date, BAR has given support to five projects on rimas covering benchmarking studies and researches on pest management, propagation techniques, and nursery establishment implemented by several DA agencies and state universities and colleges.

“We hope that there would be a consolidated effort on rimas. Also, I encourage fellow researchers to continue finding ways on how to utilize the indigenous crops of their localities and collaborate with other research centers or networks for the sharing of information and expertise, and for future collaboration,” Ms. Marcelino concluded. ### (Ma. Eloisa H. Aquino)

R&D efforts geared towards preserving abalone in Palawan

abalone productionAlong the coasts of Palawan is a rare shellfish called abalone. Locals would more often recognize it as sobra-sobra (Ilonggo) which, in English, translates as “too much.” As abalone reaches maturity, one would notice the sea creature’s flesh overlapping its shell covering. Abalone is rich in Omega 3, iodine, and phosphorous which help in reducing the risk of getting cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

Despite being named sobra-sobra, abalone is considered a rarity in the agri-fishery industry. The sea creatures don’t just grow under any coastal circumstances.Saltwater salinity must be at a 32-35parts per thousand with the sites as the shellfish thrive nowhere near freshwater sources. Sites also need to have clear and flowing water at all times.

Harvesting wild abalone is an arduous task. Fishermen have to dive down to the bottom of intertidal flats to 10 meters or more and individually handpick those that are fully-grown and mature and take these to the surface. Often, they have to be pried free from underwater rocks. The fisherfolk then offload this onshore. Harvesting is repeated with fresh batches of the shellfish gathered anew until enough abalone is gathered. Because of their nutritional value and the laborious process of harvesting abalone, it is only natural that abalone commands premium price with a kilogram of abalone sold at around PhP300-850 (USD6-17) depending on whether it is live, frozen, or canned.

In South Africa, exporting abalone is mostly done through the black market where tons and tons of the hunted shellfish are transported to countries that generate the highest demand for the product way beyond the country’s appointed quota. The amount of abalone leaving South Africa exceeds the limit mandated by the government with an estimated 40,000 tons taken from the wild since 2001. According to an investigative study conducted by National Geographic, smuggling abalone out of the country is easy as it is facilitated by organized criminal groups that coerce poor working class divers.

The risk then that concerns the abalone industry is the depletionof the wild species freely roaming the ocean. While abalone isn’t as lucrative in the Philippines as much as it is in South Africa, it is still being hunted down too often by fisherfolk in Palawan. Researchers from the Western Philippines University(WPU) have discovered that coral reefs in some of Palawan’s shoreline are also being destroyed due to widespread unregulated collection of sobra-sobra.


R&D efforts to preserve the abalone

In order to preserve the populations of wild abalone along the shores of Palawan, the WPU-College of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in partnership with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), embarked on the project, “Utilization of Indigenous Materials for the Mass Production and Community Farming System of Abalone (Haliotis asinina) in Palawan.” The project is aimed at introducing an alternative agri-fishery system that would provide enough harvestable abalone for a fisherfolk family’s daily provisions as well as lessen the collection of the threatened wild abalone.

Under the leadership of abalone biology and culture expert, Dr. Lota Alcantara-Creencia, WPU developed a hatchery, nursery, and grow-out culture system of abalone in the university’s Binduyan Marine Research Station which is an hour’s drive north of Puerto Princesa City.

The research initiated toput up mechanisms for fisherfolk families in Taytay, Palawan to receive abalone juveniles three months after they are fertilized in the Binduyan station’s abalone culture facilities. This is in coordination with Malampaya Foundation, Inc. with operation in northern Palawan. From the batch given to them by the researchers,the beneficiaries were able to jumpstart their own stock of cultured abalone with the use of their grow-out cages set up along the coast.

Aside from supplying the first batch of abalone culture, fisherfolk families were also taught to utilize indigenous raw materials in mass-producing the grow-out cages used to culture abalone. The grow-out cages are mostly made up of bamboo which, according to the results of WPU’s study, is just as efficient as the ones made of PVC. Aside from being cheaper, utilizing indigenous materials also helps the farming communities as the fisherfolk have to outsource their materials from locals who sell bamboo.

The species of abalone that are being cultured in Palawan is Haliotis asinina. Compared to other species, H. asinina exhibits the largest shell length among Philippine abalones. It also has the fastest growth rate among cultured abalones in the world. H. asinina from Palawan is usually exported to countries that have high demand for the shellfish such as Hong Kong and South Korea. Aside from Palawan, abalone is now also being cultured in the provinces of Quezon, Masbate, Marinduque, Antique, Guimaras, Negros Provinces, Samar, Bohol, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Zamboanga, and Sulu.

Apart from BAR, WPU is also collaborating with Commission on Higher Education, Department of Science and Technology, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the United States Agency for International Development towards preserving Palawan’s sobra-sobra and helping the local abalone industry. ### (Ephraim John J. Gestupa)


For more information, please contact:
Dr. Lota Alcantara-Creencia
Project Leader
Western Philippines University
Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
Tel. No.: 0928-280-9419
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Potentials of arrowroot rhizome wastes for food studied

arrowrootCan wastes ultimately find their way to our tables?

This is what the Marinduque State College (MSC) explored in one of their studies under the project, “Enhancing Productivity and Viability of Arrowroot Industry in Marinduque,” which was supported by the Bureau of Agricultural Research under the Department of Agriculture’s High Value Crops Development Program.

According to Mr. Michael V. Capina, project leader, arrowroot is a local rootcrop that grows in the province of Marinduque. It forms one of the profitable industries in the province due to the high quality of the sought after by-product, which is the starch, that can be extracted from its rhizomes. With its superior properties – in food preparation and its easy digestibility – pastries such as the popular arrowroot cookies of Marinduque, biscuits, and other bakery products are being made out of it. Arrowroot starch is also being used for non-food purposes with its applications in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

Mr. Capina and his team, however, observed that only 45 percent of the rhizomes are being utilized for starch. “During the usual extraction process, recovery for starch ranges from 13 to 20 percent only, with 27 to 35 percent remaining as rhizome residues, and 45 to as much as 60 percent as water,” he explained. Hence, their study focused specifically on utilizing the rhizome waste materials from the extraction process of arrowroot starch to produce arrowroot flour.

flour of waste or arrowroot sapal

In their study, waste rhizomes (sapal) were washed and dried afterwards. After drying, the waste rhizomes were ground 2-3 times to produce the flour. This flour was then used to make brownies and cookies. “Results of proximate analysis showed that the flour derived from waste rhizomes is comparable to the arrowroot starch extracted with the usual process, in fact, with even higher crude fiber content than the starch,” Mr. Capina said.

The products, however, are still being subjected to further improvement alongside testing and analysis. Apart from human consumption, the flour is also being studied for its potentials as an animal feed material. “We are exploring the expanded utilization of arrowroot by-products to help reduce environmental pollution resulting from direct discharge of unused by-products,” Mr. Capina concluded.

Also under the study, Mr. Capina and his team have tried developing novelty items from wastes of different arrowroot plant parts such as handmade paper from leaves; picture frame, fan, and pen holder from stalks; paper bag from rhizome skins; and cardboard and tissue holder from waste rhizomes (sapal). ### (Ann Camille Brion)


For more information, contact:
Mr. Michael V. Capina
Project/Study Leader
Marinduque State College
Tel. Nos.: (042) 332-2028/0389
Mobile No.: 0920-235-8657
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.