The land is cleared during
the dry months of the year to prepare for the eventual planting
at the onset of the rainy season. Grasses and vines are cut first
then plowed. The first plowing should be shallow to bring the
weeds just at the proper depth for germination then followed
by deep plowing 10 to 14 days to kill the germinated weeds before
Materials for propagation should
be chosen carefully. The source of seedpieces must be from healthy
or pest and disease free high yielding varieties. The sucker
or whole plant and the corm or rootstocks are the two types of
Time of Planting
Planting is best done during
the onset of the rainy season since dry periods can stunt the
normal growth and development of young plants.
Methods of Planting
The square method is commonly
used in the Bicol region. In the square method, hills are set
apart in equal distances. If the farm is fully planted, plants
should be spaced at 2.5 x 2.5 meters apart with 1,600 hills accommodated
in a hectare.
In the double row or avenue
method, abaca are planted in two rows at about 1.5 x 1.5 meters
apart with a distance of 2.5 meters from each set. Cash crops
like peanut, soybeans and others can be intercropped in this
In the Quincunx or triangle
method, 1852 hills are planted in a hectare with hills set at
a distance of 2 x 2 meters.
Abaca plantations should be
provided with shade trees to prevent excessive heat from damaging
the plants and serve as windbreaks since typhoons in the Bicol
Region are frequent. Permanent shade trees such as anii, dapdap,
ipil-ipil and temporary shade trees like katuray and madre de
cacao are recommended. Shade trees provide and maintain a favorable
temperature for abaca. They also conserve soil moisture and prevent
weed growth to a certain degree.
Abaca, like other perennial
crops, occupies the same land for several cropping years. The
same crop is harvested year after year resulting to the gradual
removal of the essential nutrients from the soil. When the supply
of these nutrient elements are not replenished, the soil gradually
looses its fertility.
Abaca requires large amounts
of nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) but less of phosphorus (P).
About 40 % of the ash from abaca fiber is potassium.
Nitrogen greatly improves its
growth and suckering ability while Potassium increases the tensile
strength of its fiber.
For established plantations,
annual application of 187.5 grams per hill or 12 bags per hectare
of complete fertilizer (14-14-14) every year is recommended.
Fertilizer is applied in split of equal doses annually. Fertilizer
is applied in a ring one foot away from the base of the pseudostems,
the area where the roots are shallow.
Cleaning and Mulching
The removal of dried leaves
is necessary because they are fire hazards in the plantation,
they serve as favorable media for fungal,, bacterial and insect
growth and they impede the growth of suckers by limiting sunlight
penetration thus, making regular inspections and indexing difficult.
Dried or yellowing leaves must
be severed from the stalks with the use of a double-bladed scythe
attached to a long pole. Old and yellowing leaves are cut at
the petiole further from the stalk so that the leafsheaths are
kept fresh. The cut leaves are laid on the space between hills
and used as mulching materials to preserve soil moisture and
inhibit the growth of weeds.
Weeds are not much of a problem
in a well-established and maintained abaca plantation. The tall
plants shade the grounds such that weed growth is effectively
checked or minimized. However, if weeds are abundant, they can
be easily controlled manually or mechanically by handweeding,
plowing or underbrushing at 2 to 3 months interval or as necessary.
Stalks are harvested three
to five months before the flagleaf appears. Abaca growth has
been observed to slow down a few months before flagleaf appearance.
The practice in the region is to harvest abaca twice a year.
A longer interval may result in overmatured stalks which consequently
yields fibers of low quantity and poor quality.
Three steps are involved in
the harvesting of abaca, the cleaning, topping and tumbling.
In cleaning, the area surrounding the base of the stalk is cleared
of dried leaves, grasses and other weeds. Thinning of floaters
and spindly suckers and cutting afflicted plants and dead stalks
are also done during cleaning
Topping is done with the use
of a curved knife fastened at the tip of a long pole and then
cutting the leaves. It eases harvesting and minimizes the damage
to follower stalks in the surrounding area.
Tumbling, on the otherhand,
is done using a sharp tumbling bolo. A smooth and slanting cut
is made on the stalk about 5 cm from the last leaf scar to prevent
the accumulation of sap. The topped stalks are then tumbled
by cutting them close to the ground with the direction of the
cut portion inclined towards the base.