A tree of chironji
Synonyms: Buchnania latifolia
Other names: Almondette tree, charoli
Chironji seems to have been originated in the Indian sub- continent. It is found in dry deciduous forest of India. A tree of dry region is found in North West and Central India. Plants may be seen in UttarPradesh, MadhyaPradesh, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, AndhraPradesh and Gujarat.
It is an excellent fruit tree for agro forestry and social forestry. In the wasteland development and dryland horticulture, it assumes great significance due to its multifarious uses and capacity to withstand adverse climatic conditions. At present, it is growing under forest condition as an under exploited fruit and gives monitory reward to the tribal community of the country and seems to be boon for them. It is valuable species found in dry deciduous forest throughout the country excluding eastern Himalayan forests (Singh, 1982, Singh et al, 2006 and Singh et al, 2010 a). The flesh of ripe fruit is very palatable and is largely eaten raw or roasted and the oily kernels are the most important part and are used in preparation of puddings (Singh et al, 2010a). Mesocarp of fruit is edible and cherished by children (Munde et al, 2003). Very good juice may be prepared from the pulp of chironji fruits. The kernel is highly nutritious and rich in protein (25.0-30.0%) and yields sweet oil, which can be used to substitute olive and almond oil. Kernel contains 33.50 % oil, 1.90 % of which is unsaponifiable. The saponifiable part contained 20.00 % of linoleic acid. Chironji oil is non-repellant and non-toxic and is suitable for human consumption (Banerjee and Jain, 1988). Hemawathy and Prabhakar (1988) reported that total kernel lipid extracted from chironji was 65.60 % of dry kernel and consisted of 90.40 % neutral lipids, 3.4 % glycolipids and 6.2 % phospholipids. The kernels are reported to be used by tribals of Gujarat as brain tonic. An ointment made out of the kernels is used to cure itch of the skin and to remove blemishes from the face. It is also used in diarrhoea and intercostal pains. The bark furnishes a natural varnish and is used in tanning in Kerala. The leaves are reported to be valued for their tonic and cardiotonic properties, and their powder is a common medicine for wounds. The kernel oil is used in the cosmetic manufacturing and as a substitute of almond oil (Kumar et al, 2012).Chironji provides quality timber wood for various uses.
The tree is having 13-18 meter height with straight trunk, young branches clothed with silky hairs. Leaves thickly coriaceous, broadly oblong, obtuse, sometimes emarginate, glabrescent above, more or less villous beneath, reticulately veined, the nerves and veins impressed on the upper surface, base rounded, main nerves 10-20 pairs, petioles long (about 1.2cm). Flowers small, sessile, greenish white, in terminal and axillary pyramidal ferrugineo-pilose panicles which are shorter than the leaves, bracts small, caducous. Calyx lobes short, broadly ovate, ciliate. Petals long, ovate-oblong, subacute, disk fleshy. Stamens 10, a little shorter than the petals, filaments flattened, anthers about as long as the filaments. Ovaries 1 perfect, conical, villous, the other 4 reduced to cylindrical filaments. Drupes obliquely lentiform in the long diameter, black, stone hard, 2 valved.
Fruits of Thar Priya chironji
This species is facing severe genetic erosion as a result of activities related to deforestation. A survey was undertaken in Uttar Pradesh to investigate the nature and extent of variability present in chironji seedling progenies for morphological characters of tree and high degree of variability was observed with regard to fruit yield, seed size and chemical composition of the fruit (Rai, 1982). Singh and Chaturvedi, 1983 and Chadhar and Sharma, 1997 surveyed the chironji growing area and recorded significant differences in morphomatrics and yield attributes. For improvement of chironji, an extensive survey and exploration were carried out in Gujarat and ‘CPT 1’, ‘CPT 2’, ‘CPT 5’, ‘CPT 6’, ‘CPT 7’, ‘CPT 8’, ‘CPT 12’ and ‘CPT 30’ were found promising (Singh et al, 2006).
Area and production:
Information regarding area and production of this fruit in India is not available because it is not grown on plantation scale. They can be seen growing in forest areas. The production in India is mainly concentrated in the drier states and the produce is collected by the villagers and sold in the local market. Its cultivation may spread to arid and semi- arid areas, resource-poor areas and wastelands where other crops cannot be grown.
Soil and climate:
Chironji is very hardy plant and thrives well on rocky, gravelly red soils and also on saline and sodic soils. Though it is a very hardy tree but plants do not survive under waterlogged conditions. It can grow even in pockets of soil between crevices of barren rock. Trees are grown on degraded rocky area including salt-affected soils. However, for its better growth and productivity, well-drained deep loam soil is ideal. It prefers tropical and subtropical climate and can withstand drought admirably.
Singh et al, (2006 and 2010b) reported that peak period of panicle emergence and flowering were recorded in the month of January and February respectively. The peak period of fruit set was recorded in the month of February. Time taken for complete development of flower ranges from 16-20 days. Peak period of anthesis was recorded between 6-11 am. Anther dehiscence commenced after opening of flowers i.e. at 7 am and continued till 3 pm. Peak period of dehiscence was recorded between 8 am -12 noon. The flower diameter varied from 5.12-6.30 mm. The stamen and carpel length varied from 1.97–2.12 mm and 1.22–1.38 mm respectively. Pollen viability ranged from 54.55-70.38 %. Pollen germination ranged from 20.00 – 35.00 %. Maximum stigma receptivity was recorded in on the day of anthesis.
Crop improvement methods:
In this method, diversity rich area is surveyed to select elite genotypes among its population. After conducting survey, promising genotypes having good horticultural traits, are earmarked and passport data are prepared. Elite genotypes are multiplied through vegetative propagation and planted at experimental field and evaluated for different morphological, quality and yield attributes.On the basis of performance data, the variety is identified.
In this method, flower buds of the cultivars should be emasculated a day prior to anthesis and covered with butter paper bags. Next morning, emasculated flowers should be pollinated with the pollen of desired cultivars, after pollination, it should be covered again. These bags should be removed after ensuring that the fruit set is taken place.
Objectives of varietal improvement:
To develop chironji variety having earliness, short stature, precocious bearer, high kernel and protein content and suitable for high density planting under different climatic conditions.
It has been identified as variety at Central Horticultural Experiment Station, Godhra. The selection out performed in respect of flowering pattern, fruiting and fruit quality attributes. The tree has spreading growth habit, thick trunk, evergreen, dense foliage and drooping branches. It is regular bearer and flowers in the second week of February. Peak period of fruit set is fourth week of February. It ripens in third week of April. Fruit pulp has total soluble solids 23.50o Brix, total sugar 15.61 %, vitamin C 46.35 mg/ 100g. Stone weight 0.41 g, kernel weight 0.09 g and kernel protein 30.00 %. Fruit yield per plant is 13.20 kg during 9th year of orchard life under rainfed conditions of hot semi-arid ecosystem.
Seed propagation and Raising of seedlings:
Chironji plants are generally propagated by seed giving a long gestation period (15-20 years) and large variability. Percent germination in freshly extracted seeds is poor because of hard seed coat on the kernels. Seed germination of 83.00 % within 18 days could be achieved with satisfactory seedling growth by mechanically damaging the stony endocarp before sowing in the month of June, plant survival of 93-96 % with satisfactory plant growth was obtained when one year old seedlings were planted in 60x60x60 cm pit filled with red soil and 10 kg of well rotten farmyard manure coupled with proper mulching around the plants during winter and summer season and with or without thatching (Shukla and Solanki, 2000). Seed treatment with sulphuric acid (5-7 %) was also found very suitable for promotion of seed germination in chironji. Seeds can be sown on raised beds or in polythene bags about 30 cm deep during June-July and it germinates within 25-35 days. The seedlings become ready for grafting after one year from the date of sowing.
Soft wood grafting:
When one-year-old seedlings raised for rootstock commence putting on new growth and the leaves are of light green colour, these are ready for soft wood grafting. Shoots of 3-4 months, which have prominent apical bud, are taken as the scion material. Defoliation of such shoots is done 8-10 days before detaching them from the parent tree for grafting operation. At the time of removal of these shoots, the apical buds should remain intact. The top of the new growth of the stock is cut and the scion is fitted by cleft grafting or splice grafting. The union is tied with 200-gauge polythene strip. If the selection of scion and rootstock is proper, 60-70 % success may be obtained during the month of July-August. Singh and Singh (2014) suggested that softwood grafting in July may be adopted for multiplication of chironji with 66.66 percent success.
Soft wood grafting in situ:
This method was proved to be better for establishing in situ Chironji orchard in gravelly soils and drier tracts where mortality of nursery raised grafts is very high. Freshly extracted seeds are sown in the polythene bags for germination. After attaining height of 5-10 cm, it should be directly planted in the field at the desired distance. These vigorous seedlings, attaining pencil thickness after one year are soft wood grafted with scion sticks of the suitable genotypes. Such plants grow very fast and attain a stature in few years. Main advantages of this method are better plant growth and no mortality. Better graft success is recorded in the month of July- August because of fast establishment of vascular connection with rootstock and scion and it is the ideal months for multiplication of elite chironji genotypes under semi arid environment of western India (Singh et al, 2007)
Chip budding has been reported as one of the successful methods for vegetative propagation of Chironji (Tewari and Bajpai, 2001). In this method of budding, a healthy bud is selected in the axil of 2 months old leaf emerging on new flush. Leaf blade is removed with the help of sharp knife leaving petiole intact. The upper cut is given about 2.0 cm above bud which goes downwards, taking wood portion with it simultaneously, up to 1.0-1.5 cm below the bud, then lower cut is given about 1.0 cm below the bud so as to take out bud with wood. The same rectangle cut is made on the rootstock and bud is placed at the juncture. The bud is pressed by hand to remove open space if any and tied tightly with white polythene strip. In case, if cuts on rootstock are wider, at least one side bark of scion and rootstock must be matched properly. The rootstock is detopped about 10 cm above the bud to facilitate bud sprouting. The bud sprouts within a month of budding indicating that the bud establishes vascular connection with rootstock. After union, the top of the seedling is cut a little above the bud union and polythene strips are carefully removed. If the selection of scion and rootstock is proper, appreciable success may be obtained during the month of July-August.
Experimentally this method has been tried with varying degree of success. Due to poor viability of seeds and slow growth of seedlings, the Buchnania species has not so for been raised in plantations despite the high price of the kernels in the market. Rooting in root cuttings is vey difficult, however with the use of auxins, appreciable success may be obtained. Two- year old root cuttings having thickness of 3.6-5.5 cm, treated with IAA 1600 ppm recorded 67.66 % rooting (Singh et al., 2002). Root cuttings are found successful, but the method has limited use as it results in serious injury to the mother trees when large number of root cuttings is taken. Moreover, taproot is also absent in the plants that affect the longevity of the plants particularly in degraded lands.
Rootstocks and use of polycontainers:
Rootstock selection for vegetative propagation of Chironji is important as it controls the vigour and equilibrium between yield and quality. Dwarfing rootstocks are considered to be best because they induce dwarf ness and enable to facilitate easy management of the orchard. Such type of work may be initiated and be standardized for different agro climatic conditions.
Raising of rootstock in nursery beds and lifting budded plants with earth ball in highly sandy soils is practically not feasible. Transportation of plants from long distance may also cause high mortality particularly under semi arid and arid environment. To reduce the time for raising rootstock and to avoid damage during handling and transportation, polyethylene bags may be used on commercial scale. Generally polyethylene bags (25cm x 15cm) with small holes in bottom filled with porous rooting medium are used for raising the rootstocks. Generally 1-2 seeds are sown in each poly bags and then placed in trench bed, so that it can be irrigated easily.
The seedling plants should be planted 10m apart, whereas grafted ones 8m apart. The pits of 1m x 1m x 1m size are dug and filled with a mixture of top soil + 25 kg farmyard manure up to a level of 30 cm from the ground level. After onset of monsoon, soils are settled and planting is done in the center of the pit during July- August. Drenching of pits with insecticides are required if there is problem of termites.
Training and pruning:
Training is very essential to develop the framework of chironji plants. Plants are allowed to grow straight with the help of stakes. The framework should be developed by encouraging the growth of 4-6 well-spaced branches on the trunk at a height of 90-cm. from the ground level. Pruning is not performed in chironji plants except removal of dead, diseased and crossing branches.
Manuring and fertilization:
A dose of 10 kg farmyard manure, 100g N, 50g P and 75g K/plant should be given to one-year-old plant. It should be increased every year in the same proportion up to the age of 10 years. Thus fully-grown up trees require 100 kg farmyard manure, 1 kgN, 0.5kg P and 0.75 kg K. Farmyard manure should be applied during July-August. Half dose of N and full dose of P and K should be applied a month of July and remaining dose of N may be applied by the end of August under rainfed conditions. The manure and mixture of fertilizer should be spread under the canopy of plants and incorporated in the soil.
Productivity of Indian orchards can be increased only when all the aspects of production technology including weed management are given due consideration. Weeds injure crops very slowly in a subtle way. Most weeds complete their life cycle in a shorter time compared to the fruit trees and compete for light, water and mineral nutrients and reduce yields. In new and old orchard, hoeing, hand weeding and ploughing the land 2-3 times a year is done to suppress weed growth. Intercropping and mulching may also be followed to control weeds.
Mulching can be done with any suitable locally available organic material like paddy straw or grasses, which not only conserve soil moisture but also impart manifold beneficial effect like suppression of extreme fluctuations of soil temperatures, reduced water loss through evaporation resulting in to more stored soil moisture, increase in organic matter and microbial population, suppression of weed growth, improvement in the plant growth and yield.
Intercropping is intended to maximize land and space use efficiency to generate supplemental income particularly during the initial unproductive phase of the orchard to protect the inter space from losses through weeds, erosion, impact of radiation, temperature, wind and water and enriching it by nitrogen fixing legume crops. Compatible crop combination is necessary with regard to species, cultivars, planting method and sequence. Peas, gram, lentil, black gram, cowpea, cluster been may be grown as inter crops in the orchard. Experimental evidences are, however, not available.
Plant can survive under rainfed conditions. If the irrigation facilities are available, basin system of irrigation should be used for young plantations. For fully-grown up trees, strip or bed system should be followed. Irrigation should be given during summer season at the interval of 15 days. Proper moisture after fruit set is important for retention and development of fruits.
Flowering and fruit set:
In chironji, flowers appear in the month of January- February in different agro climatic zone of the country. The time taken for complete development of flower bud from its visible initiation to anthesis varies from 18 to 28 days. New plantation of grafted plants start flowering after 4th year. The cause of poor fruit set may be due to pollination problem or self-incompatibility. Seedling trees of higher age have better fruit set than the tree of lower age group.
Maturity, harvesting and yield:
Singh et al, (2010a ) studied developmental pattern in chironji genotypes and it was observed that the fruit growth was faster initially and slowed down while reaching towards maturity and followed sigmoid growth curve, deep purple colour appeared on fruit surface of during peak period of ripening, ripening time varied from third week of April to second week of May. Fruit yield 13.20 kg per plant may be obtained during 9th year of orchard life under rainfed conditions of hot semi-arid ecosystem.
After completion of ripening, seeds are separated by rubbing in the water and dried. After that, kernels are taken out by breaking of the hard seed coat mechanically and packed either in glass jars or polyethylene bags. Kernals are used for preparation of different kinds of sweets. The products like squash, R.T.S and nectar may be prepared from the pulp of the fruit.
About 75% of the farmers sell their produce at the farm level to the village merchants, retailers, big producers or to the pre harvest contractors They can not afford to transport their produce to distant markets on account of the non availability of transport facilities, expensive transport, mal practices in the market. Information regarding demand, supply, price, market outlook, knowledge of the consumer’s preference, marketing channels are important for marketing of produce.
Hoppers (Sucking pest):
This is the most damaging insect during the flowering season. Both adults and the nymphs damage the crop. They suck the sap from tender shoots and panicles. The panicles wither away and the fruit set is adversely affected. They excrete honeydew, which develops a sooty mould on the leaves and panicles. It can be controlled by spraying with dimethoate (0.03%) or phosphomidon (0.05%) once at the time of panicle emergence and then again at the fruit set stage.
These insects are characterized by a waxy coating over their bodies. Mealy bugs are found in large number on ventral surface of leaflets, base of leaf petioles, tender shoots and even fruits, and suck cell sap from different parts. The leaflets become chlorotic and fall down and in case of severe infestation, there may also be premature fruit fall. Spraying with 0.03 % dimethoate or phosphomidon (0.05%) is effective to control the pest.
The fungus affects the bark and can penetrate in a limited way in to the wood. In advanced stages, the bark cracks, shreds in lengthwise strips as it dries and gum starts exuding. In case of infection, if the disease can be detected before the bark covering more than half of the circumference of a stem is damaged, scraping of the affected portions with a little extra healthy tissue without injuring the wood and application of Bordeux paste (1:2:16-20 water) on the scraped as well as healthy portion around the infected zone, may help in combating the disease and recovery of the plant.
During flowering season, in the beginning the appearance of grayish whitish powder on the flower buds, fruitlets and rachis of the panicles denotes the attack of the fungus. In severe cases, the whole panicle appears scorched. Within a few days of first visible symptom, all the panicles affected. In order to have effective control 2-3 sprays of wetable sulphur at 15 days intervals is the most economical method.
There is considerable potential for the expansion of chironji cultivation in India. Therefore, some suggestions for future research priorities are given bellow.
- The plant genetic resource (PGR) research needs to be undertaken on the classification of the genetic diversity through use of the morphological, biochemical and molecular techniques. Efforts may be made in using the molecular techniques for understanding the genetic structure of the crop. Promising genotypes having tolerance to the biotic and a biotic stress should be selected.
- Model nurseries for the local supply of quality plant material should also be established.
- Dwarfing rootstocks are considered to be best because they induce dwarf ness and enable to facilitate easy management of the orchard. Such type of work may be initiated and be standardized for different agro climatic conditions
- Information should be made available on chironji based cropping system for different normal and problematic soils.
- Agro techniques like integrated nutrient management, diversified farming system, high density planting system, weed management, canopy management and irrigation management should be standardized under different ecosystem of the country.
- Maturity, harvesting, grading, packaging and storage system should also be standardized.
- There is need to develop new products from chironji kernels and popularize them not only in domestic market but also in international market.
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Sanjay Singh and A K Singh
Central Horticultural Experiment Station,
Vejalpur (CIAH- ICAR), Panchamahal