Ubi is a popular rootcrop because of its many uses. It can be consumed as fresh tuber or it can be processed into various food products such as powder, flour, flakes, or dehydrated yam or as flavoring ingredient for ice creams, bakery, and confectionery products. Even its peeling is processed and used as natural food coloring additive.
Recognized for its characteristically unique aroma and violet sweetness which is known to be endemic only to the soil type and climate of Bohol, ubi (Disoscorea alata, L.) has strategically placed the province and Central Visayas in a relatively advantageous position given its growing demand and competitiveness in the industrial food sector. In fact, the popularity of ubi as a speciality food ingredient has resulted to the growing interest to develop more product lines from this purple and aromatic underground rootcrop.
Although Bohol is the largest ubi-producing province in the country, hence “the epicenter of ubi industry,” the potential of this rootcrop is not being fully tapped in terms of production, product promotion, utilization and marketability.
To optimize the potential of ubi particularly as processed food, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) through its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP) funded an R&D project on the “Technology Promotion, Utilization and Commercialization of Ubi for Development in Central Visayas”. This R&D endeavor is being implemented by the Bohol Experiment Station (BES), Central Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CENVIARC) which is based in Ubay, Bohol.
“This tech com project on ubi is an offshoot of a successful implementation of the ‘Ubi Agribusiness Development Project (ADP)’ in Bohol wherein CENVIARC initiated the efforts to bring ubi into large-scale commercialization given its increasing market demand and need to systematize relevant product standards,” explained Amancia C. Mendelin, chief of the R&D Extension Division, BES and focal person for the ubi project.
Mendelin further that, given that production of ubi is already in tact and there is a great demand for it, there is a need to “widen and sustain technology promotion of ubi alongside the efforts to commerciliaze it.” To attain this, Mendellin said, “production of ubi needs to be sustained and its production areas must be increased so that it will able to meet the volume of market demand.”
Bohol’s purple varieties
According to reports, ubi production in Bohol started with 780 hectares only which involved more than 3,000 farmers. Average production area was only less than a hectare (2,247 sq m) with an average production of 17.9 mt per hectare making Bohol the large-producing province in the country and its aromatic ubi widely associated to this province.
Specifically for the BAR-funded CPAR project (implemented in 2003-2004), the ubi-based farming systems proved to be profitable than the corn-based farming systems which resulted to negative income. “The average yield of ubi was 9 tons per hectare giving the farmer-cooperators a net income of P38,853.87 per hectare and a return of investment of 46.7 percent,” explained Mendelin.
Engr. Antonio S. Du, BES chief, reported that “due to the good results obtained from the CPAR project on ubi, the local government fo Guindulman, where the project site was located, expanded the implementation of the ubi-based farming system to other barangays.”
Chief Du added that, under the BAR-funded ADP project (implemented in 2005), the number of farmers who participated in the ubi project increased from 7 to 24 with an aggregate production area of 1.2 hectares.
Ubi growers in Bohol are planting the purple varieties: kinampay, baligonhon, and PSB VU2.
Kinampay is the most popular and favored ubi variety. Its flesh is a marbled purple color and is well-known for its aroma. Baligonhon is of same color with that of kinampay although not as aromatic, it serves as main ingredient for ice cream or pastries. Meanwhile, PSB VU-2 is a National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) variety developed by the Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops), based in Visayas State University (VSU). Other local varieties of ubi being grown in Bohol are: kabus-ok, iniling, tamisan, baligonhon, binanag, binugas/gimnay and binato.
Products from ubi
One of the important components of the tech com project on ubi is product development, particularly, to establish a strong and sustainable system for ubi and its by-products. After ensuring the production of ubi, the researchers from CENVIARC developed product lines from ubi to increase the promotion of this violet rootcrops.
Considering that ubi is seasonal, it is important that we develop processed products to enhance its promotion and use.
The Food Processing Laboratory in CENVIARC is developing three processed products from ubi, namely: spread, chips, and wine.
These products were developed because during a consultation meeting with the ubi farmer-partners inGuindulman, it was found that aside from jam, pastilles and polvoron, spread, chips, and wine have manifested a good market demand.
“The processing technologies for ubi spread and ubi chips are ready for adoption by interested agri-entrepreneurs. We have refined the technologies from its development to its packaging,” said Mendelin on the status of the project.
Meanwhile, the ubi wine is yet to be perfected. “Before it can be manufactured and commercialize, much is still needed for the development of the ageing process, determination of ideal alcohol content, shelf-life, and packaging technology,” reported Mendelin.
In the processing of ubi products, Mendelin reported that color is important. “One of the prevailing concerns of ubi growers in Bohol is the purple coloration in kinampay and baligonhon varieties,” she explained. According to her, color in ubi may vary depending on the types of soils. It is important to note that these ubi varieties are endemic to the soil and climate type in Bohol.
To address this, researchers in CENVIARC have collaborated with PRCRTC to determine the different levels of NPK fertilization using a micronutrient, Biozome 200. Study showed that this micronutrient fertilizer was able to enhance the purple pigmentation in ubi tubers. Moreover, it showed that the average yield of ubi increased with the application of the micronutrient fertilizer.
Currently, the group of Mendelin is intensifying the promotion and knowledge enhancement particularly to increase level of awareness and appreciation on ubi production, processing, and marketing. To ensure the sustainability of the project, partnership among key players and stakeholders in the ubi industry is continuously being strengthened.
Source: Rita T. dela Cruz, Bar Chronicle March 2012 Issue (Vol. 13 No. 3)