March 21 is declared as the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS

The Best Timber

Aruna Basu Sarcar & Manoj Kumar Sarcar

Cultivation of teak can be done even in non-forest areas under favourable conditions that include deep soil with good irrigation, sub-soil drainage facility and areas free from frost attack.

Teak, botanically knows as Tectona grandis, is the most sought after timber variety. The natural habitat of teak is found in two distinct regions of south-east Asia, one covers peninsular India and the other in Burma, Thailand and Java, where under favourable conditions, large numbers of naturally grown seedings can be seen in the forests.

Earlier, it was believed that teak was primarily a forest tree and could grow only in natural habitats, until world’s first teak plantation was raised in 1840’s at Nilambur by H V Conolly, the then collector of Malabar, with the help of pazhur chattu Menon, the then sub-conservator of area.

Menon then laid a foundation for various teak plantations over the next two decades. By 1918, 6,500 acres of land was under teak plantation in Nilambur. Natural seedings supplemented by artificial regeneration to fill-up banks give better results in forest habitat.

However, cultivation of teak can be done even in non-forest areas under favourable conditions like deep soil with good irrigation, sub-soil drainage facility and the area should be free from frost attack.

Teak can be grown either by direct sowing of seeds or transplanting of seedings. Both methods have largely been supplemented by the effective and efficient ‘stump planting’ method.

Pretreatment

Genetically superior seeds must be obtained from the forest department. Teak seed being a hard nut, needs pre-sowing treatment to hasten germination.

Nursery Techniques

For growing seedings, well drained sandy loan or loamy soils are selected. The soil is well dug up, mixed with ash in a well-drained site. Standard size of bed is 12m x 1.2m; raised in moisture localities to avoid water logging and flat or slightly sunken in dry zone. Pretreated seeds (8-10 kgs) are sown in 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm lines, or broadcast about i cm deep, between February and May. Germination takes place in 10-20 days. When seedlings attain a height of 3 to 5cm on beds raised above the ground about 30 cm by side support of slit bamboos/coconut leaves or seedings are pricked out in polythene bags (13cm x 25cm) already filled with slit, sand and farmyard manure in 1:1:1 ratio. Watering should be light every day. Entire seedings can be planted in field after 3-4 months.

Stump Preparation

For preparation of stumps, seedings are kept in transplant bed, watered at regular intervals. Plants are maintained in bed for 6 to 9 months. After this period, the plants develop carroty roots and are ready for stump preparation.

A trench has to be made along one side of the bed. The plants have to be pulled out with care so that the carroty tap root is not injured or broken.

Plants of normal growth and having collar diameter of not less than one cm are made into stumps. Seedlings with 10 cm girth or one to two cm diameter at collar is the optimum size of stumps. Collar of 1.8 cm diameter is ideal for stumps. The best stump material for planting is 1 cm to 2.5 cm shoot portion and 20 cm to 23 cm root portion. Side roots are pruned and kept ready just before the planting operation.

Replanting Operations

Preliminary works like selection of planting site, preparation of land, alignment of pits, providing irrigation and drainage are some of the important operations which govern the success of a teak plantation.

Selection of land is very important. A wrong selection, despite subsequent care, will be a vain attempt. All preplanting operations should be completed before the onset of monsoon.

Planting Techniques

Stumps are planted in crow-bar holes made in refilled pits 30 cm3. A holes equal to the exact length of the stump is made in the centre of the thali with an iron crowbar about 60cm long. The stump is then inserted, and the soil firmly pressed against it, Damp soil is necessary for successful stump planting. Stumps are buried in the soil up to the collar level. A good pre-monsoon shower makes soil compact around the stumps.

While transporting stumps should be kept in moist gunny packing, while planting the ends of root and shoot should be freshened with a sharp thin cut. Planting spacement generally adopted is 2m x 2m.

Essential points for stump planting

* The stump should be planted exactly up to the collar.
* The depth of the hole should be equal to the length of the root.
* When driving the crowbar slant-wise and closing the hole care must be taken that no air spaces are left below or around the root.
* The stump must be very firmly planted.
* Every stump should be checked after planting.

Teak stumps are ideal for large scale planting. It is economical with a 90 percent success rate.

For medium and small scale planting, pre-sprouted stems raised in polythene bags ( 16cm x 30cm). 300 gauge can be planted in 30cm3 pits dug in advance. They can be planted in early monsoon showers and give a 100 percent survival rate. However, planting of pre-sprouted stumps is costlier than stump planting.

Tending work like casualty replacement, weeding, irrigation, fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides and thinning operation are essential for improving the crop.

Character of Teak tree and its distribution in India

In india, teak mainly occurs south of the Narmada and Mahanadi Rivers, Arvallis in Rajasthan, along the Betwa and Dhasan rivers in southern Uttat Pradesh, Andra Pradhesh, Maharashtra, Tamil nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. It also occurs in parts of gujarat, Bihar and Orissa and was introduced in moist deciduous forests of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Orissa and Andhaman.

Teak thrives best in a fairly moist, warm, tropical climate with ideal annual rainfall range varying from 1270cm – 381cm, absolute maximum shade temperature varying from 35C – 43C and absolute minimum from 9C – 17C.

Majority of the teak forests are situated on hilly or undulating land. It also grows well on drained level alluvial ground and alluvial pockets along rivers. It grows well in fertile and deep soils on slower slopes. Its best growth is at about 600m and below. It grows up to 1200m in western Ghats. Like Deccan trap, crystalline rock (granite, genesis, schists), sandstone. But the quality depends on the depth, structure, porosity and moisture holding capacity of the resulting soil from the parent material and rainfall available.

Teak can be cultivated on alluvial, sandy loam, red loamy soil except laterite, stiff clay and black cotton soil. Selection of right kind of site and plating material. Timely planting operations and subsequent tending work can induce plant’s growth to an excellent order, creating teak plantation an eco-friendly renewable national asset in addition to its viability.

(The authors are Forest Officers, District Forest Officer’s Bungalow, Tirunelveli)

Courtesy: The New Indian Express Tuesday, October 26, 1999

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