Cordillera farmers study alternatives to rice


La Trinidad, Benguet — Adlai may become the alternative to rice.

Adlai is known also as “Job’s tears”, with a scientific name of Coix lacryma-jobi L.. It is a freely branching upright plant that grows up to three feet tall and is being propagated through seeds.

The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) said it is nutritious and related to rice, potentially a good alternative to rice and corn.

BAR hoped to document reports of other varieties of adlai in Sagada town and piece together its origin, and perhaps introduce the Department of Agriculture (DA)–BAR’s efforts to promote the crop to locals.

In Sagada, Mt. Province, farmers and other municipal agriculturist officers (MAOs) were intrigued by the BAR representatives’ reports, and were most interested when presented with seed samples provided by Region 4A.

Ms. Evelyn Pulon, a local farmer, reported that Cesar Sawadan, from Malibcong, Abra, had handed her two varieties of adlai and encouraged her and fellow farmers to try the crop. She disclosed that one of these two varieties was, in fact, edible.

Pulon took the time to show the DA-BAR team the other variety, which grows in the wild like weeds. She said most locals took its presence for granted as it grew mostly near abandoned rice fields. They merely treat it as source of materials for beads, curtains, trays, and necklaces.

In Kiangan, after holding a presentation on DA-BAR’s efforts in promoting adlai, the information shared by the residents was that farmers and MAOs are aware of adlai only as a weed that grows by the waysides and creeks, often ignored unless intended to be used as accessories or playthings—much like the testimonies from Sagada. Again, farmers were surprised when presented with the variety of adlai that is edible, more so when it was brought up that the said crop is considered to be a staple food, an alternative to rice and corn, in another region.

At the same time, the DA-BAR representatives asked the locals from said areas to fill out questionnaires in trying to piece together a tangible history of adlai in the Philippines. Differing responses and stories were shared but the most common thread is that this crop has been thriving in our land for as long as they can remember.

Treated as an accessory or as a toy, adlai can also be made and sold as necklaces back in the old days for P5 apiece, said Jimmy Cabigat from Banaue.

Adlai is observed to be growing mostly in low-lying areas such as riverbanks, and seldom in upland areas. Until now, what is mostly referred to as the “wild” variety of adlai, has been the only kind that the majority of the locals of CAR know. (

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