Just because we run short of rice and corn does not mean we lack food. The country has a number of available and edible grains especially in the upland areas that could address our food requirement. One of these is a tropical plant of the grass family called
or Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi var. ma-yuen).
Most of the Subanen farmers in the Zamboanga Peninsula are practicing cultivation of dalai (Subanen term for adlai) as a hedge plant for their main crop, be it rice, corn or vegetables.
Ella Lubusan, 54 of Barangay Lubusan, Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur, said “We always save dalai seeds every cropping. It is our tradition to plant it with other crops. We plant dalai as if it were a fence to our crops. Pests are not attracted to dalai and we see it protecting other plants too.” Lubusan said they have two adlai varieties. The glutinous they call pulot has a reddish seed coat and the native which they call G’lakas, a tall variety with a white seed coat that they eat as staple in her childhood.
Today, Lubusan still eats adlai with her family but not as often as when she was with her parents because they alternate rice, corn and root crops now. They produce adlai grits using a century-old stone miller and a mortar and pestle. “Our grandmother instructed us to continue planting dalai. And if we are too weak to do it, she said we must broadcast it anywhere so that it will continue to thrive anyway, it grows in all soil types,” Lubusan recalled.
In Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur, Danilo Irangan, 39, farming coordinator for the Tumamod Pusaka Subanen Midsalip Organization (TUPUSUMI), said “Dalai is a family treasure. Our ancestors gave this crop to us like a precious gift. My father said dalai seeds can sustain us forever because it grows anywhere even without tending it.”
Iringan, a descendant of Datu Makapangpang said they have glutinous and non glutinous Adlai. Those with violet (Ginampay Pulot), dark brown, and reddish brown (Pulot) seed coats are glutinous while those with white to beige (Gulian) seed coats are non glutinous and are used as staple. “Dalai can feed us all because even after harvest it will still continue bearing grains. Each time we cut its stalk, a panicle appears that is the reason why we have enough seeds for everybody. The seeds that the Department of Agriculture distributed nationwide for research and seed production are sourced from TUPUSUMI,” Iringan, a Gatautasan Subanen proudly revealed.
Using adlai seeds from TUPUSUMI, the Betinan Research Station (BRS) of the DA in the Zamboanga Peninsula conducted a research onadlai. The study focused on planting distance and the use of fertilizer.
The first treatment was applied with inorganic fertilizer (4bags 16-20-0 and 2bags Urea); the second with three tons organic fertilizer per hectare while the control was planted with no fertilizer at all. Planting distance was at 1m (meter) x 25cm (centimeters), 1m x 50cm, and 1m x 75cm.
According to Priscilla C. Jover, BRS superintendent, “result showed that adlai yielded 2.54 metric tons per hectare (mt/ha) with inorganic fertilizer at 1m x 75cm planting distance, 1.51 mt/ha using organic fertilizer at a distance of 1m x 75cm. The control however yielded 1.2mt/ha at a planting distance of 1m x 50cm. Based on this study our initial recommendation is 75cm planting distance per row and 50cm per hill. Sowing two seeds per hill is required to avoid thinning. We recorded 8-12 tillers per hill. We have not observed any pest that attacked Adlai in our station. However, we will conduct more replications and further studies in order to discover the full potential of adlai .”
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