14 02 2012

Cultivation of M.oleifera

The information available on optimum cultivation procedures for M.oleifera is limited. Outside certain regions of India, where large scale cultivation is practiced, the tree receives little or no horticultural attention. In general terms it is known that the tree will grow rapidly from seeds or cuttings. Seeds require little or no pretreatment prior to germination with viability rates for fresh seeds having been reported to be up to 80% reducing to approximately 50% after 12 months storage. Seeds may be sown directly or in seed beds with transplanting after 2/3 months. The best time of year for sowing is reported to be at the beginning of the wet season. If planted out during the dry season half-shade should be provided and watering should be carried out regularly until the tree is established. Watering every other day has been reported to increase the drought tolerance of the tree.

Cuttings are primarily utilised for the establishment of live fences. Branches 1 – 1.5 m in length will take root readily in just a few months. From both seed and cuttings the tree grows at a remarkable rate, 3-4 m growth in a year is not unusual. In addition, first fruits may be expected within 6-12 months of planting out. Depending on the variety, the extent of fertilisation and other factors, a single tree may produce between 400 and 1000 pods annually. Pollarding or pruning following harvesting is recommended to promote branching, increase pod production and facilitate harvesting. The use of fertiliser and regular irrigation is not essential and is seldom practiced outside of India, however, manuring prior to the rainy season is said to increase yields three-fold.

The tree is not affected by any serious diseases in India. A root-rot caused by Diplodia sp. has been observed. The hairy caterpillar, Eupterote molifera Wlk., can cause defoliation and requires spraying to control it. Other pests noted in the literature originating from Indian studies include an aphid Aphis caraccivera, caterpillars Tetragonia siva, Metanastia hyrtaca and Heliothis armigera, a scale insect Ceroplastodes cajani, a borer Diaxenopsis apomecynoides and a fruit fly Glitonia (Ramachandran et al, 1980).

The optimisation of production through the selection of suitable clones depends on the purpose for which the tree is to be grown. In India a short stem variety of M.oleifera (designated PKM1) has been developed in an attempt to optimise pod production. Originally developed as a perennial tree, many of the farmers grow this variety as an annual. Following harvesting (two harvests per year have been reported) the tree is dug up and a new set of seedlings is planted out. One of the advantages of such a practice is that a tree kept only for a year is less likely to fall prey to disease . There is also the potential for the hybridisation of M.oleifera with other members of the same family. Moringa stenopetala Cufod. (M.stenopetala) has been shown to contain flocculating agents that show a high homology to those in M.oleifera. With M.stenopetala producing bigger seeds than M.oleifera it may be possible to increase the seed yield from such a hybrid. It may be possible to increase the oil yield of M.oleifera by producing a hybrid with the higher yielding (approximately 50% oil) Moringa peregrina (Forsk) Fiori. The selection of clones and the development of hybrids is considered essential to maximise the full potential of M.oleifera.

Alley cropping is the practice of growing food crops in alleys between hedgerows of trees or shrubs which are regularly ‘coppiced’ or severely pruned. This agroforestry technique is used with the PKM1 M.oleifera in southern India. The prunings are placed on the soil as a mulch around the food crops, providing valuable nutrients on decomposition. Alternatively, the leaves may be used for human food or animal feed. M.oleifera possesses the general characteristics of useful species for alley cropping:

can be easily established;

is fast growing and therefore produces much biomass;

is deep rooted without many shallow, lateral roots;

sends out new growth rapidly after repeated severe pruning;

provides useful by-products;

has high protein (nitrogen) content in the foliage;

has a loose canopy preventing excessive crop shading.

Selected reading

D’souza,J. and Kulkarni, A.R., 1993, Comparative studies on nutrtive values of tender foliage of seedlings and mature plants of Moringa oleifera Lam. J.Econ.Tax.Bot., 17 (2) pp479-485.

ECHO, 1995, Alley cropping to sustain yields. ECHO Development Notes, Issue 49 pp1-2.

Jahn,S.A.A., Musnad,H.A. and Burgstaller,H., 1986, The tree that purifies water; Cultivating multipurpose Moringaceae in the Sudan. Unasylva, 38, pp23-28.

Jahn,S.A.A., 1989, Moringa oleifera for food and water purification – selection of clones and growing of annual short stem. Entwicklung + Landlicher Raum, 23 (4) pp22-25.

Nautiyal,B.P. and Venkataraman,K.G. 1987, Moringa (drumstick) – An ideal tree for social forestry: Growing conditions and uses – Part 1. Myforest, 23 (1) pp53-58.

Ram,J., 1994, Moringa a highly nutritious vegetable tree, Tropical Rural and Island/Atoll Development Experimental Station (TRIADES), Technical Bulletin No.2.

Ramachandran,C., Peter,K.V. and Gopalakrishnan,P.K., 1980, Drumstick (Moringa oleifera): A multipurpose Indian Vegetable. Economic Botany, 34 (3) pp276-283.

Valia,R.Z., Patil,V.K., Patel, Z.N. and Kapadia,P.K. 1993, Physiological responses of Drumstick (Moringa oleifera Lam.) to varying levels of ESP. Indian J.Plant Physiol., 36 (4) pp261-262.

via Cultivation.




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