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Coix lacryma-jobi L.

Job's-tears, Adlay, Millet

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


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.

Folk Medicine

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, 1978, 1979)


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 organic manure.


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 and Economics

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 soil management.

Biotic Factors

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 parrots.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
last update July 8, 1996