Agriculture

Sandalwood Cultivation in India

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Sandalwood (Santalaum album) commands a premium on international markets due to its scent-emitting wood, making it essential in many Indian religious rituals, cosmetic products and health applications.

Sandalwood cultivation on private land in certain states is legal, though obtaining permission from the forest office for felling it requires lengthy approval processes and may take several days or more than expected.

Suitable Regions

Sandalwood trees are valuable trees with both cultural and commercial value, making cultivation efforts widespread in India. Unfortunately, though, sandalwood cultivation can be challenging as its growth requires time, exposing trees to diseases and poaching risks, necessitating efforts to protect these valuable resources.

One of the primary obstacles in sandalwood cultivation is theft by local tribes, leading many farmers to lose legal and registered trees for this reason. To address this problem more government support should be offered directly to farmers.

Sandalwood cultivation requires careful land preparation and nutrient management, as well as healthy host plants to maximize production. Finally, planting should take place during the rainy season for maximum yields.

Sandalwood cultivation in India faces challenges that threaten its former glory in this trade, however new laws have been simplified to reduce monopolistic procurement by forest departments and encourage private cultivation. Furthermore, the government announced a 75% subsidy for cultivation – helping domestic production expand while decreasing dependence on imports.

Soil Requirement

Sandalwood is a tropical tree that thrives in varied soil conditions, from sandy or red clay soils, vertisols, to rocky ground conditions. To maximize success with sandalwood cultivation it is important to prepare the soil prior to planting as ploughing will produce an ideal tilth surface that drains well while providing sufficient nutrition. A well-draining and nutrient rich environment is perfect for cultivating it successfully.

Sandalwood trees can be vulnerable to pests, nematodes and diseases which require proper methods for weed control, plant protection and disease management to mitigate damage from insect pests or disease outbreaks. Implementing effective measures of disease management and cost reduction in cultivation could ultimately increase production levels while decreasing cultivation costs and costs.

Sandalwood’s high price has made it a target for illegal poaching and logging, even though laws exist to protect wild populations from poaching or logging activity. Though laws exist to protect populations, discrepancies between jurisdictions make stopping this activity challenging; harmonizing laws with tools for verifying origin could help decrease this activity while safeguarding remnant populations.

Cultivation Techniques

Sandalwood plants require well-drained soil rich in organic matter for proper cultivation, such as red sandy loam with an ideal pH range between 6.5 to 7.5 and the ability to retain lots of water. When planting seedlings into main fields after 7 – 8 months, drip irrigation systems may help avoid overwatering or clogging up of fields.

Trees typically take 15-20 years to reach maturity. Once matured, farmers can sell them to government or semi-government corporations at a premium. Furthermore, growers receive a 75 percent subsidy from the government as an aid towards investment costs.

After eight years, trees no longer require special protection; however, it is still vitally important that they be safeguarded from animals and smugglers. New technologies have been created to assist this effort, such as vibration-sensing alarms that notify forestry staff if any trees are being cut down (Ota et al. 2020; Viswanath et al. 2020).

Sandalwood cultivation can be highly profitable, but it is essential that trees and the soil remain free of animals and smugglers. A healthy soil can increase yields while decreasing production costs; organic fertilizers like rotted farmyard manure, vermin-compost or compost made of green leaves should be applied regularly as organic fertilisers; biopesticides made from neem kernel, seeds and leaves along with Dhatura Chitrakmool or cow’s urine can also help prevent pests.

Growth Period and Harvesting

Sandalwood requires years to reach maturity and produce viable amounts of heartwood, making the investment both time- and cost-intensive. Furthermore, growing sandalwood requires significant security due to poachers and smugglers who threaten its production; any such threats could endanger its growth altogether and threaten its destruction.

Additionally, Chandan trees can be susceptible to disease and insect pests that can be avoided using bio-fertilizers, well-rotted farmyard manure (FYM), and compost made of green leaves as fertilizers. Drip irrigation systems provide optimal water distribution without overwatering or clogging up fields.

Siri Agri Group employs a strong team of certified staff who continually oversee the growth of plants. We use biopesticides prepared from Neem kernel, seed and leaves), Datura, Chitrakmool and Cow urine as bio-pesticides to combat diseases and insects, while our expert team ensures saplings are nurtured properly in our special nursery for one year before being transferred onto the farm for cultivation.

Economic Value

Sandalwood cultivation can be an extremely profitable enterprise as the trees are highly prized for their aromatic fragrance and essential oil content. Global demand far outstrips supply, leading to higher prices for sandalwood. Furthermore, this tree requires minimal care or upkeep – simply select an ideal location with suitable soil and climate conditions before beginning cultivation.

Sandalwood cultivation has seen tremendous success across India since state governments eased restrictions on private land ownership and cultivation laws. Farmers such as K C Dinesh of Chitradurga district in Karnataka have seen their revenue soar after planting 2,500 sandalwood saplings on four hectares. He estimates he’ll generate revenue of Rs 12-15 crore over 10 years from these ventures.

Dinesh has installed solar fencing and trenched around his farm to secure his growing plants from wildlife, as well as contemplating installing CCTV cameras to monitor them and ensure their safety. He believes that with government support through security measures more farmers will start cultivating sandalwood; he is concerned that theft of mature sandalwood trees by local tribes may pose an issue, though.

Challenges and Conservation

Sandalwood is an exceptionally valuable wood used for ceremonial purposes in Hinduism, yet illegal felling and overexploitation have significantly reduced its supply, leading to higher prices in both domestic and international markets.

Sandalwood cultivation can be a lucrative venture for farmers willing to invest in its plantation. Profit margins depend on market conditions in each region or year and will take time for trees to reach maturity and begin producing fruit.

G Venkatappa of Kelchennahlli village in Kolar district of Karnataka recently planted a 0.8 ha sandalwood plantation to boost his income. However, one of his main challenges has been protecting it from theft – given that sandalwood trees act like parasites by taking in macronutrients from host plants like Neem or Acacia trees that provide micronutrients. As such he advises other farmers planting companion trees like neem or Acacia around sandalwood plants as protection.

Genetic markers should also be developed and utilized for plantation stock verification to reduce any instances of illicit sandalwood and ensure it is accurately labeled (Dormontt et al., 2015).

Conclusion

Sandalwood cultivation has become an increasingly popular activity among Indian farmers, used in everything from religious rituals and cosmetics, health benefits, perfumes and essential oils, leading to an exponentially rising demand. Unfortunately, supply is still limited causing prices to skyrocket further while growing demand is predicted in future years.

G Venkatappa of Kelchennahlli village in Kolar district of Karnataka initiated his own 0.8-hectare sandalwood plantation 18 months ago and says other farmers are also keen on doing the same, but are put off by its long waiting time and high cost of protection.

At present, sandalwood species vary across countries and states in each nation when it comes to protection status and harvest laws, leaving illegal loggers free to move trees through multiple jurisdictions without fear of enforcement (Soundararajan et al. 2015). Nonetheless, methods are being implemented in order to improve financial viability of sandalwood cultivation such as vibration sensing alarms that alert forest staff when trees are being cut down (Soundararajan et al. 2015).

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