Non Traditional Plantation Crops

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Areca nut

Areca nut is the seed of the fruit of the oriental palm, Areca catechu. It is the basic ingredient of a variety of widely used chewed products.

The areca nut is not a true nut but rather a drupe. It is commercially available in dried, cured and fresh forms. While fresh, the husk is green and the nut inside is so soft that it can easily be cut with an average knife. In the ripe fruit the husk becomes yellow or orange and, as it dries, the fruit inside hardens to a wood-like consistency.

Prepared and Used

Areca catechu fruit is usually harvested in unripe or ripe forms during September through November. The most popular variety used is the sun-dried Areca nut. Areca nut and betel leaf have been widely used for medicinal and social purposes in Asia and the Pacific Rim countries for a long time.

Cashew nut

Cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) belong to the family Anacardiacea. It was originally introduced into India by the Portuguese during the 16th century. The cashew kernels are used in confectionery and dessert. The shells contain a high quality oil known as cashewnut shell liquid which has got wide industrial uses. Cashew apple is eaten fresh or mixed in fruit salads and a drink is prepared from the juice. Cashew can be distilled to produce alcoholic drink.

Climate

Cashew is essentially a tropical crop, grows best in the warm, moist and typically tropical climate. The distribution of cashew is restricted to altitudes below 700 m where the temperature does not fall below 200C for prolonged periods, although it may be found growing at elevation up to 1200 m. It is best adopted to the coastal regions. The cashew is hardy and drought resistant, but it is damaged by frost. Cashew is grown in areas with rainfall ranging from 600 – 4500 mm per annum. Fruit setting in cashew will be good if rains are not abundant during flowering and nuts mature in a dry period.

Cashew is a sun loving tree and does not tolerate excessive shade. It can tolerate temperature of more than 360C for a shorter period but the most favourable temperature lies between 24 C to 28 C.

The climatic factors influence the cashew growth and production as follows:-

  • Dry spell during flowering and fruit setting ensures better harvest.
  • Cloudy weather during flowering enhances scorching of flowers due to tea mosquito infestation.
  • Heavy rains during flowering and fruit set damages production.
  • High temperature (39-420C) during stage of fruit set development causes fruit drop.

Soil

Cashew is an hardy crop. It can be grown on a wide range of soils except heavy clay, water logged and saline soils. Well drained red, sandy and laterite soils are ideal for good growth and yield of cashew.

Varieties

Selection of suitable cashew varieties for the specific region and appropriate package of practices determines the final yield. More than 30 varieties which are having exportable grade of cashew kernels are released from different research institutes in India and details are furnished separately.

Planting material

Selection of planting material is most important in cashew cultivation. Cashew is highly cross pollinated and vegetative propagation is mainly recommended on commercial scale to produce true to type planting materials. Softwood grafting is the only method which is commercially feasible and practically highly successful in cashew.

Spacing

The normal recommended spacing is 7.5 x 7.5 m to 8 x 8 m and spacing may be reduced up to 4m x 4m depends on type of soil and managerial capacity. The high density planting consisting of up to 625 plants/ha can also be adopted for better utilization of space during early years. Initial planting can be done at a spacing of 4mts x 4mts or 5mts x 5mts or 6mts x 4mts and maintained up to a period of 7 to 9 years with proper pruning and training. Later the excess plants can be thinned out to provide a final spacing of 8mts x 8mts or 10mts x 10mts or 6mts x 8mts.

Method and season of planting

The square system of planting can be followed. The ideal time for planting is usually during monsoon season when the moisture is air surcharged (June-August) both in the west coast and east coast. If irrigation facilities are available, planting can be done throughout the year except winter months.

Normally cashew grafts are planted in the pits of 60 cm. cube. It is preferable to dig the pits at least 15-20 days before planting and expose to sunlight so that termites and ants, if any, which damage the roots of the grafts will migrate elsewhere. The pits should be completely filled with a mixture of top soil and organic manure to ¾ of the pit capacity. The grafts are planted after carefully removing the polythene bag. Care should be taken to see that the graft joint remains at least 5 cm above the ground level at the time of planting. The polythene tape around the graft union need to be removed carefully. Staking should be done immediately after planting to protect the grafts from wind damage. Mulch the basins of plants with organic waste materials during early years.

Application of manures and fertilizers

Manures and fertilizers promote growth of the plants and advance the onset of flowering in young trees. Application of 10-15 kg of farm yard manure or compost per plant is beneficial. The current fertilizer recommendations for cashew is 500 g N (1.1 kg urea), 125 g P205 (625 g rock phosphate) and 125 g K2O (208 g Muriate of potash) per plant per year. The ideal period for fertilizer application is immediately after the cessation of heavy rains and with available soil moisture. During the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year of planting 1/3rd, 2/3rd and full doze of fertilizers should be applied and 3rd year onwards full quantity is to be applied.

Gliricidia

Gliricidia sepium is a medium-sized tree and can grow to from 10 to 12 meters high. The bark is smooth and its color can range from a whitish gray to deep red-brown. It has composite leaves that can be 30 cm long. Each leaf is composed of leaflets that are about 2 to 7 cm long and 1 to 3 cm wide.

The flowers are located on the end of branches that has no leaves. These flowers have a bright pink to lilac color that is tinged with white. A pale yellow spot is usually at the flower's base. The tree's fruit is a pod which is about 10 to 15 cm in length. It is green when unripe and becomes yellow-brown when it reaches maturity.

The pod produces 4 to 10 round brown seeds . The tree grows well in acidic soils with a pH of 4.5-6.2. The tree is found on volcanic soils in its native range in Central America and Mexico. However, it can also grow on sandy, clay and limestone soils.

Uses

The tree is used in many tropical and sub-tropical countries for various purposes such as live fencing, fodder, coffee shade, firewood, green manure and rat poison. Live fences can be grown from 1.5 m to 2.0 m stakes of Gliricidia sepium in just a month.

G. sepium is also used for its medicinal and insect repellent properties. G. sepium is a fast growing pioneer species that takes advantage of the slash and burn practice in its native range. It is easily propagated and grows quickly, it has also been suggested that this species may be planted to reduce topsoil erosion in the initial stages of reforesting denuded areas, an intermediate step to be taken before introducing species that take longer to grow.

Sugar cane

sugar cane is any of six to thirty-seven species of tall perennial grasses of the genus Saccharum. Native to warm temperate to tropical regions of Asia, they have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar, and measure two to six meters tall. All sugar cane species interbreed, and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids. Brazil produces about one-third of the world's sugarcane.

As of the year 2005, the world's largest producer of sugar cane by far is Brazil followed by India. Sugar cane is processed into products that include table sugar, Falernum, molasses, rum, cachaça, and ethanol. The bagasse that remains after sugar cane crushing may be burned to provide heat for the mill and electricity, typically sold to the consumer electricity grid. It may also, because of its high cellulose content, be used as raw material for paper, cardboard, and eating utensils that, because they are by-products, may be branded as "environmentally friendly."

The History Of Sugar

The first recorded reference to sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) and sugar was made by Alexander's army during the conquest of India in 326 B.C. Theophrastus writes of "Honey produced from weeds". Dioseorides in the first century AD describes it as "honey called saccharin collected from weeds in India and Arabia Felix with the consistency of salt and which could be crushed between the teeth."

Sugar cane was taken to Egypt in 641 AD by traders where it became an article of trade to the then Syria, Cyprus and Greece indicating its value in trading activities of those times The Portugese introduced sugar into Madeira around 1420 and subsequently it reached the Canary Island, the Azores and West Africa.

In 1493 Columbus took sugar cane with him on his second voyage from the Canary Island to Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic). The first West Indian sugar was made in Hispaniola in 1509. The crop was taken to Mexico in 1520, Brazil in 1532, and Peru in 1533 and at later dates to the British and French West Indies. Sugar cane was introduced into Sri Lanka" as a medical Herb and history goes back to the ancient Ayurvedic periods.

When different varieties were introduced from South India, Mauritius, Malaya, Indonesia and other South Asian countries, plantation were established along the Kelani, Nilwala, Kalu and Gin river deltas.

The Golden Era of sugar cane commenced when the Dutch were succeeded by the British and the rapid expansion of plantations took place particularly along Gin Ganga of the Baddegama area in the Galle District. The first open pan cane sugar industry was established in1890 at Baddegama E.D. Bowman and A.W. Winter.

The modern vacuum pan Sugar industry was established in Sri Lanka with the construction of the Kantalai Sugar factory in 1960 and since that time three more factories have been constructed, Pelwatte sugar industries Limited being the most recent to be established in 1996.

Cultivation

Sugarcane cultivation requires a tropical or subtropical climate, with a minimum of 600 mm (24 in) of annual moisture. It is one of the most efficient photosynthesizers in the plant kingdom. It is a C-4 plant, able to convert up to 2 percent of incident solar energy into biomass. Although certain types of sugarcane still produce seeds, modern methods of stem cuttings have become the most common method of reproduction. Each cutting must contain at least one bud, and the cuttings are sometimes planted by hand. In more advanced countries like Australia, billet planting is extremely common where billets harvested out of a mechanical harvester are planted by a machine which opens and closes the ground. Once planted, a stand of cane can be harvested several times; after each harvest, the cane sends up new stalks, called ratoons. Usually, each successive harvest gives a smaller yield, and eventually the declining yields justify replanting. Depending on agricultural practice, two to ten harvests may be possible between plantings.] Sugarcane is harvested mostly by hand and sometimes mechanically. Hand harvesting accounts for more than half of the world's production, and is especially dominant in the developing world. When harvested by hand, the field is first set on fire. The fire spreads rapidly, burning away dry dead leaves, and killing any venomous snakes hiding in the crop, but leaving the water-rich stalks and roots unharmed. With cane knives or machetes, harvesters then cut the standing cane just above the ground. A skilled harvester can cut 500 kg of sugarcane in an hour.

Wine Palm

Caryota urens is a species of flowering plant in the palm family from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and India where they grow in fields and rain-forest clearings. The epithet urens is Latin for 'stinging' alluding to the chemicals in the fruit. They are commonly called solitary fishtail palm, toddy palm, wine palm or jaggery palm.

This species is solitary-trunked to 12 meters in height and 30 cm wide. Widely-spaced leaf-scar rings cover the gray trunks which culminate in a 6 m wide, 6 m tall leaf crown. The bipinnate leaves are triangular in shape, bright to deep green, 3.5 m long, and held on 60 cm long petioles. The obdeltoid pinnae are 30 cm long with a pointed edge and a jagged edge. The 3 m long inflorescences emerge at each leaf node, from top to bottom, producing pendent clusters of white, unisexual flowers.

The fruit matures to a round, 1 cm drupe, red in color with one seed. Like all Caryotas, the fruit contains oxalic acid, a skin and membrane irritant. As these plants are monocarpic, the completion of the flower and fruiting process results in the death of the tree. Grows well in full sun or part shade. Needs well-drained soil.

Propagation- By seed, which can take a few months to germinate. Uses- Sap is used to make syrup and an alcoholic beverage. Native Range- Native from India through Burma. Occurs naturally from tropical sea level areas to mountain slopes up to 3000ft.