Left and Center Photo: Ginampay variety of Adlai
Right Photo: A PNRI researcher measures the height of the putative mutant Adlai. Its seeds were irradiated with gamma radiation
Helping to overcome Juan Dela Cruz’s challenges in agricultural production and food security, agriculture research specialists from the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) are developing better varieties of Adlai, also called “Job’s Tears,” which may serve as a substitute to the country’s staple food crops such as rice and corn.
While just as rich in carbohydrates and protein, Adlai is unfortunately not as well-known as its cousin crops, except among the indigenous communities. In other Asian countries, Adlai is also used to produce flour, coffee, tea, wine, beer and vinegar, among other products. Adlai also has some medicinal properties that can help mitigate the symptoms of allergies, diabetes and even cancer. Lastly, Adlai is also known for its resilience in the face of extreme conditions, such as droughts and typhoons.
With the unique advantage of gamma radiation, PNRI has been working since 2013 to improve the agronomic traits of Adlai by making mutant varieties that yield more grain and mature earlier, while also having shorter heights to make the crops more resistant to lodging during typhoons. These improvements will also complement the Food Staples Sufficiency Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which encourages the diversification of staple food crops beyond rice by increasing production, ensuring market availability and lowering its prices.
Researchers from the PNRI Agriculture Research Section used the Ginampay variety of Adlai for mutation breeding in the Institute’s experimental field, where the putative mutants are already in their third and fourth generations. After irradiating the seeds with doses of 100 to 200 gray (Gy), they are planted and grown for further observation.
The research and development studies currently show promising results as the putative mutant breeds yielded from 790 kilograms of grain per hectare (kg/ha) to as much as 900 kg/ha, which is around 30-50% higher than the yield of average crop breeds. Meanwhile, the putative Adlai mutants were also 40-57% shorter than the unirradiated Adlai.
Aside from developing mutant varieties, PNRI also seeks to improve the fertilizer, soil nutrient and water management practices for Adlai. Field experiments are also being conducted in partnership with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) under an International Atomic Energy Agency project on “Enhancing Productivity of Locally-Underused Crops Through Dissemination of Mutated Germplasm and Evaluation on Soil, Nutrient and Water Management Practices.”
The PNRI researchers will continue to develop the Adlai crops up to the eighth generation to complete the mutation breeding process.