Rice has been considered as the staple food for Filipinos and other nationalities in the East. It is a type of grass that belongs to a family of plants that also include wheat and corn. According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Rice is the staple food for more than 3 billion people who eat it every day. And one of the problems today that most of us (Filipinos) face is the price hike of this staple food. The Philippines must not be poor, and must not face this problem, Philippines is an agricultural country.
One discovery was done in September 2010, a crop that resembles and tastes like rice, and was abundant in the Philippines back in the ancient times, yet was not known for its capability as an alternative staple food. Known in science the Coix lacryma-jobi L or Adlai.
Adlai, a tall-grain bearing tropical plant from the family to which rice, corn and wheat belongs. It has been abundantly growing in the Philippines and has been considered as a staple food since the ancient times.
Although, it has been cultivated back in the ancient times, most Filipinos do not know what Adlai is. The Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture was tasked to look on the potentials of Adlai as alternative staple food for rice and corn in the country, and was believed to be one of the crops that would help the country to realise food-sufficiency.
Adlai is abundant in Regions 9, 10 and the Cordillera Administrative Region, and has been widely cultivated now in Zamboanga de Sur, mainly for food as substitute to rice. Like rice, Adlai has different varieties such as: gulian, kinampay (ginampay), pulot (or tapol), linay, mataslai, bagelai, agle gestakyan, NOMIARC dwarf, jalayhay, and ag-gey and the most abundant in the country are gulian, kinampay (or ginampay), pulot (or tapol).
Meanwhile, in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Adlai has been cultivated mainly for wine-making, grains for feeds for livestock and organic fertilizers. Other varieties of it were used to make bracelets, necklace, and the likes.
Adlai leaves were mainly used as organic fertilizers. The production of Adlai is still traditional. In terms of cropping system, it was found out that most of the farmers grow Adlai as mono-crop; others grow Adlai with root crops, forest trees, cash crops and fruit crops. Harvesting of Adlai works out traditionally, shredding first the panicles with their hands after which they are milled and winnowed. It also follows the traditional process of rice before it reaches the dining table.
Adlai grows one to three meters in height which bears tear-like shaped grains that become the source of the food. It looks like a grass in the wilds that blend with the other wild plants. Adlai can tolerate low pH, poor soil quality, waterlogging and is resistant to pests. Just like rice and corn, Adlai too has nutrient components which fit the daily calorie needs of the human body. Adlai looks and tastes like rich but with bigger grain compared to rice itself.
According to the Bureau of Agricultural Research, eating 100 grams per serving of Adlai, one is less likely to feel hungry compared to eating rice and/or corn. It was found out the Adlai contains the highest food energy content which is three hundred fifty-six kilo calories (356 kcal) compared to white and brown rice and corn. Here is a tabular presentation of Adlai and its counterparts according to the findings of BAR:
|Dietary Fiber (g)|
Adlai contains higher energy, carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber directly compared to rice and corn. Adlai is packed with other minerals also, such as: calcium, phosphorus, iron, niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin.
Adlai is a crop, shows potential as food and feed-source. A tea can be made from the parched seeds while beers and wines are made from its fermented grains. Aside from food source, it is also used as an alternative medicine against various diseases such tumor, arthritis, beriberi appendicitis, diabetes, dysentery, bronchitis, fever, and headache.
Adaptability trials have been established in different parts of the country basically to assess the performance of different Adlai varieties in different locations and elevations. The results will be beneficial for the farmers who want to grow this crop in a commercial range as well as for the agriculture industry given our current challenge for rice sufficiency (sic), explained Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, director of BAR as published in the BAR Digest, the quarterly publication of the Bureau of Agricultural Research. On the other hand, Bobby Misa Pagusara, regional coordinator of MASIPAG Mindanao gave the following points on the importance and potentials of Adlai during the training conducted by BAR (as published in the BAR Chronicle)(sic):
- It is more nutritious than rice and corn, for it is high in protein and also contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin
- It helps enhance/increase food biodiversity
- It is tolerant to pest and diseases
- Minimal cost of production as it can ratoon. It only requires a single land preparation and planting but you can harvest 3-5 times, and there is no need for irrigation. It is resilient to drought and flood. One round of weeding is enough and does not require chemical synthetic fertilizer application
- Farmers will be empowered with the introduction of a new low input-requiring crop. Pioneering farmers would have technologies and seeds are in their control since, as of now, there are only a few farmers who cultivate this plant.
In Western Visayas, specifically in the Island of Panay, the West Visayas State University College of Agriculture and Forestry starts the production of Adlai and aims to promote it as the new alternative staple food in the region, as of this moment, they are preparing the land for the production of Adlai.
Nature has been giving humans enough resources in order for one to live, but it takes willingness and passion to discover it. The discovery of the potentials of Adlai is another step for the country to have sustainable staple food for all; Philippines must not suffer hunger, neither shortage. The Department of Agriculture was set to self-sufficiency on staple food by 2013 and maintains it until 2016, and Adlai is one of the bridges to this gap. According to D.A. rice and corn are considered the country’s staple foods. However, given the vast resources of the country, there are many potential staple crops that can be tapped, and that is Adlai. Well, it may not convince us (Ilonggos) as of now but in the future, Adlai may save Panay from shortage. It may not be abundant as of this time, but who knows, it may replace rice and corn on our table couple of years from now. For a developing country like the Philippines, nationals would tend to eat rice as the staple food, but suffers on the shortage of it that leads to its price hike, and that the calorie intake must be in form of carbohydrates and the kind of carbohydrates would affect the health of the person, Adlai itself is one of the best calorie source that is abundant in the country due to its versatility and components that beats rice and corn. Definitely, Philippines is rich, it only takes appreciation of the natural resources and the sustainable use of it. Today’s discovery is essential for the future, like Adlai, it is a start of a new staple food that would suffice the hunger of the future. New technologies have been adapted, have been introduced, and have been adopted—these innovations are for the development of our country. These innovations may take years for us to adopt in to our daily living, but little by little, it will help us develop from a state of poverty to one dynamic community which utilizes the gift and harvests of nature sustainably, that the future generations may be able to feel, enjoy and taste the sweetness of nature. Who would think that Adlai is edible? That is tastes and resembles like rice? But because, humans are eager, they were able to discover it. Why look for something that is foreign, instead, enjoy and make use of what’s around us, appreciate every inch of it.
Couple of years from now, there will no hungry family in this country and realization of one great vision of a leader shall be done, “food for every table, for every family”, if and only if, we will do out bit in the course of this endeavor to self-sufficiency on staple food, then no one will suffer hunger and malnutrition. They say; “if you eat today, thank a farmer”. It is all about appreciation and taking care of what’s in our hands. Development is never too far, just a step forward.
DA-BAR: Research & Development Program on Adlai (Adaptability Yield Trials & Seed Production). Retrieved August 29, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeypJCDhIv0
Dela Cruz, R.T. ADLAI: A never heard of crop that resembles, tastes like rice. Retrieved August 30, 2013 from http://www.bar.gov.ph/digest-home/digest-archives/364-2011-4th-quarter/2039-adlai-a-never-heard-of-crop-that-resembles-tastes-like-rice.
Dela Cruz, R.T. Why eating adlai is good for you?. Retrieved August 30, 2013 from http://www.bar.gov.ph/digest-home/digest-archives/364-2011-4th-quarter/2038-why-eating-adlai-is-good-for-you.
Lesaca, P.R.A. In search of food: DA’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program. Retrieved August 31, 2013 from http://www.bar.gov.ph/digest-home/digest-archives/364-2011-4th-quarter/2048-in-search-of-food-da-s-food-staples-sufficiency-program.
Sarmiento, B.S. Adlai instead of rice, anyone?. Retrieved August 29, 2013 from http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2012/03/04/adlai-instead-of-rice-anyone/.
Velasco, A.A. BAR leads training on Adlai production in Bukidnon. Retrieved August 30, 2013 from http://www.bar.gov.ph/chronicle-home/archives-list/96-september-2010-issue/375-bar-leads-training-on-adlai-production-in-bukidnon.