Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta
A partnership of stakeholders comprising farmers, a university and the food-processing industry has led to the discovery of a local variety of black soybean considered superior both in terms of productivity and nutritional content.
Named "Mallika", the newly discovered soybean variety was officially launched in Yogyakarta on Monday during a dialogue entitled "Revitalization of Soybean Seedlings to Support the Self-production of Soybeans by 2015" held at Gadjah Mada University's School of Agriculture.
Mary Astuti from the School of Agriculture said the new superior variety of soybean was named after the Tamil word "Mallika", which literally means kingdom.
"We hope 'Mallika', as the local soybean variety, will become the king of soybeans in the country," said Mary, who is also head of the school's Agro Industry Management and Technology Development Institution.
Research and development of the new soybean variety has been ongoing since 2001, with financial support from consumer goods company PT Unilever Indonesia.
According to Mary the research has proven that "Mallika" has a relatively high productivity level.
"Productivity has reached up to 2.7 tons of soybean per hectare of plantation," said Mary, adding the development of the new variety had covered some 1,600 hectares and involved some 6,000 farmers in 13 regencies across four provinces -- Yogyakarta, Central Java, East Java and West Java.
The figure is considerably higher than that of the national productivity level of other soybean varieties, which is less than a ton per hectare. The government has been struggling to raise productivity to 1.5 tons per hectare in a bid to achieve self-sufficiency in soybean production by 2015.
Mary said the "Mallika" as a plant is more resistant to both flooding and drought. As a seed, similarly, it has a considerably high growth capability.
"Even after 8 months of storage, Mallika seeds still have a growth rate of 80 percent," she said.
In terms of nutritional content, likewise, Mallika is considered superior due to the antioxidant content in its black skin, making it not only beneficial in preventing cancer and high cholesterol but also in preventing degenerative diseases.
"Another positive feature of the 'Mallika' is that it is has not been genetically modified," Mary added.
As an ingredient in the production of soybean ketchup, Mary said "Mallika" is also superior as even without food enhancers the ketchup has a very specific taste.
Director General of Food Crops at the Agriculture Ministry Sutarto Alimoeso said the "Mallika" soybean project was a good example of a successful partnership between the food-processing industry, the university and farmers.
"The Agriculture Ministry is very appreciative for the finding and hopes it will be an entry point for further development, not only for soybean production but also for other commodities and industries," Sutarto said.
He expressed hope the new soybean variety would also speed up the country's independence over imported yellow soybeans, which have flooded the Indonesian market and food-processing industry for years.