Sandalwood (Chandan) Farming and cultivation
Chandan, also known as sandalwood, is an aromatic wood that is highly valued in India for its medicinal, cosmetic, and spiritual properties. Chandan has been an integral part of Indian culture and religion for centuries, and its demand is ever-increasing. In this article, we will discuss the farming and cultivation of Chandan in India.
Environmental Requirements for Chandan Farming
Chandan farming requires specific environmental conditions for optimum growth and yield. These include climate, soil, and water requirements.
Chandan thrives in tropical and sub-tropical regions with a temperature range of 10-40°C. The ideal temperature for Chandan cultivation is between 25-35°C. High humidity levels and rainfall of 800-2000 mm per year are suitable for Chandan growth.
Chandan prefers well-drained, deep, and sandy loam soils with a pH range of 5.5-7.5. The soil should be rich in organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Chandan requires regular and adequate watering for optimal growth and yield. Irrigation should be provided during the dry season and drought periods.
Varieties of Chandan
There are three types of Chandan, namely red, white, and yellow.
Red Chandan: This type of Chandan has a reddish-brown heartwood and is highly valued for its fragrance.
White Chandan: This type of Chandan has a pale yellowish-white heartwood and is primarily used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
Yellow Chandan: This type of Chandan has a yellowish-brown heartwood and is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Propagation Techniques of Chandan
Chandan can be propagated through seeds, cuttings, and tissue culture.
Seeds: Chandan seeds are collected from mature trees and sown in a nursery bed.
Cuttings: Stem cuttings of Chandan are taken from mature trees and planted in a rooting medium.
Tissue Culture: Chandan can also be propagated through tissue culture, which is a more advanced and expensive technique.
Chandan Plantation Establishment
The successful establishment of a Chandan plantation involves careful planning and management, which includes site selection, nursery management, and transplanting.
Site Selection: The site for Chandan plantation should be selected based on environmental factors such as climate, soil, and water availability. The site should also be free from pests and diseases, and have good access to transportation.
Nursery Management: Chandan seedlings are raised in nurseries for 6-12 months before transplanting. The nursery should be well-managed and have proper facilities for watering, shading, and pest and disease control.
Transplanting: Chandan seedlings are transplanted to the main field after 6-12 months of nursery growth. Transplanting is done during the rainy season, and the seedlings are planted at a spacing of 2-3 meters.
Management Practices in Chandan Cultivation
Chandan cultivation requires careful management practices to ensure optimal growth and yield.
Irrigation: Regular and adequate watering is essential for Chandan growth, especially during the dry season and drought periods.
Fertilization: Chandan responds well to organic and inorganic fertilizers. Fertilizers should be applied in split doses during the growing season.
Weed Control: Weeds should be controlled in Chandan plantations to prevent competition for resources such as nutrients, water, and sunlight.
Pruning and Training: Pruning and training are essential to shape Chandan trees for optimal growth and yield. Pruning should be done during the dry season to remove dead and diseased wood.
Pest and Disease Management in Chandan Farming
Chandan is susceptible to pests and diseases, which can significantly reduce yield and quality.
Insect Pests: Chandan is attacked by various insect pests, such as stem borers, scales, and mites. Pests can be controlled by using biological control agents or chemical pesticides.
Diseases: Chandan is susceptible to fungal and bacterial diseases, such as leaf blight and heart rot. Disease control measures include the use of disease-resistant varieties, crop rotation, and fungicides.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling of Chandan
Chandan is harvested when the heartwood is mature, which takes around 15-20 years. Harvesting is done by cutting the tree close to the ground, and the heartwood is extracted by sanding.
Processing Techniques: The extracted heartwood is processed by steam distillation to obtain Chandan oil, which is used in the perfume and cosmetic industries. The remaining wood can be used for carving or sold as incense sticks.
Value Addition: Value addition can be done by processing the Chandan wood into various products, such as furniture, handicrafts, and souvenirs.
Marketing and Economics of Chandan Farming
Chandan has a high demand in India and the international market, which makes it a profitable crop for farmers.
Domestic Market: Chandan is used in various industries such as perfumes, cosmetics, and Ayurvedic medicine. Chandan is also used in religious ceremonies and festivals.
Export Market: Chandan oil and wood have a high demand in the international market, especially in the perfume and cosmetic industries.
Economic Viability of Chandan Farming: Chandan farming can be profitable for farmers, but it requires careful planning and management. The economic viability of Chandan farming depends on various factors such as market demand, production costs, and yield.
Areas of Cultivation
Karnataka: Karnataka is the largest producer of sandalwood in India, particularly the districts of Mysore, Shimoga, Uttara Kannada, and Chamarajanagar. The state has ideal conditions for sandalwood growth, including well-drained soils and a moderate climate.
Tamil Nadu: The Nilgiri Hills and the districts of Coimbatore, Dindigul, and Madurai in Tamil Nadu are also known for sandalwood cultivation. The region’s hilly terrain and suitable climate provide a conducive environment for growing sandalwood trees.
Andhra Pradesh: The districts of Kadapa, Chittoor, and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh have significant sandalwood plantations. The state benefits from its hot and dry climate, which is suitable for sandalwood cultivation.
Kerala: Sandalwood cultivation can be found in certain parts of Kerala, particularly in the districts of Wayanad, Palakkad, and Thrissur. The hilly areas and humid climate of Kerala offer favorable conditions for sandalwood growth.
Maharashtra: The Sahyadri range in Maharashtra, particularly the regions of Kolhapur and Satara, have some sandalwood cultivation. These areas benefit from the Western Ghats’ climate and well-drained soils.
Rajasthan: The arid regions of Rajasthan, specifically the districts of Sikar, Jaipur, and Jaisalmer, have sandalwood cultivation. Despite the challenging climate, these areas have managed to establish sandalwood plantations.
Plantation, Spacing and trees per acre
The number of sandalwood trees per acre can vary depending on various factors, including the cultivation method, spacing between trees, and management practices. However, generally, sandalwood plantations are established with a recommended spacing of around 10 feet by 10 feet (3 meters by 3 meters) or 12 feet by 12 feet (3.6 meters by 3.6 meters) between individual trees.
Using the spacing of 10 feet by 10 feet, which is commonly used, approximately 435 trees can be planted per acre. Similarly, with a spacing of 12 feet by 12 feet, around 302 trees can be planted per acre.
It’s important to note that these numbers are rough estimates, and the actual density of sandalwood trees per acre may vary based on the specific cultivation practices followed by the grower. Additionally, some growers may opt for wider spacing to allow more space for individual tree growth and better air circulation, while others may choose closer spacing for higher yields in a shorter timeframe.
Age and time to harvest
The age at which sandalwood trees are harvested can vary depending on various factors, including the purpose of cultivation, the intended use of the wood, and the market demand. Here are some general guidelines for the age of sandalwood trees at harvest:
- Heartwood extraction: The primary value of sandalwood lies in its heartwood, which is highly aromatic and used for various purposes, including the production of essential oils, perfumes, and religious artifacts. For heartwood extraction, sandalwood trees are typically harvested when they reach a minimum age of 15 to 20 years. At this age, the trees have developed a sufficient amount of heartwood that contains the desired aromatic compounds.
- Seed production: In some cases, sandalwood trees may be cultivated for seed production rather than heartwood extraction. Sandalwood trees usually start producing seeds after they reach maturity, which is typically around 25 to 30 years of age. Harvesting for seed production is usually done when the fruits are ripe, allowing the collection of seeds for propagation.
Profitability and cost of sandalwood
Sandalwood farming can be a profitable venture, but several factors influence its profitability. Here are some key aspects to consider when evaluating the profitability of sandalwood farming:
- Market demand: The demand for sandalwood products, such as essential oils, perfumes, and religious artifacts, plays a crucial role in determining profitability. A strong and consistent market demand can result in higher prices for sandalwood products, increasing the potential profitability of sandalwood farming.
- Growth duration: Sandalwood trees have a relatively long gestation period before they reach maturity and develop sufficient heartwood for extraction. The time required for sandalwood trees to grow and reach harvestable age can impact profitability. Longer growth periods may require more significant investments and delayed returns.
- Cultivation costs: The initial establishment and ongoing management costs of sandalwood plantations can vary depending on factors like land preparation, seedling acquisition, irrigation, fertilization, pest control, and labor. These costs need to be carefully considered and managed to ensure profitability.
- Yield and quality: The yield and quality of sandalwood produced per acre play a significant role in profitability. Higher yields and superior quality heartwood result in increased revenue. Proper cultivation practices, such as appropriate spacing, regular pruning, and soil management, can enhance yield and quality.
- Government regulations: Some countries have regulations on the cultivation, harvesting, and trade of sandalwood. Compliance with these regulations and obtaining necessary permits or licenses may impact profitability. It is important to understand and adhere to relevant legal requirements.
- Value-added products: Diversifying income streams by producing value-added products, such as sandalwood-based cosmetics or incense sticks, can enhance profitability. Creating niche products or establishing direct sales channels can provide higher margins and increase overall profitability.
As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the price of sandalwood logs in India ranged from approximately INR 5,000 to INR 10,000 per kilogram, depending on the quality and grade of the wood. However, it’s essential to understand that these prices are subject to change and can vary based on market conditions and specific regional factors.
Chandan farming and cultivation in India have significant potential for farmers and the economy. However, it requires careful planning and management to ensure optimal growth and yield. With proper management practices and market access, Chandan farming can be a profitable and sustainable crop for Indian farmers.