|By pinoyfarmer | October 16, 2008|
Abaca (Musa textiles Nee) or Manila hemp, as it is known in international trade, is endemic in the Philippines. About 84% of the world’s supply of abaca comes from the Philippines. Most of these come from the abaca-growing regions like Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Abaca has been grown in the Philippines for centuries and was known to the Filipinos long before the Spanish occupation. The crop has been proven to be profitable and has continuously provided income to many Filipinos, especially those in the uplands of Mindanao, for their subsistence.
It belongs to the Musaceae family and it closely resembles the banana. Abaca stalks however, are more slender, with smaller, narrower, and more pointed leaves. Leaf color is darker green compared to banana and a distinguishing dark line on the right hand side of the upper surface of the leaf blade is pronounced in abaca. Fruits are small, seedy, and non-edible.
Recommended Varieties for Mindanao
1. Tangongon -large, vigorous, and sturdy; grows well in loamy clay soil with strong, heavy, coarse, lightly colored and hard to strip fibers; poor stooler and hills tend to “run out”; easily blown down because the roots are often push through the soil surface
2. Maguindanao- has large stalks; easily stripped white fibers; thrives well in sandy to light clay soils; sensitive to drought because of its scanty root system; stalks easily lodge; resistant to bunchy top and root rot diseases; remain productive for as long as 15 years.
3. Bungolanon - earlier maturing than Tangongon and Maguindanao; grows on a wide range of soil fertility; good root system; more resistant to drought compared to Maguindanao; does not lodge easily; heavy stooler with about 30 to 60 stools/hill; white and fine fibers; yield however, declines 5 to 6 years after planting.
Soils and Climate for Abaca Production
Abaca has been found growing in virtually all types of soils and climate in the Philippines. But it is found most productive in areas where the soil is volcanic in origin, rich in organic matter. loose, friable, and well-drained, clay loam type.
It requires a water table of 80 cm with 60-80% saturation and a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Undulating or rolling to hilly or mountainous areas less than 500 m above sea level with deep surface soil with slopes from 200 to 600 are ideal for abaca production. For normal growth of abaca plants, the soil must contain adequate amounts of organic matter, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Abaca requires warm and humid climate for optimum growth and productivity. Though the optimum temperature requirement for abaca has not been fully determined, it grows in areas with temperatures of 200C during cool months and 250C during warm months. A relative humidity of 78 to 85% and a fairly-distributed rainfall through out the year are conducive to good growth. The area must be free from cyclonic winds and typhoons, if not the plants must be provided with cover trees or windbreaks to dissipate the force.