The project ‘Enhancing Nutritional and Grain Qualities of White Corn for Food’ conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB) and funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) provided the confirmatory critical technical information and improved seeds of quality protein maize (QPM) in the government’s effort to promote corn as viable healthy staple supplementing rice,” explained Dr. Artemio M. Salazar, project leader and research professor.
Corn, in general, is known as a relatively cheap and nutritious alternative if not supplementary staple food for rice. In 2000, after learning that QPM improved the nutritional status and health of poor Africans, Dr. Salazar and his team bred and developed QPM Var 6 (also known as High Lysine and Tryptophan Corn). According to the researchers, the QPM Var 6 contains 66.2 percent more lysine than the regular white corn. It also contains more tryptophan and protein, dietary fiber, minerals, and antioxidants than rice alone.
Eleven years later, Dr. Salazar and his team conducted the said project to enhance the development of better quality, genetically stable, and highly nutritious corn varieties through utilization of advanced equipment and facilities. The said project was aimed to continue developing white corn open-pollinated varieties which are high yielding and have highly acceptable nutritional and eating qualities.
After ensuring that they have the genetic materials (in improved IPB Var6 developed through the project), they carried out feeding program to the malnourished children in a nearby school. These children are mostly from the informal settlers at the foot of Mount Makiling. “It was shown that [by] providing these malnourished children daily lunch for three months with 50 percent Var6 grits: 50 percent rice gave them higher weight gain than with pure rice,” according to Dr. Salazar. The feeding program was expanded through UPLB-Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension to three more schools in Los Baños.
Simultaneously, the same improved variety was used by IPB in promoting corn grits for adults especially those suffering from diabetes. In fact, Dr. Salazar shared that the grits from the variety was adopted by a diabetes clinic in the biggest hospital in town. He also added that “the grits from the same improved variety were also used by the Department of Agriculture in promoting corn grits as staple.” “The said corn grits were used in launching rice-corn blend by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in the recent Philippine Corn Congress held at the Philippine International Convention Center last November,” continued Dr. Salazar. This was later endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao later in the year.
“The rice-corn blend has gone a long way. And we are running out of supply. Although not that recognized, it was that project supported by BAR that provided the critical technical confidence and genetic material to go pursue the course. Newer and better genetic materials are in the offing (hybrids included) thru the support from BAR. There is no other public R&D institution supporting this. The support of BAR in this initiative cannot be overestimated,” ended Dr. Salazar. ### Rena S. Hermoso (BAR)/Dr. Artemio M. Salazar (UPLB-IPB)