By Zac B. Sarian

Cogon is a pesky grass that has been a big problem for land owners whose property has been idle for years for one reason or another. Cogonal lands are unproductive. Some use cogon for pasturing their animals but the grass is not nutritious and palatable. When it grows a little older, it is too tough for cattle and other farm animals.

One more trouble about cogon is that it spreads so fast in kaingin areas or in denuded forests. It can survive in poor soil where other traditional crops will not survive.

How can we control cogon so the land can be made productive? Some experts recommend the planting of forest trees so that when the trees shade the cogon, it will naturally die. That may be true but that is easier said than done. Not a few have attempted to do that before by planting mango, cashew, mahogany and other species but they invariably failed because of forest fires. During the dry months, when the cogon dries up, the dry leaves can be easily ignited by a lighted cigarette thrown away by a smoker.

Success with bamboo

One successful technique that controlled cogon in a wasteland in Pililla, Rizal was undertaken by the late Domingo Alfonso, a UP Los Baños graduate, more than 30 years ago. He planted Kawayan Tinik, which effectively controlled the cogon on 18 hectares of scrubland. After all, bamboo is considered a giant grass that is so hardy, it can survive very poor soil conditions. Today, the property is overgrown with clumps of Kawayan Tinik. The farm is now a source of bamboo poles for various uses.

Centrosema also did it

We remember receiving the results of an experiment by Lilia Silva and Dr. Jose R. Velasco of UP Los Baños on Centrosema, a legume vine which is a nutritious forage crop for cattle and other livestock. They trashed the cogon down with a roller from time to time to flatten the leaves and let them dry and rot. This resulted in the buildup of soil organic matter. The patch was seeded with Centrosema at each start of the rainy season. On the fourth year of repeating the seeding, the patch was completely taken over by Centrosema. This made the patch suitable for planting economic crops that could smother cogon like vine vegetables, patani, winged bean (sigarilyas), and others.

Camote between rambutan

The late Marino Roxas also had a practical way of suppressing cogon in his orchard of rambutan, durian, and mangosteen in Alaminos, Laguna. He planted a camote variety with large leaves between the trees where cogon grew. The camote effectively suppressed the growth of the cogon. And he also had the bonus of enjoying fresh shoots for his salad or his mungo dish.

Cogon covered with sacks, etc. 

There’s another ingenious way of eradicating cogon that we witnessed in the organic farm of Jess Domingo in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao. He simply covered cogon growth with used sacks, bags of cement, recycled tarpaulin, or some other things that can cover the cogon grass. After just a few weeks of not receiving sunlight, the cogon dried out.

Now you see, there are practical ways of controlling the growth of the pesky cogon grass.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s August 2019 issue.