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Arecanut (Areca catechu L.), being a highly profitable commercial plantation crop, it is important to understand the package of practices to be followed in an arecanut garden and adopt the same for maximizing the returns.
Climate and soil

Arecanut requires abundant and well distributed rainfall. It grows well within the temperature range of 14-360C. It can be cultivated up to an altitude of 1000 m in deep and well drained soils with low water table. Laterite, red loam and alluvial soils are most suited.

Variety

Growth Habit

Shape and Size of nut

Chali yield(Kg/palm)

Recommended For

South local

Tall

Round, Bold

2.00

Coastal Karnataka Kanara

Mangala

Saemi Tall

Round, Small

3.00

-do-

Sumangala

Tall

Oval, Medium

3.20

Karnataka, Kerala

Sreemangala

Tall

Round, Small

3.18

-do-

Mohitnagar

Tall

Oval to round Medium

3.67

West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala

SAS-I

Tall

Round, Medium

4.60

Uttara Kannada

Thirthahalli

Tall

Oblong, Small

3.62

Malnad areas of Karnataka

Sreevardhana

Tall

Round, Medium

2.00

Coastal areas

Raising planting material

          Mother palm should be more than ten years old with early bearing nature with good fruit set. Fully ripe nuts weighing more than 35g should be selected from mother palms. Selected seed nuts are sown 5cm apart in sand beds with their stalk ends pointing upwards. Beds are to be watered daily.

          Three month old sprouts can be transplanted in secondary nursery beds of 150cm width and convenient length. Apply basal dose of well decomposed cattle manure@ 5 tonnes per ha. Transplant the sprouts at a spacing of 30x30cm with the onset of monsoon, provide partial shade, irrigate during December to May and provide drainage during rainy season. Periodical weeding and mulching are required. Polythene bags (25x15cm, 150 gauge) with a potting mixture (top soil: farm yard manure: sand 7:3:2) can also be used to raise secondary nursery.

Seedling selection

          Twelve to eighteen month old seedlings with more than five leaves and minimum height should be used for transplanting to the main field.
Planting time

          Planting should be done in May-June in well drained soils. In clay soils prone to water logging, planting may be postponed to August-September.
Spacing and alignment

          Planting is to be done at a spacing of 2.7m x 2.7 m. The rows may be aligned in north-south direction by deflecting the north-south line at an angle of 350 towards west to minimize sun scorching. Protect outer row of plants on South - West and Southern sides from sun scorching by covering the stem with areca leaves or leaf sheaths or by growing tall and quick growing shade trees.
Planting

            Pits of 60x60x60cm should be dug and filled with top soil, cow dung and sand up to 50cm. Seedling should be planted at the centre of the pit and soil should be put to cover up to the collar region of the seedling. Banana can be raised as a shade crop in the inter-spaces.
Fertilizer application         

            A fertilizer dose of 100g N, 40g P2O2 and 140g K2O (200g of urea; 200g of rock phosphate and 230 g of muriate of  Potash) per palm per year is recommended. 12kg of green leaf and 12kg compost or cattle manure should be applied every year. While the full dose of organic manure is to be applied every year, it should be enough if we apply 1/3 of the chemical fertilizers during the first year; 2/3 of the recommended fertilizer during the second year and full dose of fertilizer from third year onwards.

    Under rainfed conditions, 1/3 of the recommended dose in April-May and 2/3 in September-October should be applied. Under irrigated conditions, the April-May dose can be applied in February.

     During February or April-May, broadcast the fertilizer around the base of each palm after weeding and mix with the soil by light forking. During September-October open the basin to radius of  75-100cm and to a depth of 15-20cm, apply the fertilizer and cover with dug soil.

Organic matter recycling

            On an average,  5.5-6 tones of organic wastes/ha/year will be available in arecanut garden. Direct recycling of these waste do not meet the crop demand immediately. Vermiculture technique is proved to be an efficient method in composting. To prepare vermicompost, areca wastes are chopped into  small pieces of 10cm and heaped. The heap is sprinkled with water daily and maintained for two weeks. Then the chopped material is arranged in beds of one meter width and convenient length. For this, cement tanks and trenches can be used. A layer of 10-15cm waste  material is alternated with 2cm layer of little cowdung over which earthworms are released at the rate of 1000 no. per square meter. The wastes are converted into fine granular, odourless vermicompost within 60 days. During this period the earthworm population is doubled. About 8kg/palm/year of vermicompost meets the crop nutrient demand. The two cultured species of earthworms. Eudrilus eugeniae and Eisenia foetida can be used.
Irrigation and drainage

            Under Dakshina Kannada conditions, palms are irrigated once in 7 days during November-December, every 6 days during February and every 4 days during March-May. At each irrigation, 175 litres of water should be applied per palm. In drip irrigation, only 16-20 litre of water per day per palm is sufficient resulting in saving of 44 per cent of water over hose method. 2-3 microtubes/drippers should be placed in the basin opposite to each other or in a triangle. Adequate drainage with 75cm deep drainage channels should be provided during rainy season.
Cultural operations

            Soil should be loosened with light digging in October-November. Terracing should be provided in undulated lands to prevent soil erosion.
Cover cropping

            Mimosa invisa, Stylosanthes gracilis, Calapogonium muconoides and pueraruia Javanica are suitable cover crops. The seed rate requirement per hectare for Mimosa, Stylosanthes, Calapogonium and Pueraria is 15kg, 9kg, 11kg and 11kg, respectively. Sowing of these crops may be done during May-June. The crops can be cut and incorporated during October.

High density multispecies cropping system

            The long pre-bearing period, high investment and low returns in initial period are the main reasons which make it essential to take up inter/mixed cropping in arecanut plantation. Banana, Pepper and Cocoa can be grown in areca inter-spaces in coastal Karnataka and Kerala. In addition, acid lime and betelvine can also be grown with arecanut in West Bengal and Maidan parts of Karnataka.

            Banana can be planted simultaneously with arecanut in the centre of four palms. Besides main crop, two ratoon crops can be taken up and after three years, entire crop is to be replanted. When areca palms attain the age of 6-8 years, two rooted cuttings of pepper are to be planted on the northern side of the palm at 75cm distance. Cocoa is to be planted in 4 year old arecanut garden.

Crop

Pit Size(Cm)

Fertilizer N:P:K(g/plant)

Suitable Varieties

Banana

50x50x50

160:160:320

Mysore Poovan, Karpuravally, Robusta, Malbhog

Pepper

2.7x2.7

100:40:140

Karimunda and Panniyur - 1

Cocoa

2.7x2.7

100:40:140

Grafts

Plant protection

Pests & symptoms

Control

Mites (red and white)(Raoiella indica Hirst andOligonychus indicus Hirst.)Feed on lower surface of arecanut leaves. The colony is found under white webs. The attack is severe in summer months

Spray Dicofol (Kelthane) 2 ml/lit/. of water

Or

Formothion (Anthio 25 EC) 1.5ml/lit of water Repeat spraying at an interval of 15-20 days if there is recurrence of pest

Spindle bug(Carvalhoia arecae Miller and China) inhabit the inner leaf axils suck sap from the tender leaflets and spindle-linear lesions turn necrotic at later stages

Placement of 2g Phorate granules (Thimet 10G) in perforated polybags in the innermost leaf axils of areca palms during April is an effective practice for maintenance of areca gardens free of spindle bug infestation.

Efficacy of the insecticide lasts for 8 months. As new leaves emerge polybags are to be shifted to the innermost leaf axils.

Root grub(Leucopholis burmeisteri Brenske)

Grubs feed on growing roots infested palms show a sickly appearance with yellowing of leaves, tapering of stem and reduction in yield.

Phorate (Thimet 10G) applied @ 15g per palm gives effective control of the pest. Apply Phorate to the soil around the plant twice a year, once in May before the onset of south-west monsoon and again in September-October after the monsoon. Repeat the treatment for 2-3 years continuously.

Collect the adult beetles from 18.30 to 19.30 hours, after 8-10 days of premonsoon showers and kill them.

Tender nut drop (Haliomorpha marmorea F)

Many reasons are attributed for this-A bug, Haliomorpha marmorea is associated with this problem.

To control the bug, spray Endosulphan 0.05% or Fenvolarate 0.02% to the bunches of the affected palm and few palms around it.

Scale insect (Red scale, Aonidiella orientalis and Mussel scale Ischnaspis longinostris)

The scale insects are seen feeding on nuts, rechillae, and leaves- the damage is done by sucking the sap from the plant tissues as a result of continuous sucking, the tissues become yellow in colour and severe feeding leads to whithering and shedding of buttons/fruits-the damage is heavy during drought situation.

Chemical control is not advocated against the scale insects, as the beneficial biocontrol agents are killed by the insecticide spray. Ladybird beetles, Chilocours nigrita and Chilocorus circumdatus are found to be effective biocontrol agents against the scale insects attacking arecanut. These can be released in the affected areca garden to control the scale insects.

Inflorescence caterpillar(Tirathaba mundella) causes damage to areca inflorescence.

Affected spadices may be force-opend and if all the female flowers have been damaged, the inflorescence should be removed and burnt. If damage is partial, remove affected portion and spray Malathion (0.125%).

Disease & symptoms

Control

Koleroga or Mahali (Phytophthora arecae)

Heavy shedding of nuts during rainy season water soaked lesions are formed near the perianth end and gradually covering the entire surface of the nut the nut becomes dark green finally leads to nut shedding.

Spray Bordeaux mixture 1% to the bunches at least two times at an interval of 45 days. The first spray should be given immediately after the first few monsoon showers. If the monsoon prolongs, a third spray is essential. Collect all the infected nuts and other plant parts and destroy it. Covering the bunches with polybags gives a complete control.

Bud rot (Phytophthora arecae)

Yellowing of spindle leaf rotting of growing bud and surrounding tissues palm emits a disagreeable odour.

Remove the infected tissue completely and treat the wound with Bordeaux paste. Spray Bordeaux mixture (1%) to the crown of healthy palms which are in the vicinity of the affected palm.

Remove koleroga affected bunches and destroy them.

Inflorescence dieback and button shedding(Collectotrichum gloeosporioides)

Yellowing and drying of rachis from the tip towards the base followed by shedding of female flowers or buttons caused by several factors. Collectotrichum gloeosporioides, a fungus is also associated with this disease.

To control the fungus, spray Indofil M-45 @ 3g/it of water at the time of opening of female flowers in most of the inflorescences. If necessary, second spray should be given 25 days after the first spray. Remove the fully affected inflorescences and destroy them by burning to prevent the spread and severity of the disease.

Anabe roga or foot rot (Ganoderma lucidum)

Yellowing of outer whorl of leaves which gradually extends to the inner whorls.

It is difficult to identify the diseased palm in the early stages of infection. Proper management of the garden is the best way to check the occurrence of the disease. Improve the drainage. Drench the root zone of the affected palm with 0.3% Calixin at quarterly intervals@ 15-20 ltrs per palm+root feeding of calixin (125ml/palm) during January, March, July and October. Apply 2 kg neem cake per palm per year phytosanitory measures like cutting and burning of the dead palms along with bole and roots should be followed strictly.

Band disease

Production of small, crinkled dark green leaves with brittle leaflcts, tapering of stem and reduction in internodal length.

This may be due to improper drainage or physiological disorder. Better soil management and provision of drainage are important to reduce the disease incidence.

Nut splitting

Premature yellowing of nuts where they are half to three fourth mature # followed by cracks at the tips which expand longitudinally towards the calyx exposing the kernal.

This is a physiological disorder. Sudden flush of water after a period of water stress is the main cause. Improvement in drainage and spraying of Borax @ 2g/1 are found effective.

Yellow Leaf Disease

Yellowing of leaves is the main symptom-yellowing starts from the tip of leaves in the mid whorl which spreads gradually extending from the margin to the middle of lamina-portions near the midrib remain green-in advanced stages, yellowing spreads to all leaves completely and they dry and fall off- kernel of the nuts of affected palms become soft, show blackish discoloration and assumes a spongy texture.

Since the disease is not amenable to control by conventional plant protection measures, other means of controlling the disease have to be adopted. Yield of palms in the disease affected garden can be sustained by adopting the recommended management practices such as balanced fertilizer application, application of additional dose of superphosphate with lime (1kg/palm), application of organic manure, provision of summer irrigation and provision of drainage. Remove the diseased palms in the mildly affected areas to prevent the spread of the disease and adopt need based plant protection measures against other pests and diseases.

Harvesting and processing

            Harvesting of nuts at correct stages is very important for obtaining the produce of better quality. In chali preparation, only ripe nuts are harvested. It should be ensured that fully ripe nuts alone are harvested for preparation of chali. The out-turn of Patora and Koka will be more if unripe or under-ripe nuts are harvested, which fetches only lower price in the market. After harvesting, the ripe nuts will have to be sun-dried for about 45 days. It is essential to spread the nuts uniformly in a single layer for drying. Proper drying of the nuts is important to prevent fungal infection of the nuts in the drying yard. Turning of nuts once a week may be attended for ensuring uniform drying and better quality of produce.
Tender nut processing

            If the market requirement is for the processed tender nuts, harvesting green fruits at an appropriate stage of about 6 months maturity is essential since produce prepared out of over  mature fruits fetches lower price in the market. The tender nut processing consists of dehusking, cutting the soft nuts into pieces, boiling cut pieces with water or dilute extract from a previous boiling and drying. After boiling, the arecanut pieces are given a coating with kali (a concentrated, thick extract obtained after boiling 3-4 batches of arecanut) to get a good glossy appearance. Both sun and oven drying can be adopted.

Alternative uses of Arecanut

Many studies have been conducted to find out the alternate use of the crop. The main constituents of arecanut are polyphenols, fat polysaccharides, fibre and protein. Besides these, nuts contain alkaloids viz. arecoline (0.1 - 0.7%) and others in trace amounts such as arecadine, guvacoline and guvacine. It was found that tannins, a by-product from the processing of immature nuts find use in dyeing clothes, tanning leather, as a food colour, as mordant in producing variety of shades with metallic salts etc. The nuts contain 8-12% of fat, which can be extracted and used for confectionery purposes. The refined fat is harder than cocoa butter and can be used for blending.

The medicinal properties were described by Vagbhata (in 4th Century AD) as effective against leucoderma, leprosy, cough, fits, worms anemia, obesity. Recent studies have shown that arecanut has pharmacological uses viz. Hypoglycemeic effect, mitotic activity, antihelminthic activity, cholinomimetic activity etc. However, several studies have also implicated arecanut to cause carcinogenesis. Further, arecanut also shows medicinal value in the following lines however these values are yet to be exploited for commercial use.

  • In the metabolic system as a digestive and carminative
  • Anti-diabetic (Research from Hyderabad Medical College )
  • Used against certain skin diseases
  • Used as aphrodisiac
  • Improves eyesight when used as Thamboola seva
  • Helps in relieving asthma
  • CFTRI Mysore has developed a soft drink concentrate called Pan Supari Nectar
  • For Low Blood Pressure (Old Arecanut)

     Arecanut husk finds use in preparations of hard boards, paperboards, cushions and non-woven fabrics besides being a good source of furfural. But all these are not commercially exploited due to the cost factors. The arecanut leaf sheath could be used for preparation of throwaway cups, plates, plyboards, tea chest, packing cases and suitcases and these are commercially exploited to some extent.

Tanins

Tannins are obtained as a by-product from the process of preparing immature betel nuts for masticatory purposes. It was found that tannic acid from the nut, when mixed with ferrous sulphate in warm distilled water gave black writing ink of acceptable quality. He used immature fallen nuts for this purpose. Other uses of tannin are as adhesive in plywood industries and as a textile dye.

Fats

The nuts contain 8-12 per cent fat. Fat from arecanut, can be extracted by solvent extraction using hexane. Areca fat has comparable characteristics with hydrogenated coconut oil. Areca fat can be made edible by refining with an alkali. The fat could be softened by fractional crystallization using hexane (25ºC) and randomization using sodium methoxide, which gave products desirable for use as confectionery fat. Simple blending of areca fat with butter fat and cocoa fat at 3:1 ratio followed by interesterification of areca fat and cocoa fat at 1:1 ratio gave good products acceptable in confectioneries.

Arecanut husk

It is the outer cover of areca fruit. It constitutes 60-80 per cent of the total volume and weight of the fruits (fresh weight basis). It is now being largely wasted except for being used as an inferior fuel and mulch. Several processes have been developed for utilization of areca husk for making hard boards, plastic and brown wrapping paper. Areca husk is used as a substrate for mushroom cultivation. Arecanut husk fibre was generally longer than woolenised jute, goat hair or coir fibre. About 50 per cent of arecanut husk fibre was finer than other fibres and the remaining 50 per cent of fibre was coarser than those fibres. The tenacity value of arecanut husk fibre was comparable with that of goat hair and woollenised jute. Wet weight of arecanut husk fibre was comparable with that of other fibres. The weight and thickness of all fibre reinforced plastic sheets were comparable. The proportion of fibre in the fibre reinforced plastic sheets varied between 7.6 and 9.9 per cent. The proportion of arecanut husk fibre was higher (9.12 per cent) in comparison with that of glass fibre (7.9 per cent), though the thickness and water swelling ie, increase in weight of the sheets by immersion in water for 20 days, values were same.

Areca leaf sheath

Leaf sheath is yet another raw material obtained from the arecanut palm. In a year palm sheds 5-6 leaves. A process has been developed for making plyboards from areca leaf sheath. These boards can be used for making suitcases, fileboards, and tea chests. Leaf sheath cup making machine is available in the market for making arecanut leaf sheath cups of different sizes and shape.

Arecanut leaf sheath was found suitable for making plyboards. Two plies of processed arecanut leaf sheaths in combination with an ordinary wood veneer as core glued with urea formaldehyde resin are used for making the plyboards. Leaf sheaths obtained from the farm are highly heterogenous having variations in structure, shape and thickness. The rear end is thicker and the two edges are thinner. The thickness at the center ranges from 3.0  8.5 mm (average 5.0 mm). A comparatively homogenous piece of fairly uniform thickness and size 50-65 x 20-25 cm can be obtained if a piece of about 10 cm length from either sides along the grain direction, 5 cm from the distal and 10-15 cm from the end across the grain direction are trimmed out from the sheath. Further, to get a flat sheath of uniform thickness and to remove the buck lings of folds, the sheath is flattened under pressure and heat. For this, the sheaths are soaked in water to about 75 per cent moisture and then pressed for 30 min in a hot Plate press at 4 kg/cm2 pressure and 110ºC temperature. This process gives flat sheaths of 1.0-1.5 mm thickness with about 12 per cent moisture. To prevent fungal growth on the sheath surface, it can be soaked in 1 per cent copper sulphate solution for 24 hr before pressing. The pressed sheaths are then air dried for one hour or longer. The arecanut leaf sheath plyboards made with two veneers of areca sheaths as the faces and one veneer of even an ordinary wood species like Mango as core ply and bonded with Urea formaldehyde resin make commercially acceptable boards with average dry and wet glue shear strengths of 50 kg and 12 kg respectively.

Arecanut stem and leaf

Arecanut stem forms a useful building material in the villages and is widely used in arecanut growing area for a variety of construction purposes. The leaves are good source of organic manure.  Their approximate composition is N2 (0.94 per cent); P2O5 (0.096  per cent) and K20 (1.00  per cent).