Dr Kamal Kishore
Malabar Neem (Melia composita) is also known as Burma Dek. It belongs to family of neem and local drek. But it is much fast growing species than Neem and local (Jammu) Drek. It is commonly found in Western Ghats of India growing at elevation ranging 600-1800m. The important chrarateristics of the species is that its wood is resistant to termite attacks and suitable for furniture, plywood, pulpwood, timber and fuel wood. Its wood is also used for packing cases, ceiling planks, building purposes, agricultural implements, pencils, match boxes, splints and musical instruments. It is also grown as a shade tree in coffee and tea plantations. Because of its fast growth and more biomass accumulation, Malabar Neem trees aid the planet by preventing temperature rise and checking carbon emission into the atmosphere. The bio-active constituents identified from Malabar Neem were found to possess insecticidal, insect antifeedant, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and fungicidal properties. Oil of the species is used in soap industry, lubricant and illuminant industry. It grows on a variety of soils and prefers deep, fertile and sandy loam soils.
In its native habitat the species performs exceedingly well attaining the harvestable size within 6-8 years (much shorter than local drek) and is ready and assured market due to its multipurpose utilities. Due to its fast growth and multifarious uses, the species is also getting attention among farmers in northern parts of India for growing its cultivation in pure plantations and agroforestry systems. There is strong emphasis to cultivate fast growing species in Jammu and Kashmir to fulfill tree-based needs of the population of the state and also boost the income of the farmers in shortest possible time. In such a situation, introduction of this species and popularization of its cultivation on vacant land of farmers and/or on crop land in the form of agroforestry holds the potential to meet the tree based needs of the farmers, local market and utimately boost the income of the farmers. In this direction the Division of Agroforestry of SKUAST-Jammu has taken an initiative by introducing the species in its experimental farm in the year 2016. The division has evaluated the growth performance of the species in its pure plantation and also in form agroforestry species. After three years of planting, the species obtained average height of 7.90 m and diameter (dbh) of 11.90 cm in pure plantation and average fresh aboveground biomass of 94.0.kg per tree. Thus in terms of initial growth the species is almost parallel to short duration species like Poplar and Eucalyptus species. The benefit cost ratio of pure plantation after 3.0 years was 1.34 as compared to 1.61 in agroforestry system (Malabar Neem+ Pusa Basanti Gainda) and 2.10 in agroforestry system (Malabar Neem+ Pusa Narangi Gainda). The fresh average above ground biomass after 3.0 years of planting was 102 kg per tree in pure plantation and 70-90 kg/tree in Gainda based agroforestry systems. The monetary benefits from pure plantation as well as agroforestry based on Malabar Neem are likely to increase with age of the trees.
The species has wide range of adaptability and thrives well in areas having annual rainfall of 350 mm to 2000 mm. The species requires well drained soils. The ripened fruits (yellowish or brownish) should be collected from November to February. The fruits should be soaked in water and allowed to ferment and then macerated after fermentation and thoroughly washed in the running water to extract the seed (drupe). The drupes thus extracted needs to be dried in shade for 10 days and then stored in gunny bags or sealed tins for 1-2 years without losing their viability. Before sowing drupes should be soaked in water and floating drupes are discarded.Dried drupes (fruits) are sown in nursery beds or polythene bags filled with potting mixure in March-April. The nursery is then watered regularly. The planting should be done with the onset of the rains both in winter and rainy season
Since it is a fast growing species multipurpose species and thus not only have the potential to increase farmers income but also it can sequester atmospheric carbon at a faster rate and help the farmers to contribute in mitigation and adaptation to climate change at local level. Thus this species if popularized in Jammu region would prove a boon to the farmers of the region.
(The author is associated with Division of Agroforestry SKUAST-Jammu)
Dr Kamal Kishore