Saturday, July 31, 2010

Melia dubia ( Tamil: Malai Vembu ) cultivation

Melia dubia ( Tamil: Malai Vembu ) cultivation is fast catching up in Tamilnadu in recent years and my mailbox is flooded mostly with requests seeking clarifications about it's cultivation techniques.

I have given below the questions raised by one such follower of this blog:

We are planting Melia dubia ( Malai Vembu ) as border tree in our dry land ( having little water with a small bore well). We just planted yesterday with a 10'spacing apart. Dug a pit of 2.5' x 2.5' x 2.5'. As the monsoon starts settling down, we decided to plant the saplings now. The sapling height itself approx. 4 feet now. We have added some organic manure while planting. Watering we are planning alternative days as of now. Soil type is very good RED SOIL. We planted 15 trees as a sample now and wanted to see them for a week and plant the rest ( 100 plus). Please throw us some more suggestions / advice as we are new to this farming. Will post some pictures later next week.

1. Watering frequency and Watering location ( like how far from the stem and pit area diameter).

2. Is the watering to be continuous or can be scaled down after some time.

3. We prefer not to use any fertilisers though we prefer organic manures. Any recommendation for frequency of using manure and also watering methods during and after placing manure.

4. As of now we are planting only on East-West direction to avoid shades for cultivation. Any suggestions on shade for North-South plantation.

5. Please suggest proper pruning methods and timings.

My response for the clarifications raised is summed up hereunder:

The planting procedure you had followed for Malai vembu and the spacing provided are flawless and very precise as per the recommendations. As for the rest of your queries, my suggestions are:

  • Q1: Watering frequency and Watering location ( like how far from the stem and pit area diameter).
  • Q2: Is the watering to be continuous or can be scaled down after some time.
If the crop is flood irrigated, then watering in alternative days as you have planned is more than sufficient for the first 2 to 3 weeks after planting. Once the plant establishes well in the soil, weekly irrigation is enough.

If you have provided drip irrigation system, follow daily wetting @ 5 - 8 litres / plant, 0.5 feet away from the plant for the first 3 months (8lph dripper 1 number/plant). After 6 months and during summer 16 - 20 litres / plant, 1.5 feet away on either side of the plant (8lph dripper 2 numbers/plant).

This suggestions are only indicative and don't strictly follow these as there will be entirely different requirements with different soil types.
  • Q3: We prefer not to use any chemical fertilisers and proposed to use organic manures. Any recommendation for frequency of using manure and also watering methods during and after placing manure.
Add 20gms of VAM for each plant at the pit at the time of planting. Since you are very particular about organic practices, opt Rock phosphate and Gypsum as effective amendments.

Mix Azos + Phospho + Pseudomonas + T.viridi and Neem cake with FYM and apply liberally in the pit at the time of planting.

The same mixture should be applied yearly twice, at the time of N.E and S.W monsoon rains, 1.5 - 2 ' around the base plant.

  • Q4: As of now we are planting only on East-West direction to avoid shades for cultivation. Any suggestions on shade for North-South plantation.
The characteristic features of Melia dubia tree are its very fast growth, good height and the limited canopy. These characters along with the not much noticed or studied character of root competition with the adjacent crops, makes it an ideal border crop. So North-South plantation with the spacing of 10' x 10' will not harm the main crop in the field.
  • Q5: Please suggest proper pruning methods and timings.
Straight pole fetches good price in the market. Farmers with some basic knowledge about the tree's branching pattern and pruning techniques will definitely stand to gain.

In good irrigated fertile soils, the plant usually produces 3 to 4 side branches when it attains the height of 12' -14'. Prune the branches 2" -3" away from the main stem in the initial stage itself using secateurs. Pruning well developed branches may cause injury to the main trunk, so extreme care should be taken to prune the branches at the early stages itself.

You will notice the same kind of branching pattern second time, when the plant attains the height of 18' - 20'. Some farmers prefer not to prune those branches formed at the height of 18', thereby curtailing the tree's vertical growth and allowing for girth increment.

When planted in dry lands and in drought prone areas, the tree branches at the height of 6' - 8' itself. It is also quite natural for any tree to form branches if it's apical tip got damaged due to pest attack, mechanical injury or by cattle gracing.

"Plant Melia for prosperity"

Vishnu Sankar

13 Comentários:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Thanks for giving me the prompt reply. Your article in this blog is very useful for me to understand about melia dubia cultivation. Thanks for your article.

I am having few questions, can you please give me the clarification on the followings?

1. Is there any relationship between the height or growth of the tree and the depth of soil in the cultivated land?
2. My assumption is that the tallest trees are having longest roots. Is it correct?
3. The soil depth in my land is about 2.5 feet to 3 feet. Type of soil is Red soil. Will you suggest me on the Melia Dubia tree cultivation?

Vaazgha Valamudan,

Vishnu Sankar said...

Dear friend,

Thank you visiting my blog for clearing your doubts.

Depth of soil plays very important role and its impact can be seen clearly in the tree's height and girth. Each and every tree has its own soil depth requirement and please forget the adaptability if you are into a commercial venture.
So, consult experts before selecting a tree species for your farm.

It is false to assume that tallest trees will have longest roots. Casuarina and Eucalyptus are tall trees but they have only shallow roots when compared with their height.

For a soil depth of only 2.5', I can suggest Casuarina and Eucalyptus only. Some Biomass power plants are promoting Melia Dubia and Subabul varieties also for low soil depth conditions in your area itself. They are convincing the farmers with the argument that the depth of soil is not a matter of concern since they will harvest the crop every two years. Since I have doubts in their exaggerated yield claims, I request you to visit some farms and have discussion with farmers who have similar soil pattern before coming to any conclusion.

In my point of view, It is safer if you go for Casuarina and Eucalyptus under buy-back contract agreement.

Vishnu Sankar

JBRSSM said...

Dear Sir,

Thanks for your blog reply ( ) for my query through e-mail last month. We did go ahead and plant the Melia Dubia ( Tamil : Malai Vembu). Posting some picture...s as I promised. Below are the two seperate album links and we've a query also now which is at the bottom of the links.

Day of Planting: ( It was seven months old when came from Nursery):

After 3 weeks of Planting ( Three days once watering and one 50 mm of rainfall):


1. We see the flowers coming out at this early stage ( approx. 8 months old). Is this normal?

2. We do have some Malai Vembu seeds from a nearby fully grown tree and would like to create on our own some saplings. Is there any specific method of soaking the seeds in water before the process? Please explain.

Vishnu Sankar said...

Dear friend,

What is the soil depth in your field? In the photographs I can see calciferous hard rocks near the dug out pits.

Flowering at the age of 8 months in Melia dubia is abnormal. Remove the flowers immediately.

Use the current year seeds for next year planting only. Soak the seeds in cow dung slurry overnight and shade dry the seeds. Then add adequate quantity of EM and plant the seeds in neatly prepared raised motherbed. Maintain adequate moisture. Germination starts from 1st month and extends 6-8 months. Rate of germination will be in the order of 10% - 30%. There are claims of attaining 70% germination rate but the technology is closely guarded secret because of commercial interests.

A.Vishnu Sankar

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Vishnu Sankar,

I am ******* from Erode district. I am an avid reader of your I am very impressed about ur articles on malai vembu. I am about to purchase 5 acres in ****** hills near sathyamangalam. The land is drip irrigated. I am planning for malai vembu cultivation. Though, I gathered a lot of information reg malai vembu, I still have a few doubts in my mind before going for the cultivation. I would be grateful if you pls. clear my doubts.

1. Which type of harvest will be beneficial financially. Planting 300-400 trees per acre and harvesting after 7 years or planting 800-1000 trees per acre and harvesting 200 trees every 2 years?

2. What could be practical income possible in both ways? Some nurseries are claiming "hard to believe" income? So, pls guide on this aspect.

3. Shall I go for malai vembu for the full 5 acres or could you suggest an good combination of trees. I planning majority malaivembu as well as kumil and teak to some extend. Pls. suggest a good combination.

Lastly, if you could provide your phone number, it would be of great help for people like us.

Thanks and regards,

Vishnu Sankar said...

Dear friend,

There is no fixed rule or 100% successfully proved mixed crop pattern in silviculture.

Adaptability of certain mixed crops noticed in one area may not be necessarily successful in some other area.

Successful combination of crops varies with region, MSL, temp, rainfall, soil types, soil depth Etc.,

Since you are very specific about Malai Vembu and a good combination tree crop for it, I would recommend Casuarina Junghuniana only for a variety of reasons that were explained in my blog posts.

Do not mix Kumil or Teak with Malai Vembu. Fast growing trees tend to dominate the slow growing ones and there will be severe competition for sunlight, water and soil nutrients. The remedy of providing more space between the rows will not be financially worthwhile.

In addition to the basic factors of sunlight, water and soil, the following factors are also greatly influence your crop selection.
1.Maturity age of the tree,
2.Canopy cover,
3.Trees that cause a nutrition depletion in the soil, and allelopathic in nature. (Eucalyptus tree for example)
4.planting of trees which are natural host to insect pests,
5.For mixed cropping, selection of one long duration crop and one short duration crop with adequate spacing is ideal. Normally, short and long duration tree crops are advised to plant in alternate rows so that the later establishes well after the removal of short duration trees.(See my post -"Timber Tree selection - A Check List" for more details.
6. Kumil + Casuarina is also the best option.

Plant trees for prosperity.

A.Vishnu Sankar

JBRSSM said...


Here is a photo link for the last 5 months Malai Vembu progress from Nursery Aug-2010 till Dec last week.Includes a EXCEPTIONALLY very good monsoon rain during this season. Location Coimbatore Dist.

JBRSSM said...


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

I am Raja from Senthamangalam. Thanks for your very informative blog. I plan to plant Malai Vembu in 6 Acres of land. What happens to the roots of the these trees after harvesting?. Is it easy to remove?. Will it spoil the land use?. Please clarify!


Vishnu Sankar said...

Dear friend,

Thank you for visiting my blog. Melia has a good coppice capability (see my post and a photograph in this link:

Because of this capability, repeat harvests are possible every 3 - 4 years for supplies to pulp wood units and Biomass power plants. The task of removing the stumps after harvest at this stage will be easy since the plants are usually small in size.

But if the cultivation is for timber purpose, veneer peeling Etc. it will take 8 - 12 years for maturity and the tree will attain a very good size. If you intend to remove the whole tree at that time and don't want a ratoon crop then definitely you will require Poclain or JCB to remove the left over stumps with roots.

There are no reports of spoilage of soil health and no case of allelopathic effect on nearby agriculture crops so far.

Plant Melia for prosperity.

Vishnu Sankar

Anonymous said...

i am following your post for couple of months.i found this melia dubia plants intresting.i would be greatful if you guide me regarding.
can i plant this in gujarat?
can i plant in month of feburary?
what is life of trees if i harvest it after 7-8 years will it grow again?
how many trees we can plant in 4 bigha land?
paresh patel.

Vishnu Sankar said...

Dear Friend,

Please have a look at the first part of my latest post on Melia dubia:

Planting at the onset of Southwest monsoon is ideal.

You can go for 2 to 3 harvests. Data for yield in ratoon crops is too sketchy and it will take some years to get correct figures.

End use of tree define tree spacing when you go for bulk planting. If it is for biomass, go for 2 mtr x 2mtr spacing (Yet to see the results). If you have plans to cut the trees within 8 to 10 years then adopt 3 Mtr x 3 Mtr spacing that is normally followed now wherein around 430 saplings can be planted in an acre.
An eminent Professor of Forestry recommends a minimum of 6 metres x 6 metres spacing for trees above 10 years.
As discussed many times in this blog, adopt closer spacing initially and then go for thinning in a later stage to retain the remaining trees for longer periods.

A.Vishnu Sankar

Anonymous said...

Hello Sir,
Good that you have been replying to each and every ppl seeking advise from you on his melia dubia plantation. But, am more interested to know on the market or the buy back system once it is ready for harvesting. Do we need to get permission from forest department ? Or do we need to pay tax for the income that we are receiving ? If yes, where do we get those tax policies details ? Please advise

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