DA unit eyes rimas as substitute for rice

- Dulce Sanchez () - December 4, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Will Filipinos accept rimas (Artocarpus altilis) as an alternative to rice? 

The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Research recently organized a workshop to discuss the potential of rimas, also known as breadfruit. The fruit, when cooked, exhibits a flavor like that of freshly baked bread, hence the name, according to the BAR.

Rimas belongs to the mulberry (Moraceae) family, which also includes jackfruit and marang. It is similar to kamansi or breadnut, which has seeds.

Studies on rimas indicate the fruit is high in carbohydrate, “making this crop a possible staple commodity alternative to rice as a staple food, and to wheat, flour, and feed,” but the BAR said “cultural practices in cultivation and propagation of the crop, even the general knowledge on the possible byproducts of rimas is almost nonexistent.”

The workshop organized by the BAR is aimed at “looking into the full potential of rimas as a possible crop that can bring the Philippines to rice sufficiency by 2013,” the BAR said.

“This must be one of the additional crops that we are going to work with. If we only depend on rice as basis for us to become food secure in our country, maybe we will not be able to attain such goals,” BAR assistant director Teodoro Solsoloy said.

Workshop participants from Region 6 said they have tried different propagation techniques but are not able to produce rimas trees with consistency. Those from Region 8 said they use rimas as swine feed.

They said among the problems with promoting rimas as a stable food crop is the lack of information on the plant, available planting materials, propagation techniques, location of existing rimas around the country, and cultural practices.

The workshop participants suggested building a database on available local varieties and what these varieties need to thrive.

Breadfruit basics

According to the BAR, the rimas tree can grow 40 to 60 feet tall, with broad leaves. Its fruits can weigh as much as 10 pounds each.

It is widely distributed in New Guinea, Indo-Malayan archipelago, Philippines, Hawaii and Central America.

Many Filipinos encounter rimas in its candied form, but those living in Laguna, Cavite, Leyte, and Bicol cook it as a vegetable, with coconut milk.

Malayans peel the ripe fruit, slice the pulp and fry it in syrup or palm sugar until it turns crisp and brown.

In Brazil and Barbados, the dried fruit is processed into flour and is used as a substitute for wheat flour in baking bread. “Breads made from breadfruit flour are found more nutritious because breadfruit flour is much richer in lysine, carbohydrates, and other essential amino acids than wheat flour,” the BAR said.

The BAR also said experiments conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture demonstrated that dehydrated breadfruit is a highly digestible stock feed.

Multiplying by cuttings

Breadfruit is best propagated through root cuttings, since seeds of tropical fruit tend to lose their viability in a few weeks, the BAR said.

The agency recommends inducing suckers or shoots by deliberately injuring the root of a mature breadfruit tree, and pruning the tree to increase the number of suckers. Cuttings should be about one to 2 1/2 inches thick and nine inches long.

To remove the sap from cuttings, the ends should be dipped into a solution of potassium permanganate. The cuttings can then be planted close together in sand to induce root growth. They should be put under shade and watered daily, the BAR said.

The BAR said callus – plant tissues that give rise to new plantlets – start to form in six weeks and roots develop in two to five months. During this period, the “rootings” can be transplanted into plastic bags that contain a mix of soil and sand, sprayed with mist for a week and kept under 65 percent shade.

The rootings should be given NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – the basic elements required for plant growth), a liquid fertilizer, and regularly watered. When the primary root system is well developed, the BAR said the saplings can be transplanted in an open field.

The saplings should be planted in holes 15 inches deep and three feet wide, spaced 25 to 45 feet apart. Rimas trees start bearing fruit in five years, and continue to be productive for around 50 years.

“Some growers find pruning convenient for stimulating new shoots and keeping the tree from being tall for ease in harvesting,” the BAR said.

Breadfruits are considered mature enough for harvesting if small drops of latex start to ooze on the fruit’s surface. Mature fruits are picked using a fruit stalk with a forked stick.

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