Casuarina equisetifolia

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Casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia)

Casuarina is a large evergreen tree with a straight bole and numerous, long, slender, drooping, jointed, leafless branchlets arising from rough woody branches. The jointed branchlets, which are partly deciduous, are green and perform the functions of leaves. Leaves are minute scale like and arranged in the form of a cup at the joints of the branchlets. Bark is brown, rough, fibrous and exfoliating in longitudinal strips. Wood is very hard, but liable to crack and split. It is used as timber, poles, pulp and paper besides fuel-wood. Casuarina is grown as an ornamental tree throughout the tropical and subtropical parts of India. In addition, it can be grown in agroforestry combinations involving diverse crops. Fodder grasses, other agronomic crops such as pulses, oil seeds and vegetables, coconut palms and tree crops such as teak and ailanthus are important in this respect.


Propagation


Propagation is by seeds or through vegetative means. For seedling production, about half kg seeds are sown on raised nursery beds of 10 m x 1 m. This will produce about 10,000 good quality seedlings. If the soil is sandy, mix farmyard manure with the topsoil. After sowing the seeds, a thin layer of sand is sprinkled to cover the seeds. Usually sowing is done in Nov-December. Regular watering and shading of the nursery beds are necessary to facilitate rapid seed germination. Germination takes about 10 days and seedlings attain a height of 10-15 cm in 6 weeks. They are then pricked out into polythene bags or transplanted into beds of size 1 m x 10 m in January-February. Vegetative propagation is by branch cuttings, stump cuttings and layering. For vegetative propagation by rooting of branch cuttings, treat 5-7 cm long cladode cuttings with rooting hormones. The hormone- treated cladodes are transferred to presoaked vermiculite and kept in a mist chamber. About hundred per cent rooting is obtained within 15 days. The rooted cuttings are then transferred to a mixture of sand, soil and farm yard manure (2:1:1) for hardening. After 15 days, the hardened propagules can be transferred to the field.

 

Planting and stand management


Casuarina has a wide environmental adaptability and hence occupies sites ranging from arid regions to coastal zones. Being an actinorhizal plant, casuarina is capable of biological nitrogen fixation. Therefore, it thrives best on sandy soils low in nitrogen and has the potential to improve the nitrogen capital of impoverished sites. 

Site preparation includes ploughing the land 2-3 times and making 30 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm pits before the onset of monsoon. The pits are filled with FYM and topsoil. Planting is done immediately after the first rain. Block planting, row planting and line or strip planting are common. Spacing varies depending on the objective and the end product. Usually a spacing of 75 cm x 75 cm is adopted. One or two weeding is done immediately after the rains. When the trees are about 3 m in height, the lateral branches are pruned to a height of about 2 m. Pruning is usually done at the end of the second year or after the beginning of the third year. In plantations established at close spacing (75 cm x 75 cm), one thinning in the second year or third year depending on tree growth is desirable, where 25-50 per cent of the trees are felled. In mixed species systems such as agroforestry, spacing and thinning practices are mainly dependent on the cropping systems and the nature of the associated species. If the associated crops are shade intolerant generally wider spacing and or intensive thinning are recommended. Fertilizers may be applied at the rate of 20-25 g N, 15-20 g P2O5 and 15-20 g K2O per seedling per year from the second year to the fifth year.

 

Injuries and protection


Damping off, seedling blight, stem canker and seedling rot are encountered in the nurseries. Stem wilt or bark blister disease caused by Trichosporium vesiculosum is a serious disease in the plantations. The disease affects trees of 3-4 years and causes mortality up to 80 per cent. Maintaining a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8 and treating the plantation with fungicidal sprays can control this disease. Other diseases include stem canker and dieback caused by Phomopsis casuarinae, pink disease caused by Corticium salmonicolor, root rot disease caused by Ganoderma lucidum and heart rot caused by Polyporus glomeratus, Fomes fastuosus and F. senex.Stem canker and dieback can be controlled by carbendazim @ 0.01per cent. Insect pest problems to the tune of regular epidemic infestations inflicting extensive economic losses rarely occur in casuarina.

 

Harvest


Casuarina seedlings growing rapidly at the rate of about 1.2 to 1.5 m per annum during the initial seven to eight years are usually harvested in about 7-10 years. Yield of high-density fuel-wood plantations varies from 10-20 tonnes per ha per year on 7-10 years rotations. Higher yields are reported from irrigated and fertilized sites.

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