Climate information for Litchi Farming.
The crop requires much more than the average temperature of India for its growth. The range stays between 25°C to 33°C. Temperatures less than 10°C and more than 40°C are very harmful to the plants and highly reduce the yields. The optimum temperature for the best growth and yield is 30°C-32°C. The dry hot summer winds known as loo, damage the fruit crops.
Litchi tree grows best in a tropical climate with an evenly distributed annual rainfall of about 1200 mm. However, like many other trees of the tropical region, Litchi trees are also sensitive to water stagnation, and thus excessive rainfall with the absence of proper drainage leading to waterlogging is very harmful to the plants.
Litchi trees are grown best in the tropical and sub-tropical climates. The tropical climate of the Indian sub-continent is preferable for the optimum growth of Litchis. In a tropical climate, the trees remain evergreen. It is essentially a sweet fruit of the summers cherished besides mango.
Physical conditions like high relative humidity, evenly distributed rain and warm nights with pretty hot temperatures are ideal for the condition of fruit set.
Soil requirement for Litchi Farming.
Litchi trees can be cultivated in a wide range of soils. But, the best suitable soil conditions are well-drained deep loamy soils with a high percentage of organic matter content. Soils with poor drainage and high basicity/alkalinity should be avoided. The optimum range of pH is from 7.5 to 8. pH value of 9, and more would result in poor yields. Also, the salinity of soil should be avoided at all costs.
Recommended sowing dates for Litchi Farming.
Since it is not a hardcore food crop and essentially grows into a full-fledged tree, thus it can be sown practically in any time of the year. However, for large scale commercial cultivation, the months of June-July should be preferred for planting the trees.
Land preparation for Litchi Farming.
An important task required for Litchi farming is proper land preparation. At least 2 to 3 thorough ploughings are necessary for the fine tilth of the soil. This would level and clear the previously grown crops vegetation. The remaining soil clods after these ploughings should be crushed manually by country ploughs or other instruments since it favors germination. After opening up the topsoil, the land is left as it is for 15 days in the sun for sun-drying the weed seeds and the residues from the previous crop which might bear some pests or weed seeds. This will ensure the elimination of the weeds and potential weed seeds. After that, about 20 tones of well-rotted farmyard manure (FYM) should be applied and spread evenly on the soil. Then, it should be properly mixed with the soil by means of further ploughing.
Large trees like eucalyptus or mango should be planted along the borders in the proper direction which will act as windbreaks since dry and hot summer winds could drastically harm the crops.
In the tilled land, pits are dug with the dimensions 1 m X 1 m X 1 m with a distance of 10 meters between plants and rows. The pits should be dug a few weeks before plantation. The pits are then filled with well mixed 25 kg organic manure, soil, 2 kg bone meal and 300 g of muriatic of potash per pit. Adding soil from the old litchi orchard will be beneficial for the plants.
Sowing methods and tips for Litchi Farming.
The propagation of Litchi plants takes place both by means of vegetative methods or through seeds. The seeds are obtained from the ripe fruits and are sown in raised soil beds of the nursery. When the seedlings reach a height of 10-15 cm, they are transplanted into the main field. But this method is not preferred since propagation by sexual means results in variation in the young plants and they differ from their mother plants in taste, vigor, color and other phenotypic characters. Also, propagation through seeds takes a long time (about 7 to 10 years) to establish a litchi tree. As a result, propagation by vegetative means is widely practiced.
The propagation methods include cutting, grafting and layering.
1. Cutting involves a shoot taken from the superior mother plant and then planted in the field where the shoot will eventually sprout a root system and regenerate itself into a full-fledged tree with trunk and bark.
2. Grafting involves the production of a new Litchi tree from the rootstock of a strong plant with the scion added from a plant with superior taste and vigor but weak structure.
3. In the layering process, a branch of the old plant is bent into a trench and then covered by soil. After a few days, new roots sprout from the buried part of the plant and then they are disconnected from the mother plant. Also, in the air layering process, scratches are made in a branch of the tree which is then treated with appropriate hormones and then covered by sphagnum moss and other materials for retaining moisture. A few days after, roots and shoots sprout from that part which is then detached and planted in the field.
Irrigation requirement for Litchi Farming.
Litchi plants are more or less tolerant to dryness, but additional irrigation should always be provided in case of long periods of drought. Irrigation during fruit development shows signs of increased food production. Proper hydration will provide good yields whereas excessive irrigation will result in damaged roots. In general, irrigation is required twice a week in summer and once a week in winter. For the time of the rainy season, irrigation should be carried out at the intervals of 45 to 60 days. Basin or ring system of irrigation can be adopted in places of abundant water whereas, for places with water scarcity, drip irrigation should be practiced.
Fertilizer requirement for Litchi Farming.
Around 25 tonnes of well-rotted farmyard manure (FYM) per hectare land is added during land preparation. Under appropriate soil moisture conditions, the dosages of fertilizers and manures should be –
Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer are highly essential to the crops for fruiting. Besides those, micronutrients like Zinc sulphate, manganese sulphate. Copper sulphate, etc. are also necessary.
Planting material requirement for Litchi Farming.
In total 400 to 600 pants are required for the one-hectare area.
Best seed varieties for Litchi Farming.
There are more than 1000 commercial varieties of Litchis available in the whole world. The important ones among them include –
Muzaffarpur, Bombai, Calcuttia, Deshi, Purbi, Goothi, Bedana, Potee, etc.
Seed treatment for Litchi Farming Farming.
No traditional seed treatment is required since Litchi seeds are generally not used for propagation.
Best cultivation practices for Litchi Farming.
Weed control or intercultural operations – For Litchi plants, 4 weedings at an interval of one month are necessary for controlling unwanted weeds since they affect the overall yield of the plants. After every harvest, weeding should be carried out to prepare the field for the upcoming batch. Chemical weedicides like glyphosate at the rate of 2 kg per hectare or paraquat at the rate of 7.5 kg per hectare can also be used in proper limits for better results. Mulching by means of 100-micron recyclable black polythene sheets is also a good alternative for controlling weeds. For organic mulching, 12 to 15 cm thick mulch should be used which will also facilitate penetration of water to the roots of the plants.
Effective pruning should be practised for proper fruit growth and removal of diseased branches, thus allowing the fruits to utilize the highest amount of available nutrients.
Harvesting – The Litchi fruits should be harvested after 5 to 6 years from planting when the fruits in the trees show the signs of ripening and start to change the color. After flowering, the fruits take 70 to 100 days to ripen. Litchis are harvested by repeated pickings since the fruits of the whole tree do not ripen at the same time. Color and taste are two of the most important indicators showing the sign of ripening. After harvest, the Litchis are stored in a very cool and dry place preferably in freezers or cold storages and then are released for fresh consumption in the local and export markets and for further processing in other food processing industries.