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Litchi cultivation

Litchi cultivation

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Litchi cultivation

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.

Litchi (Litchi chinensis)

Family: Sapindaceae .

Soil

The litchi grows under a wide variety of soils but performs better in deep well drained loamy soil having pH 6.5 to 6.8.

Climate

It is adapted to the tropics and warm subtropics, cropping best in areas with winters that are short, dry and cool (temperature bellow 20 to 220 C) but frost free, and summer that are long and hot (temperature above 250 C) with moderate precipitation (1200 mm) and high humidity.

Varieties

There are a number of cultivars/land races growing in different areas of Bangladesh. These are Bedana, Bombai, Rajshahi Local, Mangalbari, Kadmi and Kalipuri. Introduced varieties are China-1, China-2, China-3, Muzaffarpuri and Madrajee.

BARI has developed four improved varieties of litchi namely BARI Lichu-1, BARI Lichu-2 and BARI Lichu-3 and BARI Lichu – 4.

Litchi cultivation

Land preparation

  • The land should be ploughed 2 to 3 times.
  • Perennial weeds are to be eradicated carefully and the land should be leveled well for facilitating irrigation.
  • In hilly areas litchi is planted small hills with gentle slopes on the terrace. The soil is not ploughed, only small crescent shaped pits are made keeping the soil undisturbed.

Planting of Litchi Tree

One year old air layerage having uniform growth should be selected for planting.

Planting system and spacing:

Generally the planting system practiced for litchi is the square system in the plains and contour in the hills. Triangular system can also be followed in the plains. Litchi saplings are usually planted 8-10 m apart both ways.

Planting season :

The best time of planting is May-June which may help in the establishment of young plants. Planting may also be done during August-September where there is scope of irrigation.

Pit preparation and transplanting

  • Two weeks before planting pits of dimension 1 m × 1 m × 1 m is to be dug at the desired place.
  • The soils are mixed with manures and fertilizers like cow dung (20-25 kg), ash (10 kg), TSP (500-700 g), MP (350-450 g), gypsum (200-300 g) and zinc sulphate (40-60 g) and the pits are filled with the same.
  • A basket of soil from a litchi orchard which contains mycorrhizal fungi should be added.
  • A small hole is made at the centre of the pit and the sapling is planted keeping the trunk upright.
  • Water should be applied and the sapling should be staked immediately after transplanting.
  • Fencing should also be provided.

Litchi cultivation

Training and pruning

  • Training of litchi plants during the early years is necessary to provide a good framework.
  • Training and pruning of tree start in the nursery and continue during tree establishment.
  • Once the desirable shape and strong framework is achieved, no pruning usually necessary, except removal dead or diseased branches, cross limbs and mite-infested twigs.
  • Pruning is done indirectly when a part of shoot bearing the cluster of fruits is removed during harvesting.
  • Heavy pruning causes profuse vegetative growth resulting in poor fruiting.

Irrigation

  • Irrigation is necessary during fruit-setting and development.
  • The soil moisture and relative humidity remains very low during this period, which results poor fruit-set, promotes fruit drop and retards fruit growth.
  • Heavy rain following prolonged draught causes fruit crack.
  • Young plants also suffer due to shortage of water resulting poor growth and some times death.
  • Irrigation at fortnightly interval after fruit set gives good harvest.

Fertilizer Schedule for Litchi:

Age of tree (Years) Farm Yard Manure (Kg) Urea (46% N) (g) Superphosphate (16% P2O(g) Muriate of Potash (60% KO)(g)
1 – 3 10 – 30 100 – 300 150 – 450 50 – 150
4-6 40-60 400 – 600 600-900 200 – 300
7-10 70 – 100 700 – 1000 1050 – 1500 350 – 500
Above 10 100 1000 1500 500

Fruit cracking

  • Sun-burning and skin-cracking of developing fruits can be serious problems in litchi and are promoted by high temperature, low humidity and low soil moisture.
  • Inadequate moisture during early period of fruit growth results in skin becoming hard and inelastic, and it may crack as a result of rapid aril growth following heavy rain.
  • Frequent irrigation during the critical period of aril growth, spraying of zinc sulphate (1.5%) at weekly intervals starting from pea stage of fruit growth to harvest or spraying of GA3 at 40 ppm reduce the incidence of fruit cracking.

Pest and diseases and their management

Fruit borer:

The insect bores near the peduncle and enters into the nuts. Infestation of the pest occurs during pea stage of fruit and causes fruit drop and reduction of market value of the fruit drastically.

Litchi cultivation

Control measures

  • Clean cultivation
  • Removal and damage of infested fruit
  • 2-3 sprays with ripcord/cymbush @ 1 ml/L of water at 15 days interval starting from pea stage of fruit

Litchi stem borer:

The insect bores into the stem and enters 150-250 mm and feed on bark. Later on they feed on woody portion. In case of severe infestation the plant becomes weak. Infested young plants may die.

Control measures

  • Killing the larva inserting metallic spoke
  • Holes should be injected with kerosene/Petrol/0.02% Dichlorovos ant then sealed with mud.

Litchi mites:

Tender leaves, flowers and young fruits are affected by the pest.  Infested leaves show curling and velvety appearance. Infested flower fails to set fruit and infested fruit does not develop properly.

Litchi cultivation

Control measures

  • Collection and burning of infested twigs.
  • Application of accaricides like Omite @ 1.5ml/l of water 2-3 times at 15 days interval during appearance of new vegetative flush and inflorescence.

Powdery mildew:

White powdery materials are found on the panicles and flower buds. The affected flowers do not set fruit and are dropped off.

Control measures

  • Application of Tilt 250 EC @ 0.5 ml/L of water or Thiovit @ 2 g/L of water during panicle initiation (before flower opening and at fruit-setting stage (pea stage)

Anthracnose:

Brown spots are found on new leaves and the new shoots start drying. Young plants may if infected severely

Litchi cultivation

Control measures

  • Removal and destruction of infected shoots
  • Application of Tilt 250 EC @ 0.5 ml/L of water or Mancozeb /Pencozeb @ 2 g/L of water

Bat:

Bat is the number one pest of litchi. They can damage total crop within short time during fruit development and maturity stage. Bats become more aggressive in cloudy nights. During these critical times negligence of short period can cause massive destruction.

Control measures

  • Creating sound by beating metallic sheet or split bamboo, bats should be chased away
  • Covering the tree canopy by nets, attack of bats can be prevented
  • Watching the orchard manually and focusing lights, bats can be drive away

Harvesting

  • Maturity of fruit is judged by color development, flatness of tubercles and comparative smoothness of epicure.
  • The fruits are harvested in bunches with few leaves. It helps prolonging the shelf life of fruits.
  • The fruits should not be harvested immediately after rain when the trees are wet as the spoilage of the fruit in storage would be high.
  • Fruit should be harvested early in the morning or in the afternoon.
  • Noon time should be avoided because bright sunshine and high temperature enhance respiration and shorten storage life.

Litchi cultivation

Packaging

  • After harvesting, the fruits should be kept in cool, dry and well-ventilated room to maintain its freshness.
  • A good packaging, careful handling and an efficient transport system will ensure supply of litchi fruits to the consumers in an acceptable condition at a minimum cost.
  • In Bangladesh, fruit are packed in bamboo baskets lined with litchi/mahogany leaves.
  • Litchi fruits remain fresh in such baskets packed loosely for about 48 hours.

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