A Public Private Partnership Project (PPP) is enabling increased production of “ubi” seedlings that should help meet the high demand for this anti-hypertensive, anthocyanin-rich crop used in delicacies such as cakes, yogurt, and ice cream.
A PPP initiative of the Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay City, Leyte and the Bali Farms Crops Research Center (BFCRC) can make available increased seedlings of ubi, also called purple yam, year-round through tissue culture.
This will supply farmers with more adequate seedlings for ubi which according to VSU’s Philrootcrops can bring a net income to farmers of P185,000 per hectare per cropping on the first year. Income reached to P258,000 on the second year under recommended farming conditions.
Food entrepreneurs may also have better access to ubi as present supply cannot meet increasing demand for ubi as jam, puree, flavoring for ice cream and yogurt, and filling for hopia, cakes, pastries, and breads.
Flour and starch may also be produced from it-- products that can have industrial value-- while ubi’s strong purple color may make it important as food coloring or dye.
The VSU has agreed with BFCRC in Cagayan de Oro City, a commercial crops producer, on tissue culture use for ubi plantlets production.
“Production (of seedlings) is too seasonal— once a year from January to May. Tuber supply cannot meet market demand, (causing an) underdeveloped industry despite competitive edge,” according to VSU’s Dr. Villaluz Z. Acedo and Catherine C. Arradaza.
Tissue culture, the growing of tissues or cells separate from the organism in laboratories in order to produce plantlets, can remove pest and disease in the seedlings. It may produce planting materials in large volume and at a very rapid rate.
The tissue culture project of VSU won a bronze prize in the Bureau of Agricultural Research’s (BAR) National Research Symposium this year.
“We have a thrust to promote healthful products like ubi that will both raise income of farmers and provide consumers with products that have natural medicinal value,” according to BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.
With its blue-purple pigment, ubi is also known to be rich in anthocyanin which is considered a flavonoid. It has potential beneficial health effects against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections.
A linkage between the private sector and public institutions on tissue culture is “vital to promote and sustain higher productivity and competitiveness of ubi as one of the country’s five banner export crops in propelling economic growth,” said VSU. It is further proposing with BAR a P4 million project to support development of the ubi industry.
“Scaling up studies are needed to establish the viability of the new seed system,” the root crops specialist said.
In its recommended tissue culture practice, monthly planting of ubi seedlings should be done to ensure year-round cropping.
VSU is proposing a seed system where private growers may produce their own seedlings on top of what VSU or other public institutions may produce.
“This saves ubi tubers for food and industry,” said VSU. “Tissue cultured purple yam can be planted year-round, although at certain months yield is low. Nutrient boosting showed great promise in increasing tuber yield.”
VSU earlier conducted from 2005 to 2010 at its Philrootcrops (Philippine Root Crops Research and Training Center) tissue culture laboratory a study on the production of plantlets through tissue culture.
Nutrient boosting practice on the plantlets include spraying of calcium-based fertilizer at 2.5 grams per liter water and basal application of Triple 14 fertilizer.
The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development affirmed in a study the presence of PRP-1 (Philippine Rootcrops Protein 1), a novel anti-hypertensive protein isolated from ubi.
PRP-1 is found to have angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) which prevents conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a compound that causes blood pressure increase in the body.
This may make the locally-produced ubi a good source of alternative drug for the treatment of hypertension.
“The significant role of yam in human health could not be overemphasized. It can be used safely as a potential anti-hypertensive drug. And because it is a natural protein, it could be a valuable molecule in today’s health-conscious society,” said Dr. Edgardo E. Tulin of VSU’s Philrootcrops.
Entrepreneurial companies like La Union-based Sunlight Foods have found big economic value in indigenously-grown crops like ubi. It now supplies ubi puree to Red Ribbon and Gardenia, Chowking, Fitrite, Jollibee and Selecta.
“It exports bottled ubi preserves to Japan, Europe, United States, Canada and Middle East through consolidators,” reported AGribusinessweek.
The World Health Organization (WHO) itself has pushed for increased intake of natural food with anti-hypertensive content since commercial anti-hypertensive drugs are expensive.
“Hypertension or high blood pressure lead to organ damage and several illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysm or renal failure. That is why the WHO recommends and encourages the use of plants as an alternative treatment for the disease,” said PCHRD.
WHO indicated that hypertension is one of the leading causes of premature deaths reaching to eight million people globally. It estimates there are one billion people suffering from hypertension worldwide of which two-thirds are from developing countries like the Philippines. BAR-DA