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  1. INTRODUCTION

Litchi (Litchi chinensis) is a delicious juicy fruit of excellent quality. Botanically it belongs to Sapindaceae family. The translucent, flavoured aril or edible flesh of the litchi is popular as a table fruit in India, while in China and Japan it is preferred in dried or canned state.

2. OBJECTIVE

The main objective of this report is to present a bankable model for high quality commercial cultivation of the crop.

 3. BACKGROUND

3.1              Origin

 

The origin of litchi is from southern China, particularly the provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien. The spread of litchi to other parts of the world was rather slow probably due to its soil, climatic requirements and short life span of its seed. Litchi reached India through Myanmar and North East region during the 18th Century.

3.2              Area & Production

 India is the second largest producer of litchi in the World after China. Other major producing countries are Thailand, Australia, South Africa, Madagascar and Florida in US.

Among fruit crops, litchi ranks seventh in area and ninth in production but is sixth in terms of value in India. The national average productivity of litchi is 6.1 t/ha, which is much lower than the realizable yield of the crop under well managed condition. The average productivity of litchi in Bihar is 8.0 tonnes/ha. and in West Bengal it is 10.5 tonnes/ha. In other states the productivity is much lower, the lowest of 1.0 t / ha in Uttaranchal.

State-wise estimates of area, production and productivity of litchi during 2001-02 are given in table 1.

 

 

Table 1 : State-wise Area, Production & Productivity of Litchi during 2001-02

 

State Area

(‘000 Ha.)

Production

(‘000 MT)

Productivity

(MT/Ha.)

Bihar 27.7 221.7 8.0
West Bengal 5.9 61.4 10.5
Assam 4.1 18.7 4.6
Punjab 1.2 11.6 10.0
Orissa 3.5 10.2 2.9
Tripura 1.7 9.0 5.1
Jharkhand 1.5 7.5 5.0
Uttaranchal 7.8 7.5 1.0
Nagaland 0.8 4.0 5.1
Others 4.0 4.5
TOTAL 58.2 356.2 6.1

Source : Database of National Horticulture Board, Ministry of Agriculture ,  Govt. of India.

Production of litchi has declined from 4.55 lakh tonnes in 1997-98 to 3.56 lakh tones in 2001-02 although remained constant at 58 thousand ha. during these two years (vide Graphs 1& 2 below).

3.3              Economic Importance

The food value of litchi mainly lies in its sugar content which varies from variety to variety. The fruit is also rich in Vitamin B1, Riboflavin & Vitamin C apart from proteins (0.7%), fats (0.3%), carbohydrates (9.4%), minerals (0.7%), fibrous matter (2.25%), calcium (0.21%), phosphorus (0.31%), iron (0.03%) and carotene. Litchi makes an excellent canned fruit. A highly flavoured squash is also prepared from the litchi fruits, which is used during summers. Various other products such as pickles, preserves and wine are also made from litchi in China. Dried litchi commonly called litchi-nut is very popular among the Chinese.

4. PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY

 

4.1  Agro-climatic requirements

Litchi is a sub-tropical fruit and thrives best under moist sub-tropical climate. It usually prefers low elevation and can be grown up to an altitude of 800 m. (m.s.l.). Deep, well drained loamy soil, rich in organic matter and having pH in the range of 5.0 to 7.0 is ideal for the crop.

Frost during winter and dry heat in summer are limiting factors for its successful cultivation. The young trees require protection against frost and hot winds for several years till they are firmly established, even though some variation in temperature is necessary for proper fruiting of trees. The temperature should not go beyond 40.5 0C in summer and below freezing point in winter. Prolonged rain may be harmful especially at the time of flowering, when it interferes with pollination.

 

4.2  Growing and Potential Belts

In India, the commercial cultivation was traditionally restricted to the north in the foot hills of Himalayas from Tripura to Jammu & Kashmir and plains of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. However, with growing demand and viability of the crop, commercial cultivation has spread to several other states viz. Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh etc.

 

4.3  Varieties Cultivated

State-wise commercially grown varieties are given below .

State Varieties
Bihar & Jharkhand China, Deshi, , Purbi, Early & Late Bedana, Mclean, Muzzaffarpur, Rose Scented, Shahi, Kasba
Orissa Muzaffarpur, Bombai, China
Punjab & Haryana Saharanpur, Dehradun, Calcuttia, Muzaffarpur, Seedless (Late) & Rose Scented
Uttaranchal Rose Scented, Calcuttia, Early & Late Seedless
Uttar Pradesh Seedless Early, Seedless Late, Early Large Red, Late Large Red, Calcutta, Rose Scented, Dehradun
West Bengal Muzaffarpur, China, Deshi, Purbi, Elachi Early, Elachi Late, Bombai, Goothi, Bedana, Potee, Kalyani Selection

 

5.4  Land Preparation

The land is cleared of all vegetation and leveled thoroughly. After this, the land is ploughed with disc plough and then with a harrow. Hot and desiccating winds in summer and cold winds in winter adversely affect the growth of litchi plants. Therefore, for proper establishment of a litchi plantation, a suitable wind break should be planted at the orchard boundary and it should be at right angle to the direction of prevailing winds. Tall growing trees such as mango, jamun, eucalyptus, arjun etc. are suitable for this purpose.

 

4.5 Planting

Air layering is the most common method of propagation. It is usually done in the beginning of monsoon and the air layers can be detached from the mother plant after 60-70 days.

The details of planting operations are given below :

Details Usual Practice
Planting Time
  • August – September
  • Planting may be done in spring and early summer if irrigation facility is available
Planting Distance
  • 10 m (both between the plants and rows)
  • 8 m (when the climate is comparatively dry and the soil is not so fertile).
  • Average no. of plants- 200 per ha.
Size of pits
  • 1x1x1 m (pits are dug a few weeks prior to planting)
Filling of pits
  • Pits are left undisturbed initially for a period of 15-20 days.
  • Filled with top soil mixed with manures and fertilizers @ 20-25 kg FYM, 2 kg bonemeal and 300 g muriate of potash per pit
  • A basket of soil taken from old litchi orchard is added to each pit to ensure mycorrhizal association with litchi roots.
  • Pits are then watered so that the soil settles down.
Planting
  • Square system of planting is usually followed.
  • A small hole is made at the center of the pit and the desired material is planted. Water is applied immediately after planting

 

4.6Training & Pruning

After planting, a certain amount of pruning is often necessary to give proper shape to the litchi plant. Once the desired shape is achieved, no pruning is usually necessary, except the removal of dead or diseased branches and damaged shoots or crossed limbs. At the time of harvesting, the part of the shoot bearing the fruit is removed to promote new growth. If the vegetative growth is too much then both root and shoot pruning needs to be done. But heavy pruning causes profuse vegetative growth, which takes place at the expense of flowering and fruiting. When the trees become too old and produce fruits of small size, heavy pruning is suggested.

 

4.7 Nutrition

 

The following table gives detail of the fertilizers / manures recommended for application :

Table-3 : Manure/Fertilizer application for Litchi in north India.

 

Age of the plant (in years)

 

Manure/Fertilizer applied (per plant/year in kg)
FYM CAN (Calcium ammonium nitrate) Super phosphate Muriate of potash
1-3 10 – 20 0.3-1.00 0.2-0.6 0.05-0.15
4-6 25 – 40 1.0-2.0 0.75-1.25 0.20-0.30
7-10 40 – 50 2.0-3.0 1.50-2.0 0.35-0.45
Above 10 60 3.5 2.25 0.60

 

4.8             Irrigation

Two irrigations at an interval of 45 – 60 days during winter months is required for bearing litchi trees. Irrigation at fortnightly intervals after fruit setting in March till the end of June is required especially during the hot summer months. Basin or ring system of irrigation is recommended. Use of drip irrigation has proved to be good for plant growth besides being economical.

4.9         Intercultural Operations

Litchi orchard should be kept clean of unwanted weeds especially during the initial years of growth. Orchards should be ploughed with soil turning plough and harrowed once after the rainy season in October and the second after the harvesting of fruits in June or July.

4.10       Mulching

The farmyard manure, compost or straw may be used for soil mulching. When straw is used as soil mulch, an additional dose of 25 – 30 kg. Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) per ton of dry straw should be applied to hasten the decomposition. Cutting down of tall growing weeds in the orchard and spreading them over the soil is another method of mulching the soil.

4.11      Inter-cropping

Litchi is a long gestation crop taking about 5-6 years to the fruiting stage. Inter-cropping is feasible in the first three or four years. Apart from giving good annual income during the non-bearing period, inter-crops protect the young litchi plant, enrich the soil, improve the physical condition of the soil and keep the weeds under control.

Inter-crops, which may be grown during different seasons, are listed below:

Summer &Kharif Season:

  • Vegetables – Pumpkin, cucumber, ridgegourd, bittergourd
  • Leguminous crops – Moong, cow pea etc.
  • Sunnhemp&dhaincha may be grown as green manure crops.

 

Winter Season:

  • Vegetable – Radish, beet, turnip, cauliflower, peas, beans etc.
  • Leguminouscrops – Gram etc.
  • Spices- Turmeric.

4.12     Plant Protection Measures

 

4.12.1    Insect Pests

In litchi, mite and shoot borer are the two serious pests that causes immense damage to the crop. The infestation of the latter is more in case of the September-October flush as compared to February-March flush. The intensity of the pest is more on Tikolia and Shahi varieties. Litchi shoot borer can effectively be controlled by spraying Cypermethrin (0.01%) twice at 7 days interval during flushing.  Other pests include bark eating caterpillars (Indarbelatetraonis, I.quadrinotata), weevil (Amblyrrhinusporicolis), butterflies (Viracholaisocrates) and worm/fruit stone borer (Argyroplocecarpophaga).

 

4.12.2    Diseases

Litchi is almost free from fungal diseases in India. The rot caused by Helmenthosporiumhawaienseand rotting of fruits caused by Aspergillus sp. are some of the fungal diseases observed. These can be controlled by spraying with fungicides immediately after the appearance of the symptoms. No fungicides should be applied on the trees or fruits at least 20 days before harvesting.

 

4.13       Disorders 

The two types of physiological disorders which are commonly observed are fruit cracking and fruit drop. Fruit cracking is a major problem in litchi resulting in deterioration of fruit quality. Presence of optimum moisture level in the soil during fruit development is crucial for reducing fruit cracking and quality litchi production. Early varieties (e.g. Shahi) are more susceptible to cracking than late ripening one (e.g. China).  Application of two foliar sprays of 20 ppm. NAA, first at pea stage of fruit development and second ten days after the first spray and scheduling of irrigation at 20% DASM (at 3 days interval during May-June) should be given to control the disorder. Foliar application of boric acid (0.4 %) and 2,4- D (10 ppm.) is also effective in minimizing the disorder.

 

4.14        Harvesting  and Yield

The litchi plant has a long growing period with four different phenophases. Depending on the tree age there are four growth phases in litchi plants viz.  , young non-bearing stage (1-3 years), young bearing stage (6-10 years), junior adult bearing stage (11-20 years) and senior adult bearing stage (21 years and above). During the junior adult bearing phase the tree enters into a condition when the vegetative growth and reproductive growth remain relatively balanced. Fruiting begins from 5 – 6 years of age in case of plants propagated through air layering. After flowering, it takes 70 to 100 days for the fruits to ripe in most of the commercial varieties of India. On an average, the litchi tree yields 40-100 kg. fruits annually depending on the variety, locality, season, nutrition and age.

Harvesting is usually done in May and June. The maturity of the fruits is judged by the flatness of tubercles and comparative smoothness of the epicarp. Besides that the fruit colour changes from green to pink on maturity. The fruits are harvested in bunches along with a portion of the branch and a few leaves. This helps in improving the keeping quality of the fruits and at the same time the tree receives a mild pruning.

 

POST HARVEST MANAGEMENT

Litchi is non-climacteric fruit that possesses poor shelf life and therefore needs specific treatment before packing and transportation for long distance market.

For local markets, the fruits should be collected at the ripened stage, while for distant market, the fruits should be harvested when they have started turning reddish. After harvesting, the fruits should be kept in cool, dry and properly ventilated rooms to facilitate the ripening process under high atmospheric temperature. If exposed to sun even for a few hours the quality deteriorates markedly.

 

5.1              Grading

Grading is done according to the size of the fruits. The damaged, sun-burnt and cracked fruits are sorted out before packing.

 

5.2              Storage

The fruits cannot be stored at room temperature for more than a few days. It loses its bright red colour and turns brown within 2 – 3 days after harvesting. Mature litchi fruits can be stored for a period of 8 to 12 weeks at the temp. of 1.6 to 1.70C and relative humidity ranging between 85 to 90%.

 

5.3              Packing

The fruits are graded and packed in shallow baskets or crates lined with leaves of litchi, soft dry grass or banana leaves.

 

5.4              Transportation

The fruit along with twigs is packed and transported by truck to the wholesalers and retailers of the nearest towns. During transit care should be taken to avoid crushing of fruits and damage of the skin. Litchi being a highly perishable fruit, its marketing should be done as early as possible.

 

5.5              Marketing

Farmers directly sell their produce to the middlemen. The fruit is sold through a post harvest contractor to the wholesale or commission agent, who undertakes the harvesting and packing, in addition to transporting the produce to the market. More than 65 % of the growers prefer sale through post harvest contractor and about 20 % undertake self marketing.

The main channels of marketing include the following:

  • Producer – PHC – wholesaler/commission agent (distant market) – stockists – retailers – consumers.
  • Producer – wholesaler/commission agent (distant market) – stockists – retailers – consumers (self marketing).
  • Producer – Village level agent – commission agent – stockists – retailers – consumers.

6. TECHNOLOGY SOURCES

The major sources for technology, as well as quality planting material are:

  1. Hill Campus, Ranichouri, G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, TehriGarhwal, Uttaranchal.
  2. Department of Horticulture and Food Processing, UdhyanBhawan, Chaubatia, Ranikhet, Almora-263651, Uttaranchal.
  3. Department of Horticulture, Birsa Agricultural University, Kanke, Tel : (0651)-2230691.

7. ECONOMICS OF A ONE ACRE MODEL

Costs & Returns:

 

7.1              A one acre plantation of the crop is a highly viable proposition.  The cost components of such a model along with the basis for costing are exhibited in Annexures I & II.   A summary is given in the figure below.  The project cost works out to Rs.1.50 lakh per acre.

Figure-I: Cost of Project

 

Project Cost:

                                                                                                                  (Amount in Rs.)

Sl. No. Component Proposed Expenditure
1. Cultivation Expenses
(i) Cost of planting material 2400
(ii) Manures & fertilizers 5000
(iii) Insecticides & pesticides 3000
(iv) Cost of Labour 5600
(v) Others, if any (Power) 3600
Total 19600
2. Irrigation
(i) Tube-well/submersible pump 50000
(ii) Cost of Pipeline
(iii) Others, if any, please specify
Total 50000
3. Cost of Drip/Sprinkler 20000
4. Infrastructure
(i) Store & Pump House 10000
(ii) Labour room 6800
(iii) Agriculture Equipments 10000
(iii) Others, if any, (Drying platform)
Total 26800
5. Land Development
(i) Soil leveling 4000
(ii) Digging
(iii) Fencing 29600
(iv) Others, if any, please specify
Total 33600
6. Land, if newly purchased (Please indicate the year)*
Grand Total 1,50,000

     *Cost of newly purchased land will be limited to one-tenth of the total project cost

 

7.2              The major components of the model are:

  •  Land Development:  (Rs.4.00 thousand):  This is the labour cost of shaping and dressing the land site.
  • Fencing (Rs.29.60 thousand):  It is necessary to guard the orchard by barbed wire fencing to safeguard the valuable produce from animals and prevent poaching.
  • irrigation Infra-structure (Rs.50.00 thousand):  For effective working with drip irrigation system, it is necessary to install a bore well with diesel/electric pumpset and motor.  This is part cost of tubewell.
  •  Drip Irrigation &Fertigation System (Rs.20.00 thousand):  This is average cost of one acre drip system for the crop inclusive of the cost of fertigation equipment.  The actual cost will vary depending on location, plant population and plot geometry.
  •  Equipment/Implements (Rs.10.00 thousand):  For investment on improved manually operated essential implements a provision of another Rs.10 thousand is included.
  •  Building and Storage (Rs.16.80 thousand):  A one acre orchard would require minimally a labour shed and a store-cum grading/packing room/pump house.
  •  Cost of Cultivation (Rs.19.60 thousand):  The cost on planting material, inputs used and labour in cultivation operations is estimated at Rs.19.60 thousand during the pre-operative period.

7.3              Labour cost has been put at an average of Rs.70 per man-day.  The actual cost will vary from location to location depending upon minimum wage levels or prevailing wage levels for skilled and unskilled labour.