There are now more than 100 million Filipinos and still growing. The Department of Agriculture (DA), together with its bureaus and attached agencies are, therefore, hard pressed to meet the demands of this population. Even marginal lands are being marshalled to be more productive and be a source of employment. Under these challenging conditions, the usefulness of biotechnology comes to the fore.


Corn is one of the most phenotypically diverse of cultivated crops as it can grow over a wide range of environments. Breeders emphasize selection for a desired mix of traits that are controlled by multigenes. Known as quantitative traits, these include important agronomic characteristics such as yield and yield components, and resistance to pests and diseases. In looking for these, the application of biotechnology is vital.


The effectiveness of selection for different quantitative traits lies in the effectiveness of screens used in determining the traits. Variations among corn lines can be determined using phenotypic markers but their performance is strongly affected by environmental factors. Molecular markers for detecting total genetic variation of corn lines are preferred when environmental influences are not desired.


The use of molecular markers, or microsatellites, can facilitate the breeding process. The time needed to reach breeding objectives is much reduced as it entails less field assays. For many crops, molecular markers have been determined. With the use of molecular markers, genetic variation and the genome dynamics of many plants including corn are now better understood, leading to improved breeding efficiency.


With the biotechnology tools available at their disposal, a team of researchers at the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines Los Baños led by Ms. Alma Canama, set out to assess the genetic diversity among the country’s native corn populations using SSR DNA markers. Guided by the institute’s aim for its corn breeding program which is to develop corn varieties for biotic and abiotic stress resistance and nutritional properties, a proposal titled, “Molecular Characterization of Philippine Native Maize Populations (Year 2)”, was submitted to the Bureau of Agricultural Research and was approved for funding in 2016.


No study on molecular genetic diversity analysis of native corn populations had previously been done. Knowledge about diversity and relationships among the Philippine native corn populations is important for the corn breeding program of UPLB-IPB and will benefit the corn program of DA. The new study built up on the assessment done under the project’s Year 1 for genetic diversity among native corn populations on resistance to corn borer infestation and downy mildew infection with the use of SSR DNA markers and dendrogram (a tree diagram used to represent data where each group or “node” links to two or more successor groups based on similarity of traits).


Among the molecular markers, simple sequence repeats (SSR) microsatellites are commonly used for genetic diversity analyses due to their high level of polymorphism, repeatability and low cost. SSRs are abundant and their chromosomal assignments have been established, thus, the corn genome can be uniformly sampled and analyzed.


Polymorphic SSR markers can distinguish the allelic profiles of resistant lines over susceptible lines to particular pests and diseases. With knowledge about the allelic profiles of resistant/tolerant corn, molecular screening criteria can be used to sort out various crop lines as to resistance. It can be expected that high heterosis in yield and its components could be obtained from crosses among those lines belonging to different heterotic groups.


In the Project Year 2’s Activity 1, a total of 20 SSR markers were used to screen the inter-population diversity among 26 native corn populations. These populations were chosen based on a Project Year 1 constructed dendrogram (a tree diagram used to represent data where each group or “node” links to two or more successor groups based on similarity of traits eventually creating a viewable clustering) that assessed the genetic diversity among native corn populations using SSR DNA markers.


A new dendrogram was created using 20 representative populations with five (5) samples each utilizing 12 SSR markers. The dendrogram showed high diversity within a population. From this, the researchers infer that the samples within a population are very diverse owing to corn’s open pollinated nature.


For Activity 2, allelic diversity between susceptible and resistant populations on downy mildew infection and corn borer infestation were studied. Unique alleles were found to be associated with either downy mildew-resistant or susceptible populations with the use of an SSR marker.


As for corn borer resistance and susceptibility, populations that exhibited high susceptibility showed a more complex banding pattern and a monomorphic pattern. Also, more alleles were observed compared to the populations that are highly resistant to the pest. The populations that exhibit high resistance to corn borer infestation tended to exhibit a more polymorphic pattern.  


The researchers conclude that the results indicate the reliability of the information provided by the dendrogram from Project Year 1 and can be the basis for breeders to devise better breeding programs and choose populations which are distant from one another to create better breeds or varieties. The SSRs used were also found to be informative markers that revealed genetic variation among the inbred lines studied and that SSR markers tightly linked and associated with pest and disease resistance can be utilized to screen populations at the DNA level.


The knowledge generated about diversity and relationships among Philippine native corn populations, through the use of SSRs in the search for resistance to corn borer infestation and downy mildew infection, will lessen the time and cost it will take to conduct breeding efforts for native corn. ### [VictorianoB. Guiam]




For more information:

Ms. Alma O. Canama

University Researcher and Project Leader

Institute of Plant Breeding

University of the Philippines Los Baños

Tel: (49) 557-3568


Color plays an important role in our food preference. It can predetermine how we perceive the taste and flavor of what we're about to eat. In fresh foods, we rely on the color to determine their level of ripeness or freshness. For processed food, it becomes a whole different topic. When food undergoes processing, it loses its naturally vibrant color, thus the need for artificial color additives or food coloring.


Artificial coloring makes any food product more delectable and mouth-watering. Unfortunately, some of them are actually harmful to the body. Although some claims are still to be validated and are subjected to debates, they can be toxic and carcinogenic.


To address this, researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) led by Lourdes B. Cardenas of the Institute of Biological Sciences, conducted a study with the hope of providing the public a healthy and safe alternative to artificial food coloring using indigenous plants. The study, “Biotechnology in the Utilization of Natural Colors from Indigenous Plants,” which was funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research, aimed to identify indigenous plants with health benefitting natural colors and develop technologies using them.


The study screened over 20 indigenous plant species among them included: alugbati, lipote, duhat, 4 o’ clock, gumamela, roselle, butterfly pea, pandan, turmeric, barberry, kamantigi, begonia, mayana leaf, bougainvilla, talinum, oxalis, impatients, portulaca, nasturtium, and bell pepper.


These indigenous plants were screened using the following criteria: 1) toxicity, 2) tinctorial strength (potency of the pigment) but with minimal or without imparting any flavor or aroma, 3) availability of the raw materials and ease of handling, 4) mutagenicity (capacity to induce mutations), and 5) stability of the pigment under different pH, temperature, and light regimen. Also considered in choosing the plant pigment as food colorant are solubility in water, and demand of a particular color in the market.


As potential food colorants, the researchers included plant species with Anthocyanins and Betalains, these are plant pigments that are water soluble. Carotenoids were not included in the study as these pigments are not water soluble and are sensitive to light.


Meanwhile, the researchers included Curcuminoids (not water soluble), which can be found in turmeric, because it was found to be the best alternative natural colorant to Tartrazine (synthetic lemon yellow azo dye primarily used as a food coloring).


To get the results, the colorants were tested under different types of food preparation: fresh, steamed, boiled, and baked. They prepared salad using the begonia, and ice cones or scramble with a whole extract from lipote, turmeric, and butterfly pea directly poured on top of the shaved ice. A fondant was made using the lipote, 4 o’clock, and butterfly pea color extracts; and gelatins, puto, suman, butter cookies, scones, and chocolates using the color extracts from alugbati, lipote, turmeric, butterfly pea, and 4 o’clock. The extracted natural pigments were also put inside micro capsules for stability.


Results of the study showed that among the plant species tested, the best sources of red colorant are: alugbati (Basella rubra L.), lipote (Syzygium curranii), and red 4 o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa L.). Meanwhile, the best source for yellow pigment is turmeric (Curcuma domestica (L.); for blue pigment it is butterfly pea (Clitorea ternatea var. pleniflora); and for green pigment it is pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius Roxb).


Duhat (Syzygium cumini), red gumamela (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.), and roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) were dropped from the list due to factors involving toxicity, stability of pigment, availability of raw materials, and difficulty in extraction of pigment, among others.


The researchers noted that not all pigments from the plant species can be processed into colorants due to low tinctorial strength, and fragility, among others. But even so, these can still be used as colorants for freshly-picked ingredients to dishes that include the begonia, talinum, oxalis, impatiens, portulaca, and nasturtium.


As a final product, the project was able to develop natural colorants in the form of freeze dried whole extracts, microcapsules, gelatin bars, and glycerine solutions.


With the health benefitting natural colors that these indigenous plants can provide, these natural colorants are better option than their synthetic counterparts. It not only improves the quality of our food, it also enables us to utilize these indigenous plants which are readily available and easily harvested from our gardens. ### [Rita T. dela Cruz]


 “Mainit na talaga…kapag nahuli ka ng tanim wala na talaga…”

This is the common sentiment shared by the farmer cooperators in San Francisco and Guinyangan, Quezon. They shared that rain hasn’t poured in their area since the start of the year. Experts from the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) CALABARZON and agricultural technicians from the Office of the Municipal Agriculturists (OMA) warned them that this dry spell is not yet the start of the dry season. It would get drier and hotter. They were advised to anticipate and prepare for the possible problems it would entail.


Earlier this year, the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (DOST-PAGASA) advised the public to take precautionary measures to mitigate the potential adverse impact of El Niño. This natural phenomenon threatens the livelihood of the agriculture and fisheries (AF) sector. To make matters worse, extreme weather changes, severe droughts and floods, more frequent and stronger typhoons, increase in annual mean temperature, among other events brought about by climate change also pose a serious threat to the AF sector as it threatens the sector’s stability and productivity.


In 2013, DA launched the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) Program to enable the AF sector to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and build climate-resilient communities and livelihood. The initial phases of the program identified climate hazards and assessed climate-risk vulnerabilities of the communities. DA tapped various state universities and colleges to conduct a Climate Resiliency and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) in the first 10 provinces: Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Tarlac, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Bukidnon, North Cotabato and Davao del Sur. CRVA is measured through three components: 1) exposure of the municipality to climate-related hazards, 2) sensitivity of the crops to climate-risks, and 3) capacity of the farmers to adapt with the changing climate conditions.


Dubbed as the “Food Basket of CALABARZON,” Quezon is primarily an agricultural province with more than 300 thousand hectares of agricultural land. According to the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) through its CRVA in Quezon, “most of the municipalities have low to moderate exposure index to hazard; but considering that crops are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and extreme rainfall, then a minor change in weather and climate could have major implications on production.”


SLSU identified San Francisco as the most vulnerable municipality followed by Guinyangan. San Francisco has low exposure to hazard index but several crops are sensitive to climate change and they have low adaptive capacity index. SLSU said that the best strategy to address their adaptive capacity is to increase the human and social capital in the municipality alongside introducing climate-resilient interventions and practices.


CRA project in Quezon 


DA-RFOs of the 10 pilot sites used the results of the CRVA as the baseline data for the next phase of the program. DA-Southern Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center (STIARC), through funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), implemented the “Community-based Action Research for Climate-resilient Agriculture (CRA) in CALABARZON Region.” The project aims to help the farmers adapt to climate risks and build climate-resilient livelihood through participatory action research.


During a monitoring activity of BAR on 27 February- 2 March 2019, farmer cooperators were able to share their observation with the changing climate and their experiences going through the project and adopting the interventions introduced to them.


In order to strengthen and improve the human and social capital of the farmers, the project team organized 10 Farmers’ Learning Groups (FLG) in San Francisco and five FLGs in Guinyangan. “Farmer cooperators conducted field trials of CRA interventions according to their commodity concern and shared these technologies and outcome with other farmers,” shared Project Leader Aida Luistro.


Further, rice farmers in San Francisco tried testing stress-tolerant varieties. They attested that that RC 282 and GSR 11 are the varieties that gave promising yield and results. These varieties are drought-tolerant with longer maturing days, 110 and 115, respectively. To provide additional income for the farmers, the project team introduced the planting of legumes (i.e. mungbean, peanut, and soybean) as it is effective in improving soil health. Other CRA interventions introduced in San Francisco are corn-based cropping system (with legumes or purple yam, sloping agricultural land technology (SALT), breeding of native pig production.


In Guinyangan, vegetable farming was introduced to coconut farmers. The package of technology include fertilizer application based on soils analysis, use of organic fertilizer, and use of open pollinated variety seeds. They are also currently testing two black pepper varieties (native and Taiwan). Planting black pepper is in support to the Guinyangan Municipal Local Government to expand its production in other barangays.


“To promote CRA technologies and practices to other farmers, two Farmers’ Field Day were conducted,” shared Luistro. She also mentioned that farmer cooperators in San Francisco were able to visit the AMIA villages in Guinyangan. Through this educational visit, they were given the opportunity to learn from each other’s knowledge and experiences with the CRA interventions and practices.


In addition, the project team capacitated the AF communities in agri-based enterprise development through seminars which include corn charcoal briquette making, soybean processing, and native pork processing.   They also linked farmers to government financial service providers and conduit cooperative/bank and provided access to weather information and farming advisories.


Access to weather information and farming advisories were also provided to the farmers with the assistance from DOST-PAGASA. Weather forecast is disseminated through social media. They also installed farm-level weather instruments to monitor and record precipitation and temperature.


In San Francisco, Cristino Bayran rigorously observes and records weather information since the start of the project. Based on his observations, the diurnal range increased from 7 degrees Celsius to 14 degrees Celsius. He shared that the extreme changes in weather is very alarming. In late 2018, he shared that farmers couldn’t plant because of the severe rainfall — a complete opposite of what they are experiencing this early in the year. Thus, the importance of enabling our AF communities to adapt to climate risks and build climate-resilient communities and livelihood. #### [Rena S. Hermoso]


DSC 7722Siquijor, a tiny island province known for its mysterious and bewitching tourist attractions, is likely to be famed for yet another of its best and finest product — its beef.

This is not something to be surprised about since agriculture is a predominant sector in Siquijor and cattle raising, a significant agricultural activity.

Nestled between the Visayas and Mindano group of islands, Siquijor ranks second among the highest cattle producing provinces in the country, next to Ilocos Norte.

The native cattle strain in Siquijor is the taurine type (Bos taurus) known to have genes for marbling making it competitive with the rest of the best beef cattle in the world. Marbling is the white flecks and streaks of fat within the lean sections of meat. The degree of marbling is the primary determination of quality grade in beef. Marbling has a beneficial effect on the juiciness and flavor of beef as it keeps beef moist and succulent.

Bos taurus is a grass-fed type of cattle. Hence, the meat is lean and tender and has moderately full flavor. This native cattle strain is suitable for Siquijor’s weather condition because it can tolerate the heat and it needs little water requirement. It can also easily adapt to the environment. This is also the reason why this breed is preferred by majority of the farmers in Siquijor. This native breed is also known to produce quality milk.

meat processing training

And because Bos taurus is a grass-fed cattle, Siquijor’s locally-produced beef is considered a healthy beef. With the promising potential of the native strain, it is important to enrich the cattle production and meat processing industry to help the breeders raise their income, and provide an opportunity for Siquijor to export its quality meat globally.

R&D project on Siquijor beef production

In Siquijor, the cattle industry is hounded mainly by two aspects: production and marketing. Major constraint in production is affected by the dry season in Siquijor resulting to limited water supply, limited food supply, and excessive heat that can affect cattle raising. The natural climatic condition and sloping topography of Siquijor greatly affect the feeding practice of farmers especially during the dry season. In terms of marketing, one major challenge is the unfair pricing of traders due to lack of price standard.

Dr. Agapita Salces of the Institute of Animal Science, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), conducted a study that will not only address these challenges in production and marketing but more importantly, will commercialize the production of Siquijor beef as healthy meat.

The UPLB-led project, “Commercialization of Philippine Native Cattle for Optimum Production of Siquijor Beef” is being funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research through its National Technology Commercialization Program. Specifically, the project will develop native beef grading standard, native beef cuts, and beef products and by-products.

In collaboration with the Department of Agriculture - Regional Field Office 7 and the Province of Siquijor - Provincial Veterinary Office, the project is employing various science-based interventions including data collection of animal performance, development of software for small hold native cattle production, planting of forage trees and legumes, and meat processing and product development.

beef patties

Profitability of cattle raising

Results of the socio-demographic analysis conducted by the group of Dr. Salces showed that an average cattle farmer in Siquijor has three cattle per farm being raised in a land he owns through inheritance. The rate of technology adoption of cattle raisers in Siquijor is high due to the various support provided by the provincial government.

In the profitability analysis of the project, results showed that the investment cost for setting up a cattle enterprise will cost Php 22, 555. 51. This comprised of cattle house, feeding, breeding stock (two young cattle one male and one female), farm tools (drum, containers, pail and scythe). However, if the cost of land will be included the total investment cost is Php 101,703.65.

The three-cattle operation in Siquijor is considered successful in increasing the income of the farmer. In terms of net income, results showed that a farmer could expect at least Php1,000 increase monthly when he choose to engage in the cow-calf operation in Siquijor.

General assessment of the results showed that good cultural management practices employed by the raisers could not be translated into profit until problems in marketing is resolved. This is attributed to the lack of price standard in Siquijor.

Product development and marketing

beef tapa

One of the interventions of the project was meat processing and product development through the conduct of training. One of the beneficiaries of the project was the Catulayan Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative wherein members were taught how to process and add value to their beef products. In 2017, 33 members of the Cooperative underwent the training in Siquijor. Dr. Maria Cynthia Oliveros, project study leader, demonstrated how to process beef tapa, corned beef, burger patties, and beef floss.

Meat processing was introduced to the members to increase their income and to promote the quality of native Siquijor beef. They were also taught how to look at fresh meat including the physical and chemical properties of meat to ensure its quality, tenderness of the mat during processing and storage, and even the correct meat cut. Another aspect of the training was teaching them about meat spoilage and proper handling to maintain food safety and avoid food poisoning.

Aside from meat processing, 11 members of the Cooperative also underwent slaughter and beef fabrication training. They were exposed to existing beef grading standards and beef cuts. Leading the training were Dr. Oliveros and Dr. Salces.

The various meat products were exhibited during the 14th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held on August 30-September 2, 2019 at SM Megamall, Mandaluyong. ### (Rita T. dela Cruz)

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Agapita Salces
Project Leader
Institute of Animal Science
UPLB, College, Laguna
Tel. (049) 536-2547
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Off-season mangosteen now possible with R&D

Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), a tropical fruit known for its white, juicy flesh and dark purple rind, is usually in season from August to September only. But with the off-season mangosteen production and management technology developed by the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 11, the tropical fruit can now be enjoyed year-round.

Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the production of off-season mangosteen was made possible through a project, “Development of Package of Technologies for Off-Season Production of Mangosteen.”

The research project was conducted from January 2015 to January 2019 at Davao Agricultural Research Central Experiment Station (DARCES) Manambulan, Tugbok District in Davao City, yielding favourable results that will benefit both the farmers and consumers.

Thinking beyond the perspective of the consumers, the farmers can now set an efficient production schedule wherein they can sell the product from Php 35 per kilo for in-season mangosteen to Php 250 per kilo for off-season mangosteen. This is an estimated 148 percent return of investment.

Part of the project was also the development of information, education and communication (IEC) materials on the package of technology (POT). These IEC materials were distributed during the farmer’s field day and are available at the Farmers' Information and Technology Services (FITS) Center of DA-RFO 11, for free to those who are interested.

On 17 May 2019, DA-RFO 11 will be holding the Grand Farmer’s Fiesta as part of the celebration of the Farmers and Fisherfolk’s Month. DARCES will be opening its demonstration farm in Manambulan, Tugbok District in Davao City to showcase the technology. Likewise, 200 copies of IEC materials on off-season mangosteen technology will also be distributed on 27 September 2019 during the Research Division Anniversary and Farmer’s Field Day activities. ### (Clarisse Mae N. Abao)