Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tips to increase yield in Casuarina junghuhniana plantation:

Dear Tree growers,

Casuarina junghuhniana has become a preferred crop of farmers in South India because of its following characters:
  • C. junghuhniana clones are fast growing both in coastal and inland sites.
  • Nitrogen fixing capacity,
  • shorter gestation period of only 4 years,
  • good fuel wood,
  • good value when harvested for poles,
  • preferred in construction industry for scaffolding and for supporting Banana plants because of its inherent character of giving straight polls,
  • drought tolerance capacity,
  • high calorific value of wood (preferred crop for Biomass power plants),
  • good pulping traits for manufacture of paper.
Before further reading, readers are requested to go through my previous posts on this subject in this link.

Tips to increase yield in Casuarina junghuhniana plantation:

(Source: "Money spinning Trees - 1, 'Casuarina junghuhniana' A Guide for cultivation' - compiled by Dr. A.Nicodemus and published by 'Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding' (IFGTB) Coimbatore - 641 002, Tamilnadu.)

The amount and quality of wood produced is determined chiefly by the variety used, site quality and cultivation practices adopted.

1. Variety selection (Seed origin):

Casuarina junghuhniana from East Timor have both male and female trees and can be easily propagated through seeds. IFGTB has introduced 6 such new varieties of C.junghuhniana from there and they showed faster growth than local Casuarina. It was found highly drought tolerant and suitable for inland areas and rainfed conditions where it recorded 36% faster growth than local Casuarina. Although it performed well in irrigated areas, the straightness of stem needs further improvement.

2. Variety selection (Clonally propagated):
Casuarina junghuhniana is a natural hybrid of Casuarina equisetifolia X Casuarina junghuhniana. Since vegetative propagation is being done normally from male plants to obtain robustness in growth, the commercially available Casuarina junghuhniana clones are male clones which will naturally produce no seeds.

Propagation is through air layering, rooted cuttings and of late reportedly by tissue culture.

3. Rejecting the weak seedlings:
Almost all the seedlings available in the local nurseries are from unknown sources and their productivity can be considerably increased by selection in the nursery.

The major reason for poor yield in bare root seedlings planted field is that only about 40% of the trees in a plantation significantly contribute to wood production. The rest are weak trees which do not produce merchantable wood.

If the seedlings do not grow uniformly in the first 6 months, weak seedlings caught between vigorously growing neighbours will not be able to grow into healthy trees. Within a year the canopy closes in and the weak trees are suppressed forever. This problem should be addressed by planting uniform sized seedlings and ensuring even growth among them especially in the first 6 months after planting.

Rejecting the weakest 25% of seedlings in the nursery stage itself can significantly increase survival and growth in the plantations.

4. Inoculation with Frankia:
Casuarina is a Nitrogen fixing tree through symbiotic relationship with an actinomycete called Frankia. It fixes atmospheric nitrogen in special structures in the roots called nodules.

Inoculation with Frankia for adequate development of root nodules in seedlings is essential for vigorous growth as well as to increase their adaptability to planting conditions.

In trial plots, Frankia inoculated plant fixed 45 g N2/yr/tree during the two first years of growth and extrapolating this result gives a figure of 90 kg of N2 fixed annually/ha at a planting density of 2,000 trees/ha.

5. Bare foot seedlings Vs Poly bag seedlings:
Growing seedlings in poly bags and root trainers is better than bare foot seedlings especially for planting in rainfed areas.

Polybags (Size: 15 x 8 cm) filled with a potting mixture of sand, farm yard manure and Soil in a ratio of 2:1:1 are suitable for raising casuarina seedlings.

6. Management if planted in clay soils:
Though Casuarina adopts well in all types of soil it is better to avoid planting them in high clay soil where it exhibits stunted growth.
Before planting Casuarina in clay soils, dig pits of size 1'x1' and fill them with tank silt or red soil with good organic matter there by allowing the young plants to establish well initially.

7. Planting time:
Seedling, whether it is bare foot or poly bag raised, whether it is going to be planted in rainfed area or in wet lands, it is recommended to plant one month before the monsoon rain. This will help the plants to establish well before the arrival of monsoon and grow faster than those planted during the rain.

8. Adequate spacing determines yield:
The recommended spacing between trees and rows is generally 1 Metre for bare root seedlings of Casuarina equsetifolia (4100 plants/Acre) and 1.5 metres for Casuarina junghuhniana (1750 plants/Acre).

Farmers who cultivate Casuarina regulary know that spacing determines the girth of the planted casuarina. It is quite natural that in closely planted fields (very
narrow spacing of 2.5' x 3.5' or in some cases with even lower spacings of 2' x 3') girth / Wt of individual tree obtained will be less. Adopting a row-column design (i.e 1.5 to 2m between rows and 1 to 1.5m between trees) for planting will reduce competition for light and increase nutrient uptake.

9. Casuality replacement:
Casuality replacement should be completed within one month after planting. Here too, seedlings grown in large sized polybags should be used to fill the gaps to maintain uniformity in plant size.

10. Irrigation:
Unlike other tree crops Casuarina needs regular irrigation. A well established Casuarina seedlings planted in sandy soil need watering every 8 - 10 days and if planted in clay soil, irrigation for every 15 - 20 days is enough. A notable growth and yield is noticed in drip irrigated plots.

10. Fertilizer application:
In coastal Tamilnadu and Puducherry, 150Kgs of DAP is applied per Acre at 6-12 and 18-24 months. Another recommendation is to apply 11Kg of Urea and 94 Kg of Super phosphate at 4 stages: immediately after establishment, 6, 12 and 18 months after planting.
The composition, amount and frequency of fertilizer application for Casuarina greatly varies between regions and even among farmers within the same region.
Fertilizer application ensures optimal availability of nutrients for all trees so that they can express their full potential leading to increased wood production per unit area.

11. A little trade secret to Casuarina Growers:
Moisture content (i.e. difference between green weight and dry weight) in C.junghuhniana is 84% whereas local casuarina ( C. equisetifolia) has only 62% water.
A mere 5% moisture loss will bring in a catastrophic revenue loss of Rs.5,000- per acre to the farmer. So the felled woods (C.junghuhniana in particular)should be immediately sent to the market to get more weight and there by more revenue.

(For Nursery techniques, germination, transplantation, Vegetative propagation and Insect and disease management details, please refer:"Money spinning Trees - 1, 'Casuarina junghuhniana' A Guide for cultivation' - compiled by Dr. A.Nicodemus and published by 'Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding' (IFGTB) Coimbatore - 641 002, Tamilnadu.


Vishnu Sankar

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