Plantation Crops in Relation to Soil Fertility

M. L. Dotaniya, Manju Lata, B. P. Meena, V. D. Meena 

The plantation crops are high value commercial crops of greater economic importance and play a vital role in our Indian economy. The crops include tea, coffee, rubber, cocoa, coconut, arecanut, cashew nut and cinchona etc. the main drawback with in this sector of crop in India is that major portion of the area is of small holding with varying level of soil fertility gradient which hinders the adoption of intensive cultivation. 

The vast area and the varied agro-climatic conditions of India ranging from tropical to temperate make it possible to grow almost all different kinds of plantation crops. India is a one of them. Plantation crops play an important role in our country’s economy by earning valuable foreign exchange, providing direct and indirect employment to many people and also by supporting a number of horticultural based industries.

Plantation crops require definite parameters of soil fertility like as pH, nutrient status, soil texture etc, to get the better yield for a long period. Some of the plantation crops and their basic fertility parameters described here.

Tea:

It is grown in plains in north Eastern state but in south India it is grown in hill range. Tea is a calcifuge crop requiring comparatively low amount of calcium but high quantities of potassium and silicon. They can be grown in lateritic, alluvial and peaty soil. a well drained, deep and friable loam or forest land rich in organic matter is ideal. Tea soils are acidic (pH 4 to 6), low in calcium and generally rich in iron and manganese.

Potassium is applied at the rate of 40 to 50 percent of the amount of nitrogen applied, depending on the soil type and weather conditions. In southern India tea responds to nitrogen upto 300 kg per hectare applied to some high-yielding varieties of tea, whereas in northern India, the application of nitrogen is limited to about 120 kg whereas 30 to 40 kg of phosphate per hectare is adequate.

Zinc deficiency is a limiting factor in crop production in most areas and a schedule of foliar application of zinc sulphate usually 11 kg per hectare in alternate years is recommended.

Coffee:

coffee cultivation is confined mostly to the hilly tracts of western and Eastern Ghats. It requires deep friable, porous rich in organic matter and slightly acidic pH 6.0 to 6.5. One tonne of clean coffee removes from the soil 34 kg of N, 5 kg of P2O5 and 45 kg of K2O in case of robusta varieties. Considerable nutrients are also lost through leaching under a heavy rainfall and as a result of fixation and immobilization of nutrients in the soil. Such depletion may lead to the impoverishment of the soil. It is thus essential to replace the lost nutrients by using fertilizers.

Rubber:

it mainly grown in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Rubber thrives well in deep well drained acidic soils of red lateritic loam or clayey loams with a pH varying from 4.5 to 6.8. Rubber trees should be regularly manured with balanced fertilizer mixtures from time of planting to ensure maximum production. During the first year of planting, single dose of 225g of 10:10:4:1.5 NPK and Mg mixtures is applied to each plant. The dosage increases 900g and 1100g in two split doses during the second and third years respectively. From the fourth year onwards the application of 900g of the mixture per plant in two split doses is recommended. For trees under tapping N:P:K 10:10:10 mixture at the rate of 900g per tree is applied annually during April-may.

Cocoa:

cocoa grows on a wide range of soils but loose soils which allow root penetration and movement of air and moisture are ideal. It should retain moisture in the soil during dry season as cocoa requires regular supply of moisture for proper growth. It thrives better in neutral soil, but it can also grown pH 4.5 to 8.0.

Clayey soils or mixtures of clay and sand are preferable. Ill-drained soils are very inimical to cocao trees. Divalent bases, calcium and magnesium play a significant role in the nutrition of cacao.

Cashew:

  it is cultivated on a wide variety of soil in India like laterite, red and coastal sandy soil. To a limited extent, it is also grown on black soils. It can grow successfully in hill slopes in virgin organic matter rice soils. It is highly susceptible to water logged or saline soils.

Cinchona:

It prefers porous, well drained, fertile soils with a thick cover of organic matter and high moisture holding capacity. The optimum pH range is 4.5 to 6.5.

Coconut:

it can be grown wide range of soil conditions from light sandy soils to heaviest clay with a pH ranging from 5.2 to 8.0. Best soils are deep, friable, loamy soils in heavier soils.  A water table that is too high and remains static for too long is harmful.

Arecanut:

the arecanut palm is capable of growing under a variety of climate and soil conditions. It is grown in soils such as laterite, red loam and alluvial soils. The soil should be deep and well drained. The soil also should be deep and, well drained, without a high water-table. Being, highly susceptible to a sun-scorch, the areca palms need adequate protection from exposure to the south-western sun.  

All those soil parameters are requiring for a better sustainable crop yield. Before grown plantation crops in a region, you can test your field nutrient status and physic-chemical properties. This valuable work is doing by Agricultural research centres, soil test laboratories and also by private institutes. It helps to get optimum crop yield and also save unnecessary cost occurring during cultivation and propagation.  


Authors:

M. L. Dotaniya1*, Manju Lata2, B. P. Meena1, V. D. Meena1

1Indian Institute of Soil Science, Nabibagh, Berasia Road, Bhopal- 462 038 

2Rajasthan University, Jaipur

*For correspondence. (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)