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Batanes’ Arius wine is cited as a promising product

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A new product, Arius fruit wine, developed by the Batanes State College (BaSCO), received a special citation for being one of the promising products exhibited during the 9th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition (NTF) organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).

Ano yung Arius?” was the usual question asked by the participants and visitors when they came across the booth of BaSCO which displayed various products developed from the Arius fruits including wine, jam, yema, and pastillas.

Arius (Podocarpus costalis), a pine bearing sweet and sultry reddish purple berries, is indigenous to Batanes and is found thriving in the province for a long time. Before, it was famously utilized for aesthetics especially during the holiday season when it is decorated as a Christmas tree. Exploited for its landscaping appeal, the Arius pines are also grown in other parts of Luzon, especially in Metro Manila to give a touch of nature to urban areas such as plazas, parks, roadsides, and schools. However, Arius pines in Metro Manila do not bear berries unlike those grown in Batanes. Moreover, the berries were originally underutilized by the people and were left to be eaten by the birds, which are responsible for dispersing its seeds throughout the province.

Today, with the realization of how appealing the sweet taste and succulent texture of Arius berries, BaSCO has conducted projects focusing on developing various food products using Arius berries.

Two projects titled “Processing Technology Development and Utilization for Organically Grown Arius Fruits in Batanes” and “Arius Fruits Product Development” were led by Dr. Roger G. Baltazar, director for research and extension of BaSCO, and were supported by BAR through its banner program National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP).

The projects aimed to develop various product technologies from Arius berries so to create value-adding strategies that will improve livelihood and profit. The products developed through these projects are Arius candies (e.g., pastillas, yema), jelly, jam, juice, pastries (e.g., tart), preserve, prunes, tea, and wine.

The “Arius Fruits Product Development” project also paved way for the development of Arius as feed additives to animal feeds and as fertilizer when fermented.

The special citation during the 9th NTF shows how promising the potentials of Arius not only as a wine but also as an indigenous commodity beginning to be known by the mass consumers as a versatile and delicious fruit.

The continuous collaboration of BaSCO and BAR aims to intensify the production and commercialization of Arius products to improve the income of farming communities in Batanes and to encourage investments that will help trigger economic rise in the province. ### (Leila Denisse E. Padilla)

BAR’s NRS turns silver; IRRI’s Deputy Director to keynote

2013 NRS poster

The annually-held National Research Symposium (NRS) of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) will hold its silver year on 16-17 October 2013 with the theme, NRS@25: Pananaliksik Tungo sa Mataas na Ani at Kita sa Pagsasakahan at Pangingisdaan. The theme highlights on research results gearing towards achieving high production and income in the agriculture-fisheries sector thereby improving the plights of the farming and fishing communities.

The activity will kick off on Oct. 16 at BAR with the presentations of citation awards for AFMA R&D Paper Qualifiers to be led by BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar and Asst. Dir. Teodoro S. Solsoloy. The opening program will be followed by the presentations of R&D papers in simultaneous sessions.

The awarding of the AFMA Best R&D Papers and Best Poster will be on Oct. 17 at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM). Dr. Bruce J. Tolentino, deputy director-general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will keynote the event. The finalists for the Gawad Saka Search for “Outstanding Agricultural Scientist” and “Outstanding Agricultural Researcher” will also be announced during the event. Another highlight is the launching of two revised books: 1) Competitive Research and Development Grants Manual (CRGM), and 2) Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research , Development and Extension Program (PhiRARDEP). Both are references/guidebooks for stakeholders in prioritizing and funding BAR researches and other R&D initiatives.

NRS is a competition that extols the significant roles and accomplishments of R&D practitioners and their works in the fields of agriculture and fisheries.The symposium highlights important research results and technologies generated and conducted by researchers and scientists making it a good venue to disseminate new technologies and knowledge, in support to agriculture and fisheries modernization.

This year, 130 paper entries were received, 44.62 percent (58) of which came from the state universities and colleges (SUCs) and 31.54 percent (41) came from various DA-staff bureaus and attached agencies. The remaining chunks came from DA-RFUs and other non-DA agencies with 22.31 percent (29) and 1.54 percent (2), respectively. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz)

Rice terraces farmers fight climate change

rice terracesThe beholding terrain and vast coverage of the rice terraces found in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) is still one of the most proud-to-be-Pinoy spots in the Philippines.

However, due to the pervasive effects of climate change, rice terraces farmers are more determined to protect the 2000-year old natural heritage and to sustain rice productivity which is one of the major sources of livelihood in the region.

Impacts of climate change on production, environment, and health

The Ifugao State University (IfSU), in collaboration with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), implemented a study titled “Assessment of Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation Strategies in the Traditional Rice Terraces of the Cordillera Region” to document the overall impacts of the weather anomalies being experienced in the region and how farming communities in Ifugao, Mt. Province, Kalinga, and Apayao adapt to sustain production and income.

The study, which was conducted from August 2011 to November 2012, also aimed to document policies on good practices in rice production to aid in optimizing productivity and preserving cultural heritage. Towards the end, the proponents created information materials and convened the rice farmers to discuss the findings and results of the study.

“The selected rice terraces clusters are Viewpoint and Bangaan in Banaue, Ifugao, Fidelisan, Pide and Aguid in Sagada, Mt. Province, Magsilay in Pasil, Kalinga, and Tanglagan in Calanasan, Apayao. The four study sites falls either under the Type 1 and 3 climatic classification of the Philippines which is dry from December to April and wet during the rest of the year,” discussed by Dr. Robert T. Ngidlo, project leader from IfSU.

After the survey conducted among 175 farmers/key informants, it was found that there are six major climatic hazards that occur across the four project sites, namely 1) erratic rainfall, 2) low temperature, 3) typhoon, 4) El Niño, 5) La Niña, and 6) fog/cloudiness.

The effects of these hazards were categorized into three: 1) biological, which focuses on the life processes such as growth, resistance, and reproduction; 2) physical, which focuses on environmental physical conditions; and 3) health, which focuses on farmers’ well-being.

The documented biological effects are interference in pollination during the flowering stage, increase in insect pest population particularly rice bugs, thickening of stalks and leave, delayed panicle initiation and grain formation, growth stunting, and more.

In terms of physical effects, the climate hazards have caused increase in flooding depths, loosening of soil, frequent landslides and collapse of dikes and walls, and soil infertility.

The major effect on health is the lowering capacity of farmers to work in the terraces during extreme weather conditions. Since the farmers belong to the middle and older age groups, they have become more vulnerable to diseases and illnesses since cold months have gotten colder while warm months have gotten warmer.

“Viral diseases such as acute respiratory infection, fever, flu, and pneumonia obtained the highest frequency in all the sites. Dengue fever tends to be more dominant in Ifugao and Kalinga but not in Apayao and Mt. Province, There are reported cases of malaria in all the study sites but appear to be more pronounces in Apayao and Kalinga,” Dr. Ngidlo discussed.

Adaptation strategies amidst climate extremes

The survey and documentation found that the farmers in all sites have been employing certain adaptive methods in order to combat against the effects of climate change.

The primary strategy they have been employing is adjusting the cropping calendar. “Farmers have successfully evaded injuries imposed climate hazards by moving their cropping calendar to the more favorable months of the year which coincides with the warmer months from January to June,” the proponents stated.

The farmers are also successful in classifying which traditional rice varieties are apt for wet and dry seasons which improved yield and income. Modern farming practices such as 1) mechanization, 2) use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, 3) use of high-yielding and early-maturing rice varieties, are also performed in order to hasten and optimize production.

Since water is the most vital constituent in rice terraces farming, most of the activities being held by the farmers are concentrated on water/irrigation management. The documented water management strategies are 1) repair and maintenance of dikes, 2) use of PVC pipes to convey water from source to the terraces, and 3) use of irrigation canals.

“The four study sites use a variety of ways to control pest and diseases. These are: use of resistance rice varieties, use of chemical spray, manual removal or handpicking, proper timing of planting to avoid pest, and no control measures being applied,” Dr. Ngidlo elucidated.

To address soil infertility, the farmers utilize commercial organic fertilizer with inorganic fertilizer and compost. They also use less aromatic varieties which can thrive well in nutrient-less soil than the traditional heirloom rice varieties.

It is also documented that farmers conduct alternate flooding and draining of water in the rice paddies in order to allow sunlight hit the paddy surface and to reduce zinc deficiency, a disease locally known as Lisao or Lanu, which affects soil health and plant growth.

Local policies were also arranged in order to have equal and harmonious rice production among communities. The Lampesa system is implemented to manage the distribution of water during water-lean months.

“The Lapat system is declared when a member of the community passes away, putting a portion of a river or forest off limits to human activities for a certain period of time. The length of Lapat is based on the status or prominence of the person who passed away…Although the Lapat system is more on the conservation of biodiversity, it may also enhance climate change resiliency when natural resources are restricted from use to allow healing even for a limited period of time,” Dr. Ngidlo explained. ### (Leila Denisse E. Padilla)

Ifugao’s Tinawon increases production through CPAR

tinawon rice1Preserving a taste, protecting a heritage – this is how the rice growers of Ifugao want the heirloom rice production to be recognized.

Tinawon, one of the heirloom rice varieties thriving in the Cordillera region, is creating a niche market in the global world. What makes it special? Aside from being planted in a world heritage site, this kind of rice is being planted through organic means which adds to its value and quality as an export commodity. Due to its exquisite aroma, distinct taste, and unique texture, the Tinawon rice is yearly exported to the United States where demand is constantly rising.

In 2011, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) supported the Tinawon production project under its Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) program. It aims to increase the production of Tinawon as well as to supplement the export volume in order to sustain the needs of the farmers. Through the project, farmers were taught on using bio-organic and foliar fertilizers, early transplanting, and proper distancing.

According to Dr. Catherine Buenaventura, supervising agriculturist of Ifugao’s Provincial Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources Office (PAENRO), “these interventions led to a five percent increase in the production of Tinawon rice during the first cycle.” As for the project development, she furthered that the procurement of facilities such as thresher and other equipment for the processing of by-products such as rice coffee and rice wine will be needed.

tinawon rice2Led and managed by Mr. Jimmy Lingayo, the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative (RTFC) serves as a ready market for the harvest and production of Tinawon. It is composed of farmer-members from Banaue, Hingyon, Hungduan, Mayoyao, Asipulo, Aguinaldo, and Kiangan in the province of Ifugao. In 2006, RTFC became a registered cooperative through the Cooperative Development Authority and became a certified organic rice producer through the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) in 2011.

Last year, the cooperative was able to export 11 tons of heirloom rice to US, a significant increase from the 2006 export volume of Tinawon amounting to 3 tons. The facility also started to cater to the local market in 2009 where up to the present, 4 tons have already been supplied. Currently, a kilogram of Tinawon rice is priced at P100.

The RTFC houses the Tinawon rice export facility. It also serves as a venue for activities such as marketing of heirloom rice, selling of heirloom rice seeds, rice hulling and milling, heirloom rice gifts and souvenirs, processing of coffee and banana, micro-finance loan, and other rental activities. ### (Anne Camille Brion)

Soon to hit the market: An anti-diabetic, natural sweetener from sweet sorghum

sorghum sweeterA natural sweetener from sweet sorghum syrup will be hitting the market soon. And it comes in fine, milky-looking powder form.

When asked how different the sweet sorghum sweetener is from the commercially available sweetener in the market, Mr. Antonio S. Arcangel, general manager of the Bapamin Enterprise, had no qualms in proudly stating the facts. “It’s all natural and it has medium-low glycemic index compared to other sweetener which is good for diabetics.”

“In terms of physical attributes, sweet sorghum powder is fine in texture and slightly hygroscopic which means that it has good solubility even in cold water and has high flavor retention. Taste-wise, it is milky and has a distinctly sweet taste that does not leave any after taste in the tongue or add any unnecessary flavor to your beverage,” he said.

Mr. Arcangel developed the sweetener from sweet sorghum syrup through the project, “Value Added Technique in Sweet Syrup: Spray Drying and Packaging for Convenience Market,” which is funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP).

The goal of the project is to convert the sweet sorghum syrup into a high value food product such as the powder sweetener and packaged them into sachets for convenient handling and longer shelf life. “An important component of this project is the acquiring of a spray drying machine to do the main job: convert the syrup into powder in large volume,” Mr. Arcangel explained.

The spray drying machine

Recently, together with a visiting group from BAR’s Technology Commercialization Division (TCD) and Applied Communications Division (ACD), Mr. Arcangel and his group conducted a dry-run to test the machine. According to Mr. Arcangel, the machine originally came from Germany and was eventually fabricated in the Philippines. “At about 15 feet tall, the spray dryer for sweet sorghum is only the fifth of its kind in the Philippines,” he added.

In a six hour operation, the machine can process and convert a 10-kilo of the sweet sorghum feedstock (syrup) into powder form. This will be packaged in sachet, each containing 10 grams. The 10 kilo powder sweetener will produce around 1,000 sachets. The suggested retail price will be at P3.50 per sachet which makes it competitive.

Comparing it to other natural sweeteners

Probably two of the great competitors of sweet sorghum sweetener in the market are Stevia and coco sugar. Both are packaged and sold as natural sweetners which are also anti-diabetic. But Mr. Arcangel has more to say about his product over the two top competitors.

“Plantation-wise, sweet sorghum is easy to grow and maintain. Since it is an introduced crop from India, sweet sorghum is drought-resistant and is suitable for planting even in non-irrigated, marginal areas. Also, collecting feedstocks (syrup) is much easier and larger in volume compared to Stevia plant wherein sweetener is mainly extracted from its leaves.

When it comes to coco sugar, sweet sorghum sweetener has a better advantage. It is cheaper to produce. Unlike coconut sap sugar production, which is done virtually by manual methods from harvest to cooking for sugar crystallization, the production of sweet sorghum sweetener is mechanized allowing for bulk volume. And with the spray-drying facility to back up the anticipated demand in volume, the prospect becomes more promising for the sweetener from sweet sorghum.

Packaging and marketing

Part of the component of the project is its taste improvement and testing. Packaging and labeling will be the last segment which is important in attracting customers and reaching the international market.

Bapamin will produce a sample volume soon. “We intend to release it in August during the BAR’s National Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition at SM Megamall,” announced Mr. Arcangel.

“This will be sold in specialty stores, more of a niche market that is into selling organic and natural products like Healthy Choices in Greenhills. Hopefully, after we launched the product, we will tap 10 outlets in Metro Manila as outlets. We want to cater to the anti-diabetics, travelers, food, coffee shops and others that need a fixed sweetener volume of single packs,” Mr. Arcangel explained.

Although not in the mainstream market yet, Bapamin has been an active participant in various agricultural trade fairs and exhibits wherein they have been showcasing the sweetener from sweet sorghum.

“Two years ago, we met someone in the Agrilink exhibit who has been using coco sugar. We urged him to try our sweetener and mix it with the sweet sorghum vinegar. We also asked him to have his condition regularly monitor by his doctor to know if it’s effective. Ever since, until today, he comes to our house to get his supplies. He is even willing to give his testimonies for our product. After two years of using the sweetener, he felt strong and he can now walk without a cane. ### (Rita T. Dela Cruz)