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11-January-2010 The Philippine STAR
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MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) is pinning its hope on a farmer-scientist’s malunggay seedlings propagation tech-nique to address the increasing demand for malunggay planting materials in the country, an agriculture official said.

Alicia Ilaga, outgoing director of the DA Biotechnology Program Office, is endorsing farmer-scientist Terso Rasco’s technique to farmers engaged in the massive propa-gation of seedlings of malunggay, scien-tifically known as Moringa oleifera.

Rasco developed a rooting method using bioculture technique to propagate malung-gay seedlings, improving the conventional stem cutting technique used by most farmers in propagating malunggay.

Using his technique, farmers could easily double, if not triple, and at a much shorter time the production of planting materials which is usually done also by harvesting the mature malunggay fruits and separating the seeds from the pods from a mature malunggay tree, Ilaga said.

Malunggay used to be a mere backyard tree, although Filipinos are already fond of eating malunggay leaves, and its fruit pods, as ingredients to some favorite Filipino dishes, like ‘tinolang manok’, ginisang munggo, and ginataang isda. The pods are cooked together with fish in the Ilocos Region.

Since the DA-BPO embarked on a mas-sive information, education and commu-nication about the nutritional value of malunggay, its economic importance was also highlighted.

The moringa seeds are now being eyed for the production of all-purpose oil, while the leaves are not only sold in the market, but are processed as well.

A number of farmers have since started planting malunggay, but the big demand for both the seeds and leaves of malunggay, requires more planting materials. The production of planting materials has become a stumbling block, as there are not enough nurseries to produce the number of seedlings needed to meet the demand, even of a single local investor who has challenged the DA to produce the seeds, as well as leaves, to meet the big market demand abroad.

Another way of producing planting materials is by chopping down a malunggay tree, chopping its trunk or branches, about a feet or 12 inches long. When planted, grows roots and produce new branches. This process, however, results in high mortality of the planting materials.

Harvesting the seeds from the malunggay fruit takes some time, while stem cuttings easily die when planted.

Rasco observed that malunggay has the ability to regrow a branch, or even roots, when cut or chopped down.

“By simply chopping a branch of malunggay and planting it like a malunggay seed, a new malunggay seedling can be grown,” Rasco said. “You just have to prepare a good seed bed for the chopped malunggay branch to grow new seedlings,” he said.

“This is what we need to produce enough number of planting materials for the commercial cultivation of this miracle tree,” Ilaga said.

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