Litchi Fruit Farming – Introduction
Fruit cultivation is always beneficial both in terms of profit and market value. fruits are good for the body. Slowly people are realising the health benefits of fruits and hence cultivation of fruits has also increased. Today, there are so many different varieties and cultivars of many different fruit trees. As technology has advanced, so have the methods for cultivation and farming of fruit trees.
Litchi among other fruits is very popular. It is usually found in the summer season. Litchi gathers almost the same craze as mangoes during the summer season. The appearance of the fruit is very attractive. The bright red coloured skin is uneven and almost round to oval in shape. The taste of the fruit is also very delicious. The sweet taste is what makes it so popular among other fruits in the market. The litchi extract is preserved in flavour drinks, candies and confectionaries. With time, so many different varieties of litchi have been developed that today there are many options for the farmers who want to cultivate litchi. Litchi is a seasonal fruit and the cultivation is also not difficult. But to get a fair share of profit, the quality of litchi fruit matters very much more than the quantity.
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Scientific Name of Litchi: Litchi chinensis
Top Countries Producing Litchi
Litchi, since the ancient time, has been found in China. Hence, the species name Chinensis is given to the genus. It has been cultivated in the country for more than 2000 years. Slowly, the fruit was introduced in Myanmar, India and Thailand. Today, the largest cultivators of litchi are China, India, Thailand, Madagascar, Australia, Mauritius, South Africa etc.
In India, the leading states popular in the cultivation of litchi are Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. In other states too, it is being produced in small quantities.
Different Varieties Of Litchi Cultivated Worldwide
The most commonly cultivated varieties are:
This variety of litchi is a late maturing variety. This was specially designed and it is a crack resistant variety. The fruits have a bright red coloured skin and a small seed. The variety of litchi produces thick flesh. The size of the fruit is medium and it weighs around 15g. This variety is most popularly cultivated and is popular due to its bright red colour.
The kasba variety was selected from the village having the same name. The large and compact litchi tree bears fruits which are large in size and weight around 27g. This variety is most popularly grown for its huge size and colour.
The trees have an average height and are good bearers of fruits. The size of the fruits is medium and have an orangish coloured fruit skin. The pulp of the fruit is very juicy and sweet. The trees bear fruits with the smaller size of seeds. This variety has not been commercialised yet.
This cultivar is called shahi or rose scented because of the distinct rose smell the fruit has. It is a very popular variety of litchi grown in many regions. This is an early maturing variety. The trees of this variety are prolific producers. It is one of the most cultivated litchi varieties in India. It is mainly cultivated for its pulp quality and nice aroma. The shape of fruits and the seeds vary within the same plant.
This is a very popular cultivar and the trees bear a large number of fruits. The variety is resistant to fruit splitting. The fruits have a pink or deep orange fruit skin. The fruits are highly popular because of the pulp flavour and the large size.
This is an early maturing litchi variety grown in some of the regions. The characteristics of leaf and flower of this variety are distinguishable than other varieties. The fruits are of good quality and have a good demand in the market.
This is also an early maturing variety which grows medium height and is of semi-spreading The size of the fruits is large with a heart shape. The attractive colour of the fruit is what makes this variety so popular. The pulp is very juicy and has a low acidity content.
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Cultivation Of Litchi
Litchi can be cultivated in various conditions. It must be cultivated according to the climatic and soil requirement of the different cultivars. Proper site selection is important as the litchi trees can grow long. For a better yield, pest control and proper nutrition provision are essential.
Soil Conditions For Litchi Farming
Litchi can be cultivated in a variety of soils. The ideal soil would be loamy soil. But any soil with a good fertility and rich content of organic matter will do well for growing litchi plants. The soil needs to have a very good drainage system as litchi plants cannot tolerate waterlogged condition. Litchi grows well in acidic soils. Alkaline soils must be avoided for the cultivation of litchi. The ideal ph of the soil would be 6.0-8.0. One more important thing to be kept in mind is the association of mycorrhiza with the roots of the litchi plants. The plants grow well when it is associated with the mycorrhiza. It is recommended that the soil must be inoculated with the fungus before planting.
Climatic Conditions For Litchi Farming
Litchi cultivation is best suited in tropical or subtropical regions. The litchi plant is very particular to its growing conditions. The ideal temperature for its growth is 21-38 degree Celsius. A lower temperature is required at the time of flowering. Summers which are free from hot winds and winters free of frost is good for the growth of the plants. A moist and dry climate along with few showers of rainfall is ideal for the growth of the plants. However, rains during and before two months of flowering are not good for flower formation in litchi plants. The litchi has been cultivated in regions up to 800m height from the sea level, but the best results are produced in regions of lower altitudes.
Land Preparation For Litchi Farming
The land which has been selected for cultivation must be cleared of bushes, tree stumps and weeds. The land must be ploughed and harrowed to make the texture of the soil smooth. It is recommended that soil or inoculums from the previous cultivation of litchi must be introduced in the new site. This is important due to the mycorrhizal association with litchi plant roots.
After this, pits must be dug out measuring 90cm*90cm*90cm in the month of April-May. The pits are filled out before the starting of monsoon. The pits are filled with topsoil mixed with the farmyard manure. At this point, the mycorrhiza soil from old cultivation must be mixed in the pits. After the pits have been filled, they must be allowed to settle.
Propagation Method For Litchi Farming
Vegetative propagation is mainly practised in the propagation of litchi. The method of air layering is done for the propagation of litchi. Erect shoots and healthy ones which are a year old are selected for air layering. After proper implementation of air layering, they are grown in the nursery for a couple of years before being transplanted to the main field.
Planting Methods For Litchi Farming
The planting of the litchi plant is done in monsoon. The plants are settled in the previously dugout pits and soil is pressed around the base firmly. A light watering is done after planting immediately. The square system of planting is usually followed in litchi cultivation. While planting, the plants must not be planted too deep as they do not perform well. Appropriate spacing must also be applied in the square system of litchi cultivation.
Irrigation Method Of Litchi Farming
Since the litchi plants are cultivated in monsoon, therefore irrigation is not required. During summer months, irrigation must be provided after every 4-5 days. In winter, the frequency must be reduced to once every 8-10 days. The plants must be protected from frost in winter. Sufficient moisture of the soil is very important for proper growth and fruit development of litchi. If moisture is inadequate, there might be problems of fruit cracking. Hence, proper irrigation must be provided to avoid such circumstances. Young plants need more care. Mature plants may be irrigated by the segmental flooding of the fields.
Fertiliser Application For Litchi Farming
Litchi cultivation requires more nutrition than other plants. Appropriate quantities of nitrogenous fertilisers have to be added in 2-3 split doses. Farmyard manure at the time of land preparation is essential. Litchi plants can suffer from zinc and boron deficiency if proper nutrients are not provided. It is better to do a soil check to find out whether the soil is deficient in nutrients. Accordingly, the nutrients can be provided.
Intercultural Methods For Litchi Farming
Mulching in litchi crop is very effective for control of weeds and conservation of soil moisture. Apart from this, a light pruning is required during harvesting. Intercropping of litchi with other vegetable and legume crop can be done at the early stages of crop growth.
Pest Control For Cultivation Of Litchi
The following are the commonly affected pests of litchi plants and their control measures:
- Litchi mite- propargite or dicofol spray
- Leaf miner- imidacloprid or dimethoate spray
- Weevils- dimethoate or buprofezin spray
- Caterpillar- formalin application
- Fruit borer- diflubenzuron spray
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Yield Of Litchi
A mature tree of litchi can produce a yield of 150-200 kg of fruits per tree. With using bees as cross-pollinators, the yield can be increased further.
The fruits are ready for harvest when they attain the desired colour and size. Mechanical means can be used to harvest the fruit bunches along with some twigs and leaves. The harvesting must be done early in the morning.
Post-Harvest Management And Marketing Of Litchi Fruits
The harvested fruits must be sold immediately as litchi fruits tend to spoil quickly. There are a few techniques to maintain the freshness of the fruits artificially but, it is better if they are sold in the market as soon as possible.
Since litchi is highly perishable fruit, the marketing must be done immediately. Under certain conditions, the fruits can be transported to distant places but it is best that they are marketed immediately. The fruits are sold in bunches along with twigs and leaves.
Benefits Of Litchi
- Litchis are a rich source of Vitamin-C. This vitamin is so much important as it defends the body against diseases and strengthens the immunity system.
- Being a good source of antioxidants, the litchis eliminate free radicals out of the body and maintain proper functioning of the body organs.
- Litchi has anti-inflammatory properties which prevent injury and reduces inflammation of body tissues.
- Litchi can help lower blood pressure and in the process keeps the heart healthy.
- The antioxidant power of litchis also protects the liver from stress and keeps the liver working in normal condition.
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Litchi Farming – Conclusion
The litchi is a very delicious fruit and also perishable in nature. Efforts must be made for proper storage of the fruits so that they can be transported to father places. The short fruiting season is inadequate for the huge demand of this fruit in the local as well as the international market. Modern methods and implements can use for increased yields and improved quality.