VARIETIES of Adlai, or Job’s Tears, that have been mutated through irradiation are being pitched as an alternative staple food crop for the Philippines, as it has high nutritive value, has some medicinal properties, and is climate resistant.
Agriculture research specialists from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) are using gamma radiation to mutate Adlai for faster growth and higher yield.
According to the DOST, Adlai is twice as rich in protein as rice, and is known among indigenous communities throughout Asia as a source of flour, coffee, tea, wine, beer, and vinegar, among other products. It has anti-tumor and other medicinal properties, which are said to help relieve the symptoms of allergies and diabetes. Adlai is also known for its resilience against extreme climate conditions such as drought, high heat, or excessive rainfall.
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.
In a media statement, PNRI explained that researchers are currently breeding mutant crops of the Ginampay variety of Adlai, which have already reached the fifth generation of descendants. The process involves irradiating the seeds with doses of 100 to 200 gray (Gy) of gamma radiation, after which they are planted for
further observation. The mutation process continues until the eighth generation of seeds.
PNRI said the experimental crops matured up to 28 days earlier than the unirradiated variety, while also being 17 to 24 percent shorter in height.
Besides the research on the Adlai plants, PNRI is also conducting studies to improve the fertilizer, soil nutrient and water management practices for Adlai.
The field experiments were done in partnership with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) under an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) project on “Enhancing Productivity of Locally-Underused Crops Through Dissemination of Mutated Germplasm and Evaluation on Soil, Nutrient and Water Management Practices.”
The researchers said 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.