Description and Characteristics
Moras, better known as Vetiver grass, is a coarse and erect bunch of long flexible blades of grass growing close together up to a height of one to two meters. Moras is present at all seasons of the year. It has a massive and fibrous root system that grows straight down rather than out from the plant. The roots have a dry, earthy, woody, leathery, and smoky fragrance. Moras has folded leaves that are arranged in two rows, about one meter long, one centimeters or less in width. On the other hand, it has slender branches that are whorled and growing upward up to five to 12 centimeters long. It also has clusters of flowers called “panicles” which are erect, purple or greenish, and are about 20 centimeters long. Moras does not produce viable seed, so there is no seeding out as with some other grasses. Currently, vetiver is propagated mainly by root division or slips which are usually ripped off from the main clump of the grass.
Location and Sources
In 1771, Swedish taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus gave the species the name zizanioides which means “by the riverside” since the native habitat of this grass is in low, damp sites such as swamps and bogs. As time went by, people acknowledged the importance of Moras to control soil erosion and so they started planting them in hillsides, rice paddies, and on river banks. Currently, it is widely distributed in different regions of the Philippines. And in many cases it just grows inadvertently in areas and many farmers consider Moras as weeds especially if it is in the way of other crops. The number one producer of vetiver planting materials in the Philippines today is the Vetiver Farm Inc., which was set up entirely on a commercial basis to supply planting materials and promote Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) throughout the country. They’ve set up satellite nurseries in different provinces all over the Philippines such as Pampanga, Iloilo, Laguna, Cavite, and Antipolo.
Application and Product Output
In many communities, there is this misconception that Moras is actually a weed and it would compete with the crops that the locals are planting. That’s why farmers would deliberately uproot them and for a long time, the application and benefits of this species was not known in the country. So far, its main application in the Philippines is as a slope protection mechanism. Hence, it is being planted alongside with the irrigation canals to prevent soil erosion, and it also absorbs toxic substances in soil caused by chemical fertilizers, used as runoff mitigation, and helps in water conservation. The commercial potential of Moras is not well-known in the country. In 2016, the National Irrigation Administration together with the Department of Trade and Industry conducted a training workshop to introduce the production and handicraft making of Moras/Vetiver grass. In many countries in Southeast Asia like Thailand and Vietnam, they’ve already uncovered the potential of Moras in weaving different handicrafts including fans, baskets, bags, mats, and other similar products. Lightweight vetiver grass is also fashioned into unusual curves in a unique chair and as a seat cushion. The roots can also be made into brushes. Furthermore, the flower stalks of Moras are used in making mats, and occasionally, soft brooms known as ‘walis tambo’ in the Philippines.
The roots of Moras are also very essential in the field of cosmetics. The roots are prized for its pleasant fragrance which when dried are used to perfume clothes. The oil from Moras (commonly known as Vetiver oil) is vital in high-grade perfumes and cosmetics as it is known to have a tranquil smoky, masculine scent, aphrodisiac effect, and with no synthetic substitute. Many companies have tried to replicate the exact fragrance of vetiver oil but to no avail, so its fragrance is unique and all of its own yet. Different famous perfume brands have incorporated vetiver in their products including Miller Herris, Molton Brown, Jo Malone, Creed, Chanel, Hermés, Carolina Herrera, Tom Ford, Guerlain, DKNY, and many more. The essential oil from Moras is also used in many therapeutic products such as massage blends and incense sticks. It is also fused in making soaps, shampoos, lotions, and other skincare products. Furthermore, the oil is also used to flavor sherbets and beverages. Moras also has medicinal applications. The decoction of its roots is used for tonic baths, thirst, inflammation, acne, muscle pains, and stomach irritability. The root paste is used for headache, rheumatism, and sprains. Moras also has application in the construction industry as it is used in straw bales, vetiver-clay composites, and the ash for concrete work. Basically, dried vetiver grass serves as reinforced fiber and clay as matrix in the reinforced clay slurry or adobe in construction.
Production and Sustainable Consumption
Majority of the provinces in the country are not knowledgeable enough on the applications and by-products of Moras that’s why it’s not well-utilized in the country and the production is very limited. Furthermore, growing Moras also has its difficulties as it is very prone to rats, snakes, and other pests. As Moras grow, its plantation area results in a dense and weedy environment which is very suitable for rats, snakes, and pests to live. Thus, only a very limited vegetation is suitable to be planted alongside Moras in order not to destroy the crop. Currently, non-government organizations and government agencies made effort in introducing Moras/Vetiver grass in the field. Organizations such as Vetiver Grass Technology Philippines, Vetiver Farms Philippines – VGFT, and Vetiver Farm Inc. tapped farmers, private sectors, and even the academe in promoting and using vetiver grass in different projects. In her paper entitled Promotion of Vetiver Grass Technology in The Philippines: The Vetfarms Inc. Experience, Mary Noah S.J. Manarang brought the Vetiver technology to the public’s attention through vetiver grass commercialization because of two reasons: (1) farmers wants to see the immediate economic benefits of the grass before they plant it, and (2) interested users of the technology are hesitant because there is no sufficient supply of the seedlings in the country. She also added that the potential for Moras to be a major agricultural product in an agricultural country such as the Philippines is very promising. At the present time, Moras’ use for soil erosion control, slope protection, and water system treatment are the ones being popularly utilized since the country is frequently faced with typhoons and flooding. In fact, a company used it in efforts to clean up Estero de San Miguel located in Manila, Philippines. It is a versatile and cost-efficient solution for a sustainable environment, but the other application of the grass and its by-products are many and are yet to be explored. Studies and researches were made to explore the applications and benefits of Moras and it turned out that it offers a promising return not just for the environment but also to the farmers, the different industries, and the country’s economy.
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