Adlai: CAR Food Growers Smart-Agri Option (Last of 2 parts)

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SAGADA, Mountain Province — Buffeted by importing yearly million tons of rice from other Asian countries, its experience when food got scarce during height of the pandemic and the sobering threat of climate change, the Philippine government is hell-bent on reviving a long forgotten grain crop on fields of Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in northern Luzon down to the south of Mindanao.

Days are numbered when the Adlai food grain will gain foothold in all Filipino households as staple food and alternative to rice in the face the marching and extreme weather patterns.  

Agricultural scientists have proven beyond doubt that any one per cent increase in minimum or night time temperature in weather decreases production of   cereal yield, like rice, by as much as ten per cent. 

Such fact provides direct evidence of decreased rice yield associated with global warming. Such temperature increase in weather is attributed to climate change.

Comes now what regional agriculturists in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) dub as a “bionic,” an endemic species of grass-based cereal crop capable of standing up to rigors of climate change.

From the eyes of   some conservation-agriculture experts, they see Adlai as a “super” crop in the future food system, as well as its resilience to extreme changing weather, such topic which even political leaders in the country have taken a sobering stance to address.

Unlike its botanical relatives in the rice and maize family, Adlai can withstand torrential rains or thrive in times of drought since it possesses rootstock which can grow up to 150 centimeters that serve as bio-pump to absorb excess water.

During drought, its long rootstock slowly releases and replenishes nutrients to the plant, hence it ability to thrive even in sloping uplands and at the same instance serving to mitigate soil erosion.

But the hallmark of one Adlai plant is, it can bear those tear-like grains three times of its given lifespan, meaning grains can be harvested three times, compared to rice when harvest is usually done twice or to maize where harvest is only done once.

With three times harvest,  imagine even a 100 square plot planted with Adlai plants and producing almost all-year round.

Average yield of Adlai is 2.4 tons per hectare.

Adlai varieties being espoused by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for mass production are the Gulian, Tapol, Ginampay, Kiboa and Dwarf varieties. The dwarf varieties   have already been proven favoring the Cordillera highland climate.

Tests conducted by the Bureau of Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) indicated Adlai can produce grain yield of 3.0 to 3.5 tons per hectare and dry matter (biomass) yield of 8.8 tons per hectare which farmers can use later as mulch or fertilizer.

Adlai goes beyond it serving only as food as Adlai grains have long been known to possess medicinal properties. It had been used by Filipino old folks for a wide range of ailments, from the ever-occurring headache to stomach ailments.

To prove the old folks true, the Philippine Alternative Medicine headed by Dr. Godofredo Umali Stuart conducted a study on Adlai showed that, indeed, in old Philippine societal mode, Adlai was used   to treat a wide range of illness. 

It was noted by Philippine Alternative Medicine that Adlai grains “contains a protein, prolamin, with a high percentage of leucine, tyrosine, glutamic acid, and basic amino acids arginine, histidine and lysine. Protein is called coicin. Extracts have yielded coixenolides, attributed anti-tumor activity.” 

In the Cordillera, Adlai has been planted not only as source of food but majority have been utilizing it for wine-making. The Bontoc tribe folks call Adlai “atakai,” the Sagada folks call it “bistak-ay,” while the Kapangan folks call it “ag-gey.”

Conducting a nutritive value study on a 100 grams edible portion of Adlai, the government’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) found out 100 grams contain 368 percent   kilocalories, 73.3 percent carbohydrates, 13.1 percent protein, 2.5 percent fat, 9 percent fiber, 0.7 per cent sugar, 63 percent calcium, 6.8 percent iron, 35 per cent Glycemic Index and is Gluten-free.   

Comparing 100 grams of Adlai to 100 grams of white corn, white corn had 357 percent kilocalories (less by 11 per cent), 77.5 percent carbohydrates, and 8.3 percent protein (less by 4.9 per cent), 1.5 percent of fat, 4.5 per cent dietary fiber, 0.6 percent sugar, 11 percent calcium (less by 52 per cent), 0.4 percent iron (less by 6.4 per cent), 90 per cent Glycemic Index and is also Gluten-free.

FNRI racked 100 grams of Adlai to 100 grams of brown rice and came out with a comparative finding: 100 grams brown rice has 363 percent kilocalories, 76.3 percent carbohydrates, 8.1 percent protein, 2.8 percent fat, 3 percent dietary fiber, 0.4 percent sugar, 6 percent calcium, 8 percent iron, 68 per cent Glycemic Index and is also Gluten-free.

For 100 grams Adlai to 100 grams of white  rice, white rice  had 356 percent kilocalories, 80.4 percent carbohydrates, 7.4 percent protein, 0.5 fat, 1.3 percent dietary fiber, 0.1  per cent sugar, 27 percent calcium, 1.0 percent iron, 73 per cent Glycemic Index and is also Gluten-free.

FNRI went further and compared 100 grams of Adlai to 100 grams of oat meal and the results were, 100 grams of oat meat had 374 percent kilocalories, 61.5 percent carbohydrates, 12.6 percent protein, 7.1 percent fat, 5.6 percent dietary fiber, 1.2 percent sugar, 80 percent calcium, 5.8 percent iron, 58 per cent Glycemic Index and is also Gluten-free.

In conclusion, the FNRI study determined Adlai being “energy dense and nutritionally-dense food” and is a perfect energy boost that gives the human body full, longer.

If a person is restricting calories, one-third or one-half cup of cooked Adlai is just the right intake, FNRI pointed out.

Adlai is a good source of protein, contributing 14 percent of its macronutrient distribution, FNRI stressed, adding  further how carbohydrates and fats  in Adlai contribute  83 and 3 per cent, respectively.

High in dietary fiber, it nourishes healthy probiotic bacteria in the human body intestines, gets rid of abominable cholesterol in the body and slows down body absorption of glucose. FNRI cautioned that having too much sugar or glucose in the blood for long periods of time can result to serious health problems.

High in calcium, Adlai helps maintain healthy bones and teeth and equally important in muscular function, nerve transmission and blood clotting, FNRI stressed.

With Glycemic Index (GI) rating of 35, whereas glucose is 100, FNRI explained it mean that carbohydrates with low GI (55 or less) are more slowly absorbed by the body and metabolized, causing a lower and slower rise in blood sugar and therefore, on insulin levels.

FNRI’s explanation on Adlai thus makes it completely safe consumption for anyone advised by physicians to carefully monitor their blood sugar levels.

FNRI presented how to basically prepare and cook Adlai.

Rinse Adlai just like rice. Then add two or three cups of water. Try each of the ratios and decide which of the ratios you prefer. Boil or cook and bring to a simmer until grains are cooked. Serve while hot.

It can also be cooked in a rice cooker.

Adlai can also be used as an ingredient in soup and broth. The grains can grounded into flour (just like rice) to make bread, past and porridge.

It can be used for making in the native Ilocano kakanin, champorado, lugaw, turones de Adlai, pulvoron, among others, because of its versatility.

Earlier, before  the national government  took a serious look at resurrecting Adlai, three researchers, namely Curil Jerome Manning,  Robbby J. Navarro and Christine O. Cruz, faculty members of  Science and Nutrition and Dietetics  of Colegio de San Juan de Letran  in Intramuros,  Manila, conducted acceptability of Adlai by Filipinos in 2017.

They travelled to CAR in places in Sagada, Kapangan and Benguet and found how the tribe folks used the grain as food, for ornamental purposes, as roasted coffee and ingredient in making wine. It served as their basis and focus on over-all acceptability of Adlai.

More than 50 students from Colegio de San Juan de Letran were randomly chosen for sensory evaluation on Adlai, after Adlai was prepared for consumption.  

Using Adlai grits and pulverized into powder using an ordinary blender, the researchers made Adlai milk and pasteurized.

Partaking of the Adlai milk, it was acceptable in odor and taste to most of the panelists, just like in normal milk, the study revealed.

The three researchers have proven that Adlai can be processed into milk and equally acceptable to Filipino taste.

Dr. Nicomedes Eleazar, director of DA’s Bureau of Agricultural research (BAR), explained that acceptability trials have already been established in CAR as well as in different parts in Mindanao to assess performance of different Adlai varieties for prospective growers of the crop, given our current challenge in rice sufficiency.