Sunday 25 March 2012

Cashew Tree: high valued plantation crop and, a good tree species for soil conservation.

     Cashew Tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a popular plantation crop for important product Kernel. In India, Cashew Tree is prominent in the state like Kerala, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa and West Bengal.
      These states are known as traditional Cashew tree growing areas due to its cultivation in large areas and also production.
      However, Cashew tree is also cultivated as an important plantation crop in non-traditional areas too like Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
      Let us see the Cashew Tree in Tripura perspective. Tripura is considered non-traditional area for Cashew Tree. However, Cashew Tree has been fairly associated with the people of the state since long time.
      But commercial plantation of Cashew Tree in the state is stagnant and it is almost restricted within the government farms with little contribution from the people by producing raw nut of Cashew Tree.
   In Tripura whatever the raw nut is produced is collected and processed in the NERAMAC plant for production of useful and marketable product the “Kernel”.
   The state department of horticulture is looking after the popularization of Cashew Tree cultivation in the state.
      There was a time; Cashew Tree seedlings or seed nut used to be supplied to the farmers for cultivation of Cashew Tree in the farmers’ field.
     The concerned department is still working out to popularize the economical and high valued plantation crop the “Cashew Tree” in the state.
    Nevertheless, peoples’ interests, adoption to this profitable and useful in soil erosion control crop is yet to find a good place of success.
    Let us not bother the profitability of Cashew Tree in terms of its ‘kernel’, there are several positive sides covering in many counts in the state perspective which are also paramount in terms of their importance in the lives of the people of the state.
    As mentioned, Cashew Tree used to be a good species for soil conservation and through minimizing the soil erosion that takes due to over exploration and non-scientific approach in the land usages pattern; good soil improvement can be achieved.
    Soil erosion takes place in forest, arable land and waste land too. Uncontrolled soil erosion lead to the depletion of soil fertility so is affect on crop productivity and, also affect on forest species.
    Management of soil erosion in the forest and other arable lands is crucial for improving the over all situation of soil health for productive land utilization of the the state.
    In addition waste land, degraded forest land needs further attention for improving the over all forest scenario of the state through afforestation program.
   Now, coming to the aspect of afforestation; it can be achieved either planting of forest species or non forest species in the degraded forest and waste lands.
   Again, coming to the aspects of controlling of soil erosion and afforestation; planting of forest species would definitely improve forest coverage and increase the bio matter content in that particular land and soil erosion would significantly come down to the acceptable level.
   Now, how does Cashew Tree help in the scenario where there is prevalence of soil erosion and substantial waste and degraded forest land?
  Well, till now, state horticulture department is concerned with the “Cashew Tree” cultivation with sole objective of profit making from the given plots of land. What is the role, the state Forest Department plays in addition to forest species plantation for afforestation program and improvement of degraded forest land is the matter to be known.
     Now, the basic point is; Cashew Tree can act in multi various fields like soil conservation, waste land development and afforestation purposes.
   Now, if both horticulture and forest department acts with the objective of soil conservation, waste land development and afforestation through plantation of Cashew Tree then results would be much more forth coming.
   Of course, objectives of the two departments may vary but even within the varying objectives, good results would be expected.
      Horticulture department may act or would like to see with sole objective of increasing the area of Cashew Tree cultivation thereby substantial profit through selling of “Kernel” and other by products.
In the opposite spectrum, forest department would be more inclined or looking towards improving the green coverage and less of direct economic product interlinked with direct involvement of the people. 
   However, once the objective of soil erosion and Afforestation in degraded forest land and waste land are ensured there will be minor produce from such development which would come to use of the people.
    Of course, yield will not be as similar to the solo “Cashew Tree” cultivated area but there will be more resources through controlled usages of assets created in the process. In the process, objectives of the both departments will also be fulfilled in securing a place for cashew production and overall forest lands improvement.
    Now, what are the characteristic of Cashew Tree that would help in the objective as narrated in the foregoing Para? Cashew Tree is evergreen species, in the favorable soil and climatic condition it grows up to the height of 12 meters.
    Root system of the Cashew Tree is both extensive lateral roots and tap root which reach deep into the soil. This characteristic helps the species to thrive in the unfavorable weather too through uses of soil moisture in both the direction. Cashew Tree is fairly drought tolerant however, it is sensitive to the water logged condition.
    Canopy of the tree is conical or umbrella shaped. Another characteristic of the Cashew Tree is when tree stems fall/tiptoe over and touches the soil, at that particular stem portion, rooting takes place.
    This characteristic of the tree makes a good soil conservation influencer. This characteristic also reflects the tree species for vegetative mode of propagations.
     Cashew Tree is adopted well in warm humid and tropical condition with the elevation up to 1000 meters above mean sea level.
     The ideal temperature favoring the growth of Cashew Tree is 150C to 350C however, the species can also withstand the temperature ranges from 40C to 450C.
  These pre-requisites or favorable conditions for Cashew Tree exists in Tripura condition in almost all counts so is suitability in the state for mass popularization of the species.
    However, the point is; how this species is considered by the forest department? Is it acceptable for exploring the positive side of the cashew tree?
    It is only the concerted efforts from all concerned departments that Cashew Tree can make a difference in over all development of forest scenario as well as economic profitability through selling ‘Kernel’ and other by products.
                                      Agritangkol Dated 13.03.2012