Coix lacryma-jobi L.
Job's-tears, Adlay, Millet
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Weed to some, necklace to others, staff-of-life to others, job's tear is a very
useful and productive grass increasingly viewed as a potential energy source.
Before Zea became popular in South Asia, Coix was rather widely cultivated as a
cereal in India. Still taken as a minor cereal, it is pounded, threshed and
winnowed, as a cereal or breadstuff. The pounded flour is sometimes mixed with
water like barley for barley water. The pounded kernel is also made into a
sweet dish by frying and coating with sugar. It is also husked and eaten out
of hand like a peanut. Beers and wines are made from the fermented grain.
Chinese use the grain, like barley, in soups and broths.
According to Hartwell (1967-1971), the fruits are used in folk remedies for
abdominal tumors, esophageal, gastrointestinal, and lung cancers, various
tumors, as well as excrescences, warts, and whitlows. This folk reputation is
all the more interesting when reading that coixenolide has antitumor activity
(List and Horhammer, 1969-1979). Job's tear is also a folk remedy for abscess,
anodyne, anthrax, appendicitis, arthritis, beriberi, bronchitis, catarrh,
diabetes, dysentery, dysuria, edema, fever, gotter, halitosis, headache,
hydrothorax, metroxenia, phthisis, pleurisy, pneumonia, puerperium, rheumatism,
small-pox, splenitis, strangury, tenesmus, and worms (Duke and Wain, 1981).
Walker (1971) cites other medicinal uses.
Per 100 g, the seed is reported to contain 380 calories, 11.2 g H2O, 15.4 g
protein, 6.2 g fat, 65.3 g total carbohydrate, 0.8 g fiber, 1.9 g ash, 25 mg
Ca, 435 mg P, 5.0 mg Fe, 0 ug beta-carotene equivalent, 0.28 mg thiamine, 0.19
mg riboflavin, 4.3 mg niacin, and 0 mg ascorbic acid. According to Hager's
Handbook (List and Horhammer, 1969-1979), there is 50-60% starch 18.7% protein
(with glutamic-acid, leucine, tyrosine, arginine, histidine, and lysine) and
5-10% fatty oil with glycerides of myristic- and palmitic-acids.
Annual (in the temperate zone) but perennial where frost is absent or mild,
freely branching upright or ascending herb 1-2 m tall, the cordate clasping
leaf blades 20-50 cm long, 1-5 cm broad. Spikelets terminal, and in the upper
axils, unisexual, staminate spikelets two-flowered, in twos or threes on the
continuous rachis; pistillate spikelets three together, one fertile, and two
sterile; glumes of the fertile spikelet several-nerved, all enclosed finally in
a bony beadlike involucre, the grain, white to bluish white, or black, globular
orvoid, 6-12 mm long.
Reported from the Indochina-Indonesia Center of Diversity, Job's Tears or cvs
thereof is reported to tolerate laterite, low pH, photoperiodic latitude, poor
soil, slope, virus, and waterlogging. (2n = 10, 20) (Duke, 1978)
Native perhaps to southeast Asia, but now rather pantropical as cultigen and
weed. Listed as a serious weed in Polynesia, a principle weed in Italy and
Korea, a common weed in Hawaii, Iran, Japan, Micronesia, and Puerto Rico, also
in Australia, Borneo, Burma, Cambodia, China, Congo, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Iraq,
Melanesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Rhodesia, Senegal, South Africa,
Sudan, Thailand, United States, and Venezuela (Holm et al, 1979).
Ranging from Cool Temperate Moist to Wet through Tropical Very Dry to Wet
Forest Life Zones, Job's Tears is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of
6.1 to 42.9 dm (mean of 31 cases = 17.9) annual temperature of 9.6 to 27.8°C
(mean of 31 cases = 21.5) and pH of 4.5 to 8.4 (mean of 23 cases = 6.2). (Duke,
Propagation by seeds, sown during monsoon (in India) at rate of 6-10 kg/ha.
Seed dibbled 2.5 cm deep, at spacing of 60 x 60 cm. One intercultivation,
before the plants tiller, and shade on ground may be necessary. Sufficient
rains in early stage of growth and a dry period when grain is setting are
necessary for good yields. Plants respond well to liberal applications of
Crop harvested in 4-5 months after sowing. Plants are cut off at base and
grain separated by threshing. Seeds are dried in sun prior to milling. Adlay
flour milled and used with wheat flour for baking purposes.
Yields vary as to strains cultivated in different countries: yield of unhusked
grains in Philippine Islands is about 3.5 T/ha; in Sri Lanka, 2.1 T/ha. In
some areas 40-75 bu/acre is considered good under average conditions. Loss in
hulling is about 30-40% in Philippine Islands and 70% in Sri Lanka. Adlay is
extensively cultivated in Philippine Islands, Indochina, Thailand, Burma, and
Sri Lanka, and is used as an auxiliary food crop, especially as a substitute
for rice. It does not enter international trade, although it is used locally
in large quantities.
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges
around 5 MT/ha, but few data are available. Duke's field observations in
Panama suggest that in Tropical Fresh Water Swamp situations, standing biomass
visually suggests closer to 10 20 MT/ha. In Mali, it provides only 45-53 MT
fresh fodder/ha. If perennial in the tropics, there is the good possibility
that 2 MT grain and 10 MT biomass could be harvested renewably, with proper
Following fungi attack adlay: Cladosporium herbarum, Curvularia coicis,
Diplodia coicis, Epicoccum hyalopes, Fusarium equiseti, F. graminearum, F.
moniliforme, F. semitectum, Helminthosporium coicis, Ophiobolus graffianus,
Phyllachora coicis, Phyllosticta coixicola, Ph. coix-lacrimae, Puccinia operta,
Nigrospora sphaerica, Trilletia okudaire, T. taiana, Uredo operta, Ustilago
coicis, U. lachrymae-jobi. Leaf-gall virus and the nematode Meloidogyne
incognita acrita also attack this plant. Most losses are due to rats and
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Duke, J.A. 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. p. 1-61. In: ASA Special
Symposium 32, Crop tolerance to suboptimal land conditions. Am. Soc. Agron.
Duke, J.A. 1979. Ecosystematic data on economic plants. Quart. J. Crude Drug
Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89-150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
Hartwell, J.L. 1967-1971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 30-34.
Holm, L.G., Pancho, J.V., Herberger, J.P., and Plucknett, D.L. 1979. A
geographical atlas of world weeds. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
List, P.H. and Horhammer, L. 1969-1979. Hager's handbuch der pharmazeutischen
praxis. vols 2-6. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Walker, G. 1971. Job's tears. Lasca Leaves 21(1):14-18.
last update July 8, 1996