Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.) plantation — An age old agroforestry system in Eastern Himalayas
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Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.) is a shade loving plant grown in the Indian hill states of Sikkim and Dargeeling district of West Bengal. About 30 important tree species are used to provide shade to the cardamom plants. Alnus nepalensis, a deciduous, nitrogen fixing and fast growing tree, is the species most commonly underplanted with cardamom. In addition to providing shade, it is also used for fuelwood. The old trees are cut and young plants coming up are allowed to grow in cyclic order. The quick decomposing leaf litter of A. nepalensis also fertilises the cardamom plants. The nitrogen added to the soil in this way has been found to be as high as 249 kg/ha. Large cardamom thrives well in a moist soil, which is maintained by water diverted from seasonal springs on the upper slopes. The system is well suited to conserving soil, water and tree cover of the characteristically steep slopes of the region. Moreover, the management inputs required for growing cardamom are low but the crop gives a higher financial return than rice or maize. The shade trees used in the system are also a major source of fuel, fodder and timber, especially as access to state owned forests is restricted by legislation. However, increasing incidence of viral chirkey and foorkey disease, panicle rot and capsule borer are reducing the cardamom productivity. It has been observed that integrating dairying and apiculture will further augment profitability from large cardamom agroforestry system.
Key wordsLarge cardamom varieties shade tree species nutrient fodder fuel minor timber water springs disease and pests food flavouring agent Sikkim
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