Researchers from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) are seeking to improve varieties of adlai (Coix lacryma-jobi L.) to become better alternative staple food crop.
With this, it is good to familiarize ourselves with this tall, grain-bearing tropical plant, which can be found in the southern Philippines.
Adlai is popularly known as Job’s tears as it bears tear-like grains which become the staple food of many indigenous tribes in Mindanao, making them live until 160 years old, DOST-PNRI Science Research Specialist Ana Maria Veluz said on DOSTv in a segment “Expertalk Online”.
“Kadamihan ng adlai ay ginogrow o kinucultivate or makikita mo sa Mindanao sa south part ng Pilipinas dyan talaga sya tinatanim (Adlai is mostly grown or cultivated or you can find it in Mindanao, in the southern part of the Philippines where it is actually planted),” she said.
She said the Subanen people of Zamboanga, known as the aborigines of the island of Mindanao, have been growing adlai as their staple food as well as those tribes in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
“Pero ang tribes sa Mindanao ito ay kanilang staple food at mas kinakain nila ito kesa sa rice (But, the tribes in Mindanao make it as their staple food and they eat it more than rice),” Veluz said.
She said the ancestors of these tribes who eat adlai as their staple food live longer and even reach 160 years old.
She said after some time, the next generation of the indigenous tribes tried eating rice and “the life span of that generation became shorter, they only reached 100 years of age or shorter.”
Veluz said adlai is cultivated in mountainous area and “it does not need irrigation like rice.”
The Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that compared to corn, white or brown rice, adlai has the highest food energy content with 356 kilocalories.
“Adlai is also superior to its staple counterparts when it comes to carbohydrate content (73.9 grams), protein (12.8 g), and fat (1.0 g),” it said.
Through mutation breeding, the DOST-PNRI said it continued improving varieties of adlai to become better alternative staple food crop.
“Considering adlai’s many beneficial characteristics, PNRI researchers are using radiation technology to develop a new variety that can produce higher yield at a shorter plant height, making it easier to cultivate and harvest.”
The PNRI cited that adlai is twice as rich in protein as rice, and is known among indigenous communities throughout Asia as a source of flour, coffee, tea, wine, beer and vinegar, among other products.
“It has anti-tumor and other medicinal properties which can help mitigate the symptoms of allergies, and diabetes,” it said.
“Moreover, adlai is also known for its resilience against extreme conditions brought about by climate change.”
It said farmers will soon have a new variety of adlai which has more yield, shorter in height to make the crops easier to manage, and more resistant to lodging during typhoons.
“PNRI researchers continue to develop mutant varieties of rice and other staple food crops with even higher yields, disease resistance, earlier maturity and shorter heights to improve the livelihood of Filipino farmers.”