The Philippines is blessed with abundant and diverse species of fruits, but many of them remain underutilized in terms of food processing.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 170 of 300 fruits bearing perennial plant species are considered indigenous and most are either underutilized or neglected. They are commonly found in localities, but very few of them are available.

Recognizing the importance and potential of underutilized fruits, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), featured two topics in its seminar serried emphasizing the nutrition, processing value, product development, and economic approaches of novel products from the underutilized fruit crops. The seminar, led by the bureau’s Applied Communication Division, was held on 28 February 2019 at BAR Annex Building, Visayas Ave in Quezon City.

Dr. Dennis Marvin O. Santiago, project leader and associate professor of the Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of the Philippine Los Baños, served as the resource speaker on the topic, “Utilization of Neglected Underutilized Tropical Fruits for the Development of High Value Food Products”. The project aimed to develop high-value products from selected and underutilized indigenous fruits in the country.

According to Dr. Santiago, tropical fruit crops also known as ‘minor, ‘orphan’ or promising crops, are wild and domesticated plant species that have been overlooked by agricultural researchers and policymakers. “In fact, out of 30,000 edible plants only 30 are used to feed the world providing 95 percent of our food energy requirement. We saw the need to develop a research study intended to optimize their potentials,” he said.

Dr. Santiago emphasized the needs in processing this neglected underutilized tropical fruits because it has inherent characteristics that can turn fruit into human health product by processing them. Nutrient-wise, it has 70-95 percent water; high percentage of phytochemicals such as phenolic compounds, organic acids, carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, Vitamin A, B complex, C, E with macro and micro minerals; and carbohydrates that are present in digestible and indigestible forms.

Through the project, the group of Dr. Santiago was able to optimize the processing parameters of these underutilized fruits for wine and cordial production including passion fruit, sapinit, rambutan, longan, rattan, lipote, aranga, duhat and kalumpit. Among the product lines developed included juices, concentrates, fruit in syrups, jams, and jellies. They have established a quality assurance system in the processing the indigenous fruits into products.

“Utilizing them into commonly consumed food products will address the nutritional and human health problems and in effect, improve the economic status of farmers owing to the added-value of their produce,” Santiago concluded.

Another topic discussed during the seminar series was the “Product Improvement and Marketing for Dalanghita Nectar,” presented by Dr. Victoria Noble, project leader from the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) Tagkawayan Campus. Her discussion centered on providing basis information in the existing market situation of dalanghita in Southern Luzon. Product procedures on making dalanghita nectar were also discussed. ### (Leoveliza C. Fontanil)

Rice planthoppers (RPH), including the brown planthopper (BPH), small brown planthopper, and white-backed planthopper (WBPH), are constraints to rice production because of their direct damages. They can transmit viruses that can be devastating to rice plants.

A study made by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) showed that continuous crop monoculture of high-yielding varieties with high fertilizer rate, unnecessary usage of pesticides, and the changing cultural practices, could possibly implicate the development of BPH population leading to breakdown of major genetic resistant varieties.

In keeping an environmentally-sound and a partnership-based research on rice research, Genaro Rillon of PhilRice and co-researchers have worked on project, “Construction of Epidemiology Information Interchange System for Migratory Disease and Insect Pests in Asia Region: Assessment of Rice Planthoppers Populations and Viruses in the Philippines”. The project was funded by the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI), which is being coordinated by the Bureau of Agricultural Research. It was established to monitor RPH and other viruses causing significant rice production losses in Asian countries. The goal is to reduce the vulnerability of rice crops losses caused by RPH outbreaks in the Philippines and to participate in the establishment of collaborative network.   

 Results can be accessed through the internet platform of the AFACI-Asian Migratory Insects and Viruses Surveillance (AMIVS), web-based portal system, designed as a depository for valuable information and a monitoring system.  

Project assessment and monitoring results

The monitoring of RPH populations, using light traps, was conducted at the PhilRice Central Experiment Station (CES) in Munoz, Nueva Ecija.  And in two sites using stick traps in PhilRice CES and in Mabini, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija.  

The light trap was set up weekly and used to approximate numbers of planthoppers (BPH and WBPH) density, while the sticky traps started at ten days after transplanting until maturity of rice crop. In each sampling per week, sticky trapping was conducted at ten hills randomly selected per field. At each trapping spot, the sticky trap was placed between two plants. The traps were brought to the laboratory for counting and recording the number of collected BPH and WBPH including spiders.

According to Rillon, observed high populations of RPH monitored using sticky trap coincided with the reproductive to ripening phases of rice plants in the field. Planthoppers prefer these phases of rice growth as they can get better nutrition around these stages.  It was further observed that planthopper adults invaded rice at reproductive phase and seems that they invade rice earlier during wet season.

For both dry and wet seasons, monitoring showed that WBPH was usually recorded earlier to colonize rice plants than BPH. During field samplings, spiders, coccinellids, mirids, and tiger beetles were commonly observed in the field.

The population patterns observed would indicate that RPH develops in the field and peaked towards the end or as the crop neared maturity during the dry or wet seasons. Comparing these two population peaks recorded, higher peak of population occurred in wet season as compared with dry season.  However, Rillon pointed out there was an increasing trend in the number of planthopper populations recorded and its associated hopperburn damage in some areas in the Nueva Ecija.

Initial planthopper population was usually observed during the reproductive stages and continuously increases as the crop matures. Population peaks were recorded from March to April, and from August to September. Similar patterns of populations of RPH were recorded during the dry (June - June) and wet (July - December) seasons. Consistently more BPH were recorded than WBPH. Only few patches of hopperburn injury were observed in farmers’ fields during the year. Incidence of injury ranged from 5 to 20 percent.  Incidence of rice virus disease was not recorded.

In the latter rice growth stages, populations decreased because planthoppers usually emigrate when rice is maturing due to poor food conditions of host plants. It was commonly observed that planthopper adults attacked rice at reproductive phase and seems that they invade rice earlier during wet season. For both dry and wet seasons, monitoring showed that WBPH was usually recorded earlier to colonize rice plants than BPH.

The project proponent was also able to input the data obtained from the monitoring conducted in the AMIVS system.

Recommendations and other researchable areas

Although the damage was not in serious outbreak proportions, there is also a need to continuously monitor RPH populations to prevent pest outbreak in the future.

To prevent RPH outbreak in the field, different management strategies were presented such as planting of varieties that are resistant to planthoppers, synchronous planting to avoid overlapping populations, conservation of beneficial organism to maximize natural biological control and proper use of chemical control when needed.

It is also necessary to study the changes in the practices of farmers like insecticide spray, nutrient application, variety usage and intensity of planting that favors the development of planthopper populations in the field.

PhilRice plans to continue monitoring RPH to establish population patterns of the insect pests. This is also to sustain the strong regional collaboration that is essential for the generation of information to improve management of RPH in the country.

AFACI is an international cooperation body committed to improving food production, promoting the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices, and enhancing the extension services of Asian countries.  The Philippines is one of the member-nations of AFACI since it was inaugurated in 2009. ### (Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca)

 

 

At the heart of every initiative of the Department of Agriculture is the farmer. Apart from the department’s goal of achieving food security, DA safeguards the livelihood of the men and women who contribute to the country’s supply of food. For farmers and fisherfolk, access to technologies is a major consideration for the sustainability of their practice.

As an archipelago made up of more than 7000 islands, the economic experiences of farmers and fisherfolk sit at polar opposites. Access to specific farming inputs, from clean water to a steady supply of electricity, varies greatly depending on location. With climate becoming more unpredictable, so does the economic status of farming communities.

DA acknowledges the actuality of smallscale farmers and fisherfolk making up most of the sector’s stakeholders. While at first glance it may seem to be a serious problem, it could also be a window to an opportunity.

In other parts of the world, under-developed communities such as those in East and West Africa are empowered by the local government and private entities through the introduction of off-grid agricultural technologies powered by renewable energy.

In order to see firsthand how this works, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), through funding support from the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) sent two of its top officials, Assistant Director Digna Sandoval and Applied Communication Division head Julia Lapitan, to the “Eilat Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference” in Dan Eilat, Israel. This bi-annual event is hosted by the company that bears the same name and it highlights the best and the ground-breaking initiatives on renewable energy.

Despite only having 20 percent of its total land area is to be considered naturally arable, Israel maintains its status as a country that produces and exports its own agricultural commodities. This is made possible through technological innovations in the field of agriculture and renewable energy.

In the conference, policymakers from the international community met with investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and industry leaders. This year, the conference put a spotlight on off-grid and smart-grid technologies powered by renewable energy.

Green energy is generated by harnessing energy from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and flowing water. They are otherwise known as renewable energy since it can be readily available and sourced out from nature whenever it is available, unlike fossil fuels whose availability diminishes as it is further used and exploited.

Fossil fuels are harnessed through heavy machinery done by big corporations while renewable energy can be harnessed both in a commercial scale and small scale. Green energy is available even in rural and remote areas.

During their visit in Israel, Lapitan and Sandoval attended a series of panel discussions that showcased the best in agricultural technologies and farming systems which are considered as off-grid. One example is Irrigation by Condensation which is a technology developed by ROOTS Sustainable Agricultural Technologies. The system is made up of interconnected pipes, through it flow cold water which condenses the humidity in the air surrounding the pipe, thereby creating a continuous supply of water for irrigation. The cooling machine that refrigerates the flowing water inside the pipes is solar powered.

Also made possible by green energy are fresh water irrigation systems for communities who only have access to saltwater. Among the off-grid technologies showcased is Tethys Solar Desalination, a water treatment solution that directly uses the heat harnessed from the sun’s rays in processing salty or contaminated water into clean water. The desalinating machine is scalable; it doesn’t use electricity, and is built using recycled raw materials.

Aside from powering certain farming machinery with green energy, the conference also highlighted technologies that enable individuals to generate their own source of green energy. HomeBioGas is a start-up company whose backyard appliance converts organic waste into methane gas and organic fertilizer, all without the need for electricity Instead, HomeBioGas utilizes solar energy and bacteria that breakdown organic waste into gas.

BAR is in a strategic position to explore the technologies showcased during the Eilat-Eilot conference. After an insightful visit to Israel, Sandoval and Lapitan reported the need for BAR to look into the development and promotion of green energy among its research projects.

Given that renewable energy is a science that has widespread, multi-sectoral impact and relevance, one of the necessary steps BAR is taking as it explores green energy is through complementation initiatives with other government agencies. In 2018, BAR initiated meeting with representatives from the Department of Science and Technology and the DA-Agricultural Training Institute in order to strengthen inter-agency complementation. This is to ensure a seamless flow of information from R&D generated results to the development of new projects.  ### (Ephraim John J. Gestupa)

 

 DSC0235Corn is one of the important crops produced in the Philippines. In Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, producing yellow corn is one of the main sources of livelihood among its farmers. However, one of the challenges experienced by the Sablayan corn farmers is low corn productivity.

Around 70 percent of the farmers are producing below the national corn production average of 3-4 metric tons (mt) per hectare. Due to lack technical know-how and capital, some farmers are still following the recommended management practices and the amount of fertilizers to be applied. However, this changed when a research intervention, a science-based approach in growing corn was introduced to them in 2017 through the project, “Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) on Yellow Corn Using Site-Specific Nutrient Management (SSNM)”.

SSNM is an approach that advocates the use of available organic nutrient sources (e.g. crop residues and manures) and inorganic fertilizers to meet the nutrient demand of a high-yielding crop. This means feeding crops with nutrients as and only when needed. It employs tools to estimate the optimum amount that organic nutrient sources can contribute to crop nutrition so that only the deficit in nutrient need is satisfied with inorganic fertilizer.

Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), project aimed to increase corn production from 5-8 mt per hectare, enhance the use of biofertilizer and organic matter for corn, and introduce the SSNM to the farmer-cooperators and other stakeholders are the objectives of the project. Implemented in Brgys. San Vicente and Tagumpay in Sablayan, Occ. Mindoro, 20 farmers, 10 from each barangay were identified as CPAR farmer-cooperators.

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During project implementation, farmers were taught on the rudiments of SSNM and guided by using the Quick Guide for Fertilizing Hybrid Yellow Corn. They were also trained on best management practices, including recommended planting distance; fertilizer application schedule, which is based on SSNM rate; pest and disease control, and harvesting.

“When you combined these protocols or best practices, one can be assured of a good harvest” said by Jose Paquidongan, CPAR farmer-cooperator from Brgy. Tagumpay.

Prior to becoming a full-time farmer, Paquidongan, 59, used to be an employee of a multi-national hybrid seed company promoting the use of various hybrid seeds across the country. Sometime in the 90s, his Manila office sent him, on a short mission, to Occ. Mindoro to explore the island and introduce hybrid seeds. Never did he realize that destiny has its own calling.

In 2003, Paquidongan resigned from his job and went back to Mindoro to push his luck and decided to settle down and follow the course of his destiny. Backed by experience as a seed grower, Paquidongan became a full-time rice and corn seed grower in Sablayan, and later formed a farmers’ cooperative. In 2011, the local government of Mindoro recognized him as one of the most outstanding farmers in the region.

Being a farmer and a seed grower, Paquidongan continued to till the family-owned five-hactare farm planted with rice and corn, and eventually became a full-pledge farmer. “Tatlumpung-taon na akong nagsasaka ng mais dito sa aming lugar at isa mga alalahanin ng mga magsasaka ay ang mababang produksyon ng mais,” said Paquidongan.

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On the average, the municipality produces four metric tons of yellow corn per hectare. “At sa aking karanasan bilang isang seed grower, kaya pang tumaas ang produksyon, marahil tamang teknolohiya ang kailangan”, he said. Maximizing the full potential of the island was his vision then.

According to Paquidongan, sometime in 2016, the DA-MIMAROPA and the provincial government conducted a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) seminar in search of a farmer-partner who would qualify as farmer-cooperator of the BAR-funded project on CPAR-SSNM. In 2017, Paquidongan, along with the other 19 farmers became partners of the project.

“Simula ng nagabayan ng SSNM sa tamang planting schedule, nutrient management, rekomendadong planting distance, soil analysis at ang CPAR technology, masasabi kung tumaas ang aming ani,” Paquidongan revealed. He furtherd that his first harvest reached 6.7 mt per hectare by applying the SSNM technology. His current production has now reached 7.9 mt per hectare giving him and his family an added income of roughly PhP 14,000 per cropping. “Hindi lang ako ang umani ng ganon, ang iba sa aming mga kasamahan, halos ganon din ang produksiyon,” he added. ###Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca

 

DSC 0140No, it’s not about New Year’s Eve bawang firecracker that is the topic of this article but native garlic, the condiment that is so indispensable for many of our dishes as it adds just the right zest and tanginess to them. What is explosive is the quick multiplication of garlic planting materials in big quantities now possible with advances in Filipino knowhow.

Garlic, scientifically known as Allium sativum L., is a perennial herb that is grown throughout the world. It produces a bulb that is surrounded by sheaths that is actually composed of thin-shelled bulblets, cloves, or set, all of which are capable of forming a new plant. It is the bulblet in fresh or in processed form that is used as food, condiment, and for medicinal purposes.

In all the places that have garlic, the bulblet, either in fresh or in processed form, finds use as a condiment and as medicine (speak hypertension). It is also said to be an ingredient in the preparation of insecticides. In the Philippines it is an indispensable recado. It is simply unthinkable to have sinangag (fried rice), adobo or longanisa that does not have garlic. The crop is widely cultivated in the Ilocos region where the green tops are used for preparing the Ilocano pinakbet.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), garlic production in the Philippines in 2017 amounted to about 7.8 thousand mt. Production area was maintained at 2.6 thousand ha mainly in the Ilocos region. Other growing areas are Southern Tagalog, Mindoro Occidental, Central Luzon particularly Nueva Ecija, Cagayan Valley, Batanes, Bicol, and provinces in Western Visayas.

All varieties grown in the Philippines are native ones and include Batangas White, Ilocos White, and Batanes White. It is this locally-produced garlic, though smaller, that is stronger in flavor and aroma and a bit more expensive. To the discerning Filipino consumer, the cheap imported garlic that is dumped in the country lacks life and is nearly flavorless.

Garlic can only be produced vegetatively as it is sterile. As the planting materials are merely clones of one another, their use renders commercial garlic vulnerable to viral infections and pests and diseases that can cause as much as 70 percent yield loss.

Average yield of garlic in the Philippines is very low at 2.78 t/ha compared to about 10.6 t/ha in Thailand. This is due to the state of garlic planting materials which, through the years, have accumulated diseases through asexual propagation. Up until 1970, the only virus disease known was the tangle top disease. The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) has since identified onion yellow dwarf virus, garlic common latent virus, shallot latent virus, and other viruses as also present.

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Local garlic production is reported to be in a decreasing trend. Simultaneously, there have been increases in the price of garlic in the local market to as much as P200 per kilo. Even as local production is exceeded by demand, the cost of production has remained high. The country, therefore, is heavily dependent on cheaper garlic imported from countries where production is more efficient. With high demand, smuggling has also thrived. Imports reached 74,000 mt in 2015, according to PSA, representing more than 90 percent of total supply, valued at $25.43 million.

For Filipino garlic producers to compete with garlic imports and thrive, productivity needs to be raised and costs reduced. One thing working in their favor is the Filipino consumer’s preference for the local garlic. Smaller in size, Philippine garlic is more potent in taste.

Obviously, producing garlic planting materials free from viral and other infections and quickly multiplied in large numbers on a sustained and regular basis is desirable. In other crops, the proven way to do this is through plant tissue culture.

Tissue culture (TC) has several applications such as cell behavior studies (cytology, nutrition, metabolism, morphogenesis, embryogenesis, pathology, etc.), plant modification and improvement, and product formation. Of immediate interest to us is the production of disease-free plants and clonal propagation of the preferred varieties.

With TC, disease-free planting materials are mass produced in capable laboratories for eventual field planting. Different parts may be taken from parent plants and “grown” under aseptic and controlled environments. A bonus is that it is not affected by the seasons as it can be done anytime.

In developing TC for garlic, researchers at the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, submitted to the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) the project titled, “Utilization of the Technology of Producing True-to-Type and Certified Virus-free Garlic (Allium sativum L.) for Economic Production of Planting Materials for the Farmers”. It sought to optimally develop TC technology with economy in garlic production in mind.

The project used the tissue culture technique to micropropagate (rapid multiplication of a small amount of plant material to produce more progeny) garlic; conduct serology, molecular markers development for genetic fidelity tests, and cytology to determine if the plant materials are true-to-type; and carry out a feasibility study to determine if the technology is indeed commercially feasible. It also sought to determine the production rate of different tissue-cultured garlic varieties/ cultivars in terms of shoot and bulblet production and in terms of bulb production under greenhouse and field conditions. Several concerns to be addressed were: evaluation and utilization of local genetic diversity of garlic, the establishment of an effective seed system of garlic, and development of a standard indexing protocol for virus-free certification of garlic for effective management of the major garlic virus-diseases.

Eight studies have been carried out. Study 1 involved the collection of representative materials of the different garlic cultivars for TC. Study 2 was on in vitro culture of different cultivars. Study 3 was on virus-free certification of the different cultivars. Study 4 focused on genetic fidelity testing of different cultivars with the use of molecular markers. Study 5 was also about genetic fidelity testing but using cytological techniques. For Study 6, different varieties/cultivars were acclimatized and transferred to greenhouse and field production conditions. In Study 7, different tissue-cultured cultivars in the form of certified clean bulblets were distributed to farmers for evaluation under actual farming conditions.

Finally, Study 8 was on the economic feasibility of producing good quality planting materials of garlic, i.e., the production of true-to-type and certified virus-free bulbs of the different garlic varieties/cultivars. This was of two parts: a) feasibility study of producing in vitro bulblets from multiplied shoots, and b) feasibility study of producing bulbs under greenhouse and field conditions using tissue-cultured materials.

Micropropagation of 18 accessions of garlic has been done on a continuous basis and conserved in vitro and subjected to virus-indexing and karyotyping (a test to examine chromosomes in a sample of cells). These tissue-cultured accessions also became the basis for the production of true-to-type and certified virus-free garlic bulblets.

With the initial data collected on the field performance of TC and non TC garlic under greenhouse and field conditions, yield performance of TC garlic under field conditions (Ilocos) were already noted to increase by 65 percent. The media used for garlic shoot and bulblet production are undergoing optimization.

In developing a standard protocol for virus-free certification, several viruses (onion yellow dwarf virus, garlic common latent virus, shallot latent virus, and leek yellow stripe virus) were detected in the samples collected. Only six of the accessions were found to be virus-free and the rest have to be “cleaned”.

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A number of molecular markers (22 SSR primer pairs) were tested and used for genetic fidelity tests of the different garlic cultivars. Cytological tests for genetic fidelity were also conducted.

Current results show that at 13 SSR loci, the tissue-cultured garlic are genetically the same as the non-tissue garlic. The researchers are proposing to try additional ones. With more markers tested, DNA markers can be established for variety identification of our local cultivars and for validating the genetic fidelity of tissue-cultured garlic. A diagnostic kit for genetic fidelity and cultivar identification can then be developed.

Farmer-cooperators in Iloilo and Ilocos were certified virus-free TC planting materials (bulblets) for initial field testing along with a series of trainings on the production of TC garlic, and on its planting and maintenance in the field. In Ilocos, the results were encouraging with the excellent farmer-cooperators’ performance and their readiness to adapt the tissue culture technology for commercial garlic production. Technology transfer was partially successful and needs to be intensified according to the researchers. Plans are being made to spread the technology to other farmer-cooperators in Batanes, Mindoro, Cagayan, and some areas in Mindanao.

Already, in the Department of Agriculture, TC is already being done by various agencies and Regional Field Offices (RFOs) along with partner state universities and colleges (SUCs) various crops.

The contribution of BAR has been in equipping a number of these RFOs and SUCs with tissue culture facilities and laboratories. With TC technology for garlic a reality, these facilities can turn out the production of virus-free planting materials in rapid fashion. Once the tissue-cultured planting materials reach the production areas, native garlic production can increase drastically as the cost of production shall be reduced. This will also make possible the development of a seed system that shall lead to a revival of the native garlic industry. We will thus be getting a bigger bang for our R&D buck. ###Victoriano B. Guiam

Contact details:
Dr. Lilian F. Pateña
University Researcher and Head
Plant Cell and Tissue Culture Division 
Institute of Plant Breeding 
Crop Science Cluster, College of Agriculture
University of the Philippines Los Baños
College, Laguna
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
mobile: 0929715-8669 or 0917-102-6734