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Maize Silky Sip, a healthy twist to an unusual drink

Corn Silky SipMaize or corn silk (Maydis stigma) is a collection of fine, soft, fiber-like yellowish threads from the flower of the maize plant that is generally considered as a waste product.

However, this is no longer the case for the research team from the Cagayan Valley Research Center (CVRC) of the Department of Agriculture–Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 2 in Ilagan, Isabela, as they continuously diversify the many uses of corn, this time, focusing on the silk.

The Cagayan Valley region is dubbed as the Philippines’ corn capital being the country’s top producer of corn. Together with other agricultural crops in the region such as rice, farmers rely heavily on corn for livelihood. With investments on research and development (R&D), CVRC, led by its Station Manager Rose Mary Aquino, explored the potentials of the maize silk in the hopes of adding more product value and at the same time increasing the income of corn farmers in the province.

“So far, ang dine-develop namin ay coming from the grains of corn such as noodles and coffee, among others. Then we came to ask ourselves, ano ang pwede nating gawin sa waste?” Aquino shared. Such idea inspired her and her team to come up with a project to develop a product using silk.

Traditionally, maize silk is used for its diuretic properties, among others. Indigenous Western communities were known to have been using maize silk as remedy for urinary tract infections (UTI), kidney and bladder infections.

In the medical world, diuretics are medications designed to increase the amount of water and salt expelled from the body in the form of urine. These medicines are often prescribed to help treat high blood pressure, as it reduces the amount of fluid in the blood vessels. Additionally, diuretics can aid in weight loss, too.

Other health claims of corn silk according to some studies include its ability to regulate blood sugar levels; a good source of Vitamin C; has anti-inflammatory properties; and facilitates blood clotting. In fact, a study on the phytochemical components and antioxidant activity of various extracts of corn silk demonstrated that it is rich in phytochemicals such as alkaloids, amino acids, carbohydrates, phenolic compounds, terpenoids, steroids, proteins and tannins, and has also exhibited high antioxidant properties.

Focusing on these health benefits, Aquino’s team looked into utilizing the silk as a healthy juice drink, adding to the existing product line of corn called the Mangi Maxi. Derived from the words Mangi, an Ibanag term for corn, and Maxi, which means to maximize, Mangi Maxi offers a wide array of corn products such as coffee, noodles, and pastries to name a few.

With a brand name Maize Silky Sip, this newest addition to the Mangi Maxi product line is a healthy juice drink made out of corn silk. Processed through boiling and fermentation, it is blended with lemon grass using honey as sweetener to make the taste more appealing especially to the health-conscious market.

The Maize Silky Sip is currently packaged in a 350-ml glass bottle and priced at Php 25. It was given third prize for “Best Product” category from the recently held 13th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) on 8-10 August 2017.

However, to further improve the packaging without compromising market competitiveness, the research team is now collaborating with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to analyze and establish its nutritional value and especially to determine appropriate natural preservatives that can prolong the shelf life of the product. Presently, a bottle of the Maize Silky Sip can last for up to five days.

Also, in collaboration with the National Nutrition Council of the Philippines, the research team is looking into the possibility of promoting the Maize Silky Sip safe for infant use, targeting those who suffer from pediatric UTI.

With funding support from BAR, under its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), this product development project takes off from the existing projects on white and purple corn implemented by DA-RFO 2.

“For now, we are undergoing field trials to establish when is the best stage to gather the silk of the maize plant, without affecting the grains,” said Aquino. Her team is also set to establish data on the silk’s storability, and to determine the best corn variety to use for the Maize Silky Sip.

“We are hoping that one day, this product can compete with the highly commercialized natural fruit juices available in the market. Not only does the Maize Silky Sip juice promote our local corn industry, but more importantly, it will help uplift the lives of our corn farmers,” Aquino added. ### (Daryl Lou A. Battad)

Leyte farmers benefit from abaca multi-stranded yarning machine

SAHA 5Abaca fiber is one of the most high-valued commodities and products are grown in the Philippines due to its high demand both in local and foreign markets. The Philippines the world’s top and largest producer of abaca fiber and by-products. It is the strongest among the existing natural fibers and is primarily used as a raw material for pulp and paper, fiber craft, cordage, among others. With its wide range of uses, abaca has rapidly grown into an industry providing opportunities for livelihood and as additional income to abaca farmers and processors.

The Philippines Abaca Market Forecast and Opportunities reported that the abaca market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 5.7 percent until 2019. Given this, there will be a continuous demand for abaca and its by-products for the future years thereby the need to increase production to cater to the local and international markets.

 

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Fabricating abaca machine

 

The National Abaca Research Center (NARC) based at the Visayas State University (VSU), Baybay City in Leyte, one of the agencies mandated to uplift the abaca industry, has developed a multi-stranded yarning machine for the production of abaca yarn. This is to replace the tedious, time-consuming, and knotting method of tinagak-making. Support is being provided by the High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) through its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP).

According to Dr. Feliciano G. Sinon, NARC-VSU project leader, in a traditional scenario, the conventional production of small twines for abaca handicraft is done by knotting individual fiber, combining the yarns, and twisting them into filaments to produce twine. This process is slow and labor intensive. Moreover, the traditional making of twine is a laborious work since the operator has to walk back and forth in setting the twisting end and in laying operation. Thus, NARC embarked on a project titled, “Development of a Twining Machine for the Production of 1-5 mm diameter Abaca Twine” that aimed to develop a twining machine for fast production of abaca twine from multi-stranded and untwisted abaca yarn and mainly to bring abaca machine generated technology to its adaptors and possible end-users.

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Considered more economical than the traditional technique, the machine can produce 1.5 kg per day of multi-stranded yarn as compared to 1.0 kg of yarn per week using the knotting method. Twining capacity of the machine can produce good quality 1mm diameter twine at 200 m/hr, wherein the twine made from tinagak yarn using the machine was very smooth and has no protruding fiber ends.

Dr. Sinon pointed out that, the fabrication of the prototype twine machine was subjected to a series of different evaluation for its operational functionality. As a result, the machine has good acceptability ratings to end-users. Piloting activity of twining machine was tested, and many of the abaca handi-crafters in the community said that, “the twine machine is very useful for handicraft making, easy and simple to operate.” They also mentioned that the community could have one unit in the future, and end the manual twine making.

The cost and return analysis of the machine amounts to Php 45,000 with the net income of about Php 129/day with a payback period of 1.71 years and a return on investment as high as 58.35 percent.

Currently, two units of the machine were already sold to abaca cooperatives in Maharlika Abaca Growers Association of Magara, Roxas, Palawan and Sibugay, Zamboanga City for their handicraft production and expansion.

 

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SAHA engages back into business

 

Seeing the importance of machine developed to the abaca processors and to other possible-end users, the project aimed to establish a village-level abaca yarn production and abaca by-products processing enterprises. This provides greater chances to strengthen the production capability of handicraft- abaca makers to engage in agribusiness using the developed machine. Thus, to further pursue this goal, the project “Pilot Production and Commercialization of Abaca Yarn, Twine, and its Derived Products in Region 8 Areas,” was implemented by NARC-VSU.

The San Agustin Abaca Handi-crafters Association (SAHA) in San Agustin, Babay City, Leyte, project collaborator of NARC-VSU, reorganized in 2015 capacitating their skills through training provided by NARC-VSU Team. Members of the association received learning skills on handicraft production, business-operational management, product marketing, and product development. The team also provided them technical assistance to develop both their leadership and organizational capabilities.

After the training in 2016, SAHA’s business operation started producing abaca yarns and processed abaca into new high-valued products. Aside from products made from “bacbac” like bags and coin purse, SAHA is now offering new products including twine balls, abaca decorative vases, macramé twine handbags, sinamay bags and other abaca derived products using abaca yarns and twines out of the generated machine.

To have a centralized area for SAHA’s business operation, a Handicraft Processing Center was also constructed by the project in the community. SAHA members are involved in all operational processes including purchasing of raw materials, making handicraft products, and delivery, among others. At present, four establishments in nearby locality of Baybay City, Leyte marketed their abaca products. These are: VSU Pasalubong Center; Baybay City Pasalubong Center; Laurente’s Store; and VSU-NARC Display Room.

SAHA also developed good business strategy wherein business operation and management scheme has been stabilized by the member to continue and enhance the production of their newly-developed products. Thus, the association provided the raw materials to the members and they in turn encouraged selling their products directly to the association where they are paid in cash. The percentage of the income goes to the association for additional budget for its continuous operation.

Sinon shared that the biggest benefit of the project was not only to provide abaca handi-crafters with additional knowledge on making abaca products for their income opportunities, but also to improve teaching capabilities by sharing their acquired knowledge through training. SAHA members continuously involved themselves from trainees to trainors, and recently they were tapped as resource persons in various handicraft trainings within Visayas and Mindanao. ### (Leoveliza C. Fontanil)

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)

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)