Nutmeg Farming – High Yielding Varieties For Sale

India Is the Third Largest producer of Nutmeg after Guatemala and Indonesia. The Tree is Native to Indonesia and was introduced to India in the Late 18th century. Today its grown Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur areas in Kerala. The plant is introduced to Certain areas in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra pradesh, but are yet to provide results.Nutmeg is used For culinary and medicinal purposes. Nutmeg also produces an aromatic oil which is used for culinary purposes and as an essential oil for medicinal purposes. The oil is derived from both the nutmeg and the Mace. The nutmeg tree is the only species to yield 2 spices from a single fruit / tree. The fruit is used to make Jams, Jellies, Pickles and wine. The tree itself is densely foliated and grows to the height of 20 Meters.

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A 2011 Research on Nutmeg plantations clearly indicates the need for more Nutmeg plantations in india. The research indicates that the quality of plants in India are not yielding as high as that of other countries and the market in india is so huge that the produce is not sufficient to meet the market needs. Nutmeg is imported from indonesia and Sri lanka to meet the market needs of indian consumers. The need to increase the acreage of nutmeg plantations is also called for.

The Nutmeg Tree

The Nutmeg is an evergreen tree which can grow from 10-20 meters tall. Its a dioecious plant with a male plant and the female plant bearing male and female plants respectively. The Male plants flower throughout the year and the female plants only flower 6-7 months a year. The flowers are fragrant, yellow and droopy. The pollination is usually through wind but bees and other mediums do help. Nutmeg, though Doiecious, has bisexual male, bisexual female and Hermaphrodite varieties. The hermaphrodite variety is the most desired variety of Nutmeg as its known for higher yield. 

The variability in Growth, yield and composition in the nutmeg seeds and Aril is very high. Many trees with higher yield were known to have lesser mace weight. I was recommended thus a selection of nutmeg with moderate yield be selected for growing in india. 

Nutmeg Varieties

The Nutmeg plant in India is still going through a long phase of research. New plants are being discovered which is suitable for the weather in kerala. Some of the new varieties which are known to have higher yield are the Kadukanmackel  and nova. The new varieties are found to be high yielding and a continuous bearer of fruits while some of the older Konkan varieties were alternate year bearers.

The ICAR and the Spice board in kerala are promoting the new varieties of the Nutmeg but not as much as they are promoting their own older varieties. 

Nutmeg Propagation

Propagation starts with the seed collection from high yielding trees. The nutmeg should be 10 Grams and the mace should be at least 1 gram.The tree itself should yield at least 10,000 Nuts per tree per year consistently. The nuts for propagation should be collected during June / July. Once the Nuts are collected they are separated by quality. The mature seeds are sown within 3 days from picking. The germination will drop gradually as the days proceed. The Nutmeg germination deteriorates with lesser moisture content and the moisture should be maintained. Nuts that rattle in the shell will not germinate and these should be discarded. Normal Germination will be at 45% . Seed treatment with Gibberelic acid will increase the germination rate to approximately 75% and treatment with Thiourea will increase the germination to 88%. The seeds should be sown at 30 centimeter distance and 2.5 centimeter depth. The heavier seeds have a higher chance of germination and are known to provide better foliage. Seeds germinate in 4-6 weeks. Germination usually starts in 40 days and could continue up to 90 days. Germination in Colder areas and areas where altitude is over 1200 M above sea level is considerably lower due to cold weather. Its important to maintain a warm humid area for propagation and a Green house with weather control should be helpful for areas where the weather is not desirable. The seed germination is best in a mixture of soil , sand and cow dung (well decomposed) in a 3:3:1 Ratio. Seedlings should be transferred to Poly bags once mature and should be replanted to the field in the 18th month.

Nutmeg Being a dioecious plant has a chance of a plant being male or female. Its hard to determine the sex of the plant till it starts flowering. Vegetative propagation can be taken up before or after the sex is determined and many farmers prefer to be on the safer side and propagate the trees through budding or grafting methods before the sex is determined. After the flowering, when the sex of the plant is determined, the plants can be propagated using te top working method to change the sex of the plant. Any farm should have 1 male plant for at least 20 female plants. Some farmers suggest a 1:10 ratio of male to female plants.

A number of grafting and budding practices are practiced with some more successful than the other. Below are some of the most tested grafting and budding methods.

Soil & Climatic conditions to grow Nutmeg

Nutmeg grows only in Humid weather. An average rainfall of 1500 – 3000 mm rainfall with a dry period of 2-3 months is acceptable. Clay loom, Sandy loam or red laterite soil is best suited with no water logging. Partial shade is best for nutmeg. Extensive dry season is not recommended. 40-60 liters of water is required for consistent yield during summer. Annual temperature of 24 to 29 degrees and a humidity of 75-90% is conducive for nutmeg.

Field Preparation and Planting

Fields are cleared out and planted with shade plants like bananas. Shade is important for the growth of Nutmeg. If you are planting in Coconut farms as an intercrop, dig pits of 90 centimeter depth and a meter wide. Fill the pit with compost, dry matter and top soil. For non grafted plants, maintain a distance of 7-8  meters between plants. For grafted plants, a distance of 5 meters is recommended. Planting should be done during late monsoon. Sufficient water should be provided throughout the year to ensure plant growth. Once the plant is determined to be male or female, remove unwanted male plants or practice top working on the male plants. Ensure that every 20 female plants have a male plant in the area.

Nutrient Management

Nutmeg in general requires very less manure and fertilizers. 30 KG cow dung just in june / july or september/october should suffice in most cases. But in tamil nadu and Andaman , research indicates that application of 500 Grams each of Ammonium Sulphate, super phosphate and muriate of potash should be done twice a year. Other nutrients which may improve yield and health include Azospirillum, Phosphobacteria, Pseudomonas. 50 KG of compost is often recommended for nutmeg plants every year.

Nutrient application should always be done in trenches a few centimeters from the root area. For younger plants, a distance of 30 centimeters and for plants older than 15 years a distance of 1 meter should be maintained for the trenches. Trenches should be 10-20 centimeters wide and 10 centimeters deep and should not cut through the roots of the plant.

Always conduct a soil test before application of nutrients. Most areas in kerala are self-sufficient for Nutmeg plantation.

Pest and Disease control

Pests are rare in nutmeg. The only 2 pests which are prominent are scales and mealybugs. These insects attack the tender shoots and drink the sap from it. Infestations are rare but when occurred on a large scale can cause wilting of the entire plant and can spread fast. They are more common in nurseries and young plants. An application of Monocrotophos or dimethoate is used to control the insects

Diseases in nutmeg include the following.

Harvest & Yield

The nutmeg fruit takes 6-9 months to mature and ripen. Once ripened, the fruit splits to show the red aril. Fruits are usually picked from the tree or picked daily from the ground once it falls down naturally. Nutmeg trees usually take 5-6  years to fruit and 15 years to reach optimal yield. A good tree should yield 3000 Fruits per tree every year from the 15th to 30th year. The nut should be at least 6 grams.

Processing

One of the biggest concerns in Nutmeg for exports is the processing. Nutmeg, once picked from the tree or collected should be dried in the sun for 3 days. With monsoon being the prime season for nutmeg harvest, sun drying is usually not a feasible method. Electric dryers are implemented to process nutmeg. Nutmeg should be dried below 40 Degree centigrade for optimum quality. Anywhere above 40 degrees and the nutmeg butter is reduced and the oil content is drained. If the nutmegs are not well dried, chances of fungal growth is common. One of the prime reasons for rejected export in nutmeg is the Aspergillus Flower known to create the aflatoxin B1 which is a carcinogen. Proper drying methods should be used to ensure that the moisture level in the Nutmeg is not more than 9%.