University of the Philippines Los Baños

Corn had been touted as a “poor man’s rice” for years. The rice shortage in the 1960s that forced many Filipinos to eat inferior rice mixed with rough corn grits left a harsh memory. Except probably in the Visayas, where white corn is a staple food of 14 million or 20 percent of the population, many Filipinos will eat corn as rice only if there is no rice.

No wonder then that Congressman Manny Pacquiao, who grew up in the Visayas, was chosen by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ‘champion’ the eating of white corn in the country. The world boxing hero “ate ground white corn as a substitute of rice and fish” when he was a kid.

His stamina, like other athletes, is said to be boosted by eating corn. Nutty and slow to digest, white corn contains protein (3.2 grams) and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, copper, and zinc. It also has fiber, fat, folate, iron, niacin, and phosphorus.

So when he brandishes on video (YouTube): “This is the food of champions like me. Let’s eat corn for a stronger and healthier body!” that hits like a powerful jab.

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Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is an Asian crop considered as an important staple food in most countries. Originating from Central America, it is a herbaceous perennial vine that has white and purple flowers, large nutritious storage roots, and heart-shaped lobed leaves. It is now widely grown in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate regions, including the Philippines. In fact, the volume of production of sweet potato in the Philippines in 2012 was 516,365.52 metric tons.

Throughout Asia, people process sweet potato for snacks such as chips or animal feeds. Its tubers contain carbohydrates (21 g), protein (2 g), sodium (36 mg), Vitamin A (19,218), Vitamin C (20 mg), and calcium (38 mg). Sweet potato is rich in dietary fiber, calcium, complex carbohydrates, and anti-oxidants. According to Shahidul Islam, the young tops of the upper growth- the leafy vegetables – is rich in vitamin B, ßcarotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein.

UPLB through the Institute of Plant Breeding, is continuously developing new and improved varieties that are resistant to pests and maximizing the potential of sweet potato in the country.

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Zubia’s father went to his workplace for him to change how he looked at agricultural machinery and to work towards making change happen.

“I showed my father, a farmer, around my workplace where we develop farm machines. Upon closer inspection of the machines on display, he shook his head and said that they were not fit for Filipinos,” Zubia recalled.

It struck Zubia, a faculty member at the Institute of Agricultural Engineering of the College of Engineering and Agro- Industrial Technology (CEAT-IAE), that his father’s observations might just be valid. The Philippines may have benefited much from imported machinery: however, these were likely to have caused problems and affected efficiency because they have not been designed based on the Filipino’s body dimensions.

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“Earth here is so kind that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” This is a line attributed to Douglas William Jerrold, an English dramatist and writer. And tickle the earth with his out-of-the-box landscaping style, the late Dr. Leonido R. Naranja did, so the kind earth soon laughed with a harvest.

He may not have lived long enough to see his landscaping approach catch on but the pockets of adoption may soon, altogether, create a change towards communities incorporating vegetables and food plants into spaces normally assigned to ornamentals.

It all started when Dr. Naranja spruced up an exhibit booth with vegetables instead of ornamentals. He probably did so since the exhibit was a side event in a conference of the Society for the Advancement of the Vegetable Industry (SAVI) at the UPLB Seniors’ Social Garden in 1999.

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Scientific research in UPLB – and even perhaps in the country - began with the founding of the UP College of Agriculture (UPCA) in 1909. UPCA was at the forefront of agricultural research, experimenting and generating knowledge on tropical agriculture at a time when there was virtually none. The very first UPCA dean included research in the curriculum and required all students to conduct a thesis study as a requirement for graduation.

In time, the College had become well known in scientific and academic communities. With the beginnings of forestry education in the country also originating in Los Baños, and later the formal organization of UPLB as the first autonomous campus of UP, UPLB was soon on its way to building an unparalleled reputation for scientific investigation and instruction in what was to become its traditional stronghold of agriculture and forestry. Today, building on these strengths, UPLB continues to evolve into a university with an institutional identity distinct from but firmly rooted in its origins.

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