Earn cash weekly from alugbati
By Dell H. Garcia and Pit La. Cantilang
Alugbati is to Visayans what saluyot is to Ilocanos. The culture of alugbati provides many families in the Visayas with a means of earning a good living; Some families in Iloilo are able to send their children to school by planting alugbati.
Pavia, a town eight kilometers southwest of Iloilo City, is very famous for alugbati. Ilongos regard the residents of Pavia as connoisseurs and expert growers of alugbati.
Pavia has a population of 15,500, around 600 of whom are farmers. Although rice, corn and tobacco are the town’s major products, almost all of the farmers in the area grow alugbati. A popular saying of the people of Pavia goes this way: May ulotanon lang ikaw nga alugbati kag may inugsobak nga ginamos man ukon balingon uga, mabuhi na ang imo pamilya!” (“If you have only alugbati and bagoong or dried dilis with it, your family will be able to live.”)
Barrio Ungca No. 1 in Pavis is noted for its alugbati crops. Ungca barangay chairman Juan Guaro, fondly called Tiyo Didoy by his townmates, reports that alugbati growing is profitable, especially of the farmer has children going to school. Mature alugbati may be harvested weekly starting at one month after planting. Since it’s easy to sell, the vegetable is a good source of ready cash for school children.
Tiyo Didoy says alugbati sells at a good price from December to April. The price goes down during the rainy months ( June to November) because the vegetable easier to grow during the wet season.
Says Tiyo Didoy: “we sell alugbati in bundles (each measuring half a foot in diameter0 Placed carefully in basket with fresh banana leaves. This keeps the vegetable fresh until it reaches the buyers.
Alugbati farms in barrio__ average one-forth hectare in size. Two varieties of alugbati grown in the area: red and green. Both have the same taste. Farmers prefer the red variety because it is high-yielding and early maturing.
To plant alugbati, prepare land thoroughly, as though preparing it for corn. Furrows should be 50 to 70 cm apart. Plant four cuttings per hill: hills within a furrow should be 20 to 30 centimeters apart. If cuttings are abundant use seven to 10 cuttings per hill but set the distance between ___ at 40 to 50 cm.
Plant in straight rows. Plant fresh, mature and healthy cuttings which are at least 10 to 12 inches long. If cuttings are scarce harvested shoots may be planted.
Prune the leaves of cuttings in running water to stimulate shoot emergence, and then plant the cuttings. However, if time is short, cuttings may also be planted fresh. Don’t water the hills if the soil is moist. Water during the dry months.
“Our barangay bought an eight horse power irrigation pump coasting 7,000 pesos from the Department of Local Government and Community Development,” says Tiyo Didoy.
The mobile pump can irrigate one-fourth hectare for two hours continuously. Ungea farmers take turns using the pump.
Two weeks after planting, begin cultivating. Control weeds around the plants, then use a light ___ fir shallow cultivation. Ring cultivate at a radius of one foot. Later, hill-up using an animal drawn plow. Use a heavy hoe when plowing is not feasible.
Apply urea fertilizer a week after cultivation. Apply fertilizer again after the first harvest, and once a month thereafter. Tiyo Didoy and other Pavia farmers apply fertilizer at the rate of one tablespoonful or more per hill. If the soil is dry, water the hills after fertilizer application.
Alugbati may be harvested one month after planting, but the first harvest may not yield much. Initially, Tiyo Didoy harvests only 60 bundles from his one-fourth hectare farm. But starting at tow months after planting, he gets not less than 400 bundles every week from his crop.
How long is the life span of alugbati?
“A year or more,” says Tiyo Didoy. “But it’s best to replace old plants with new ones to maintain good yield.”
When alugbati plants bear fruits and the roots develop “galls” or water nodules, the plants eventually die. Then it’s time to plant new cuttings to replace old plants.