Invasive boyo-boyo tree could be beneficial, says forester

KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews / 26 Sept) – The ubiquitous boyo-boyo, an invasive tree species common in the mountains of Mindanao, could be economically and environmentally beneficial after all if managed properly.

Dr. Thomas L. Cardente, a forester at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Region 12, bared this in his study on the potentials of boyo-boyo or spiked pepper tree (Piper aduncum) as part of his doctoral dissertation research.

Cardente revealed results of his research in a recent seminar organized by the Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) headed by Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr.

His seminar is based on the results of his PhD dissertation research entitled “A Management System for Watersheds Dominated by Spiked Pepper in Southern Mindanao, Philippines” that was funded by SEARCA through its PhD research scholarship.

Spiked pepper tree is a native tropical American species that was introduced in the southern part of the country through bird migration. It is considered an invasive tree that dominates forests, rocky terrain, and former cogon and hagonoy (a weed) areas in some parts of Mindanao.

Despite its now ubiquitous presence in Mindanao, very little information is available on spiked pepper tree. This prompted Cardente to study the species, particularly its potential in reforestation and watershed management.

In a statement released by SEARCA, Cardente noted that as boyo-boyo can overrun vast swaths of cogon and other fire-prone and less-useful grasses and weeds, it can improve the micro-climate in such areas and thus help mitigate climate change.

He said that instead of removing the invasive spiked pepper tree, it can be used as a strong tool in protecting reforestation areas and hilly lands, particularly from massive erosion during rainy season and threat of wildfires during prolonged droughts.

Aside from its ecological value, the various uses of spiked pepper tree may provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for Mindanao’s upland dwellers.

The mature spiked pepper is best used for fuelwood and charcoal production, making it a sustainable alternative to the more valuable indigenous forest species. It can also serve as material for fences and house rafters, posts, and roofs.

Cardente said that upland dwellers in Mindanao do not consider boyo-boyo a nuisance in farmed areas as it can also be used as organic fertilizer and herbicide, poles in tomato and asparagus plantations, and shade for livestock.

“In spite of the many benefits that can be derived from spiked pepper tree, it would be best to manage the species in areas where it is already abundant,” Cardente said.

He noted the introduction of the species in other areas as a reforestation strategy may have to be studied further.

Cardente is one of the 393 Filipino alumni of SEARCA’s graduate scholarship program who are working in government, the academe, and other research institutions and development organizations involved in agricultural and rural development. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)