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Growing lychee trees under datepalm in Khairpur 

By Shaukat Ali Bhambhro

The predominant fruit crop of Khairpur district in upper Sindh is date-palm. According to a conservative estimate, around 100,000 acre of district land is under date-palm cultivation. Recently, a new trend, of growing different crops and fruit trees under the canopy of date-palm, has been observed, and the reason behind these inter-croppings gaining popularity is lucrative returns.

Growing lychee trees under datepalm in Khairpur  Climatically, Khairpur district is sub-arid to arid. Its eastern part is comprised of vast Nara desert. The western part of the district is irrigated by three irrigation canals which take off from Sukkur barrage. After the devastation of banana plantation following the spread of banana bunchy top disease (BBTD) growing banana under date-palm is no more considered cost-effective. Instead mango plantation with date-palm is quite common in spite of the fact that mango trees under the canopy of date-palm are vulnerable to many diseases and pests especially malformation and mildews.

However, a prudent grower of Khairpur after losing his banana plantation under date-palm orchard following the BBTD attack attempted cultivation of lychee fruit trees under the canopy of about 30-year-old date-palms. About 40 grafted lychee plants were planted between the date-palm trees which were 30 feet apart. The growth of the plants was very slow.

According to this grower, being unaware of its requirement of irrigation and fertilizer, no Growing lychee trees under datepalm in Khairpur  special care was taken even of plant protection. As a matter of fact, irrigation and fertilizer applied to date-palm were also meant for thevery lychee plants. But to his surprise, the lychee plants gave fruit this yearafter attaining four years of age. With the present rate of growth, it appears that after 10 years these plants may assume the shape of trees.

A review has revealed that lychee is a long-lived tree. Although if we do not consider the references in Chinese literature to 800-year-old trees as accurate, it seems probable that trees may remain in profitable bearing for more than a century. Under the unusual conditions prevailing in Baglore in South India, the lychee is said to bear two crops a year, in May and December.

One of the reasons behind cultivating lychee under date-palm is to protect lychee trees from the desiccating wind in drier regions. Besides, the review of literature also indicates that the lychee grows well under a variety of soil conditions, but seems to prefer a fairly deep loamy alluvial soil. Although it cannot tolerate water logging, it favours moist soil as the roots form the mycorhyzae rapidly in soggy environment. Because lychee is rather shallow rooted, deep tillage is dangerous. Therefore, ploughing in lychee orchard is not recommended and for the same reason use of mulch is suggested.

According to one Indian horticulturist, the lime content of the best lychee region of Bihar is high, about 30 per cent, and he suggests that in region where lime is deficient, it may be desirable to add it to the soil.

Roy (1952) also recommends the use of lime and sugar where its deficiency is marked, as the tree responds clearly to its application.This may be desirable only where very little calcium is present, as is suggested by the fact that lychee has failed on the alkaline soil of Israel.

In South Africa, lychee trees make much more vigorous growth on acid soil than on Growing lychee trees under datepalm in Khairpur  neutral or slightly alkaline soil. To assure the presence of the mycorhyzal fungi, the use of soil from under the old trees for propagating new ones, it would seem, however, that the lychee is probably capable of growing well on either acidor basic soil. The Chinese are said to believe that the nature of the soil has a marked influence on the quality of the fruit yield. Only a small percentage of the flowers develop into fruits. Failure in producing and the drop of many of the fruits during the first month may be caused by the lack of fertilization or embryo abortion resulting from the chromosome irregularities.

After these trees come into bearing, the yield should increase for at least 20 years. Under favourable conditions, the lychee bears heavily and regularly. Although Stephens (1935) states that in Queensland a crop is borne only once in two or three years. He indicates that on an average crop is about 200 to 300 lb per tree.

Lychee is a fruit of lychee chinensis (family: Sapeindaceae) consisting of thin, brittle shell enclosing a sweet, jelly like pulp and a single seed. The original home of lychee is in China. India probably is second in production of lychee where only in North Bihar the total area under cultivation of this seasonal fruit is reportedly 26,000 hectares.

According to a recent survey report of a senior scientist of the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Banglore litchi grown over one acre of land in Muzafferpur (Bihar) can be sold at a minimum price of Rs100,000 in the UK.The very agriculture scientist has claimedin her comprehensive report that being the costliest fruit in the world, fresh lychee is sold at the rate of Rs500 to Rs12,00 per kgin different parts of the globe.

The lychee has had a long and honorable history in China where it has been carefully Growing lychee trees under datepalm in Khairpur  cultivated and greatly appreciated for many centuries. The first reference to this fruit in literature may be as early as 1760 BC., but this is a questionable. Apparently, the lychee reached Burma and eastern India by the end of the 17thcentury or shortly thereafter. Lychee plants are medium to large, much branched, round-topped and evergreen reachingup to 12 -15 meters, leaves pinnately compound. The inflorescence is a compound raceme, bears small , off-white unisexual and bisexual flowers. The fruit develops into bunches and varies in shape and size. The lychee plants require warm, humid climate for vegetative growth. Dry hot air is injurious for the fruit.

The edible portion (50-75 per cent of fruit weight of litchi contains mainly carbohydrate (sugar), protein, fat, vitamin (B and C), calcium and iron.

After a successful cultivation of litchi under date palm orchards in District Khairpur it is suggested that necessary arrangements for large scale promotion of this fruit crop are required to be made by the horticulture division of PARC Islamabad.

Source: The DAWN;

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