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Home > Spice Farming > Greater Cardamom
Greater Cardamom Spice Farming
Greater CardamomClimate and Soil
The crop grows well under the shade. of forest trees in the sub Himalayan mountains at altitudes ranging from 1000 to 2000 m. above mean sea level with rainfall of 3000 to 3500 mm distributed in about 200 days a year. The crop is at present grown in some relatively drier shadow areas also but the productivity there is much low. Deep and well drained soils with loamy texture are best suited. Large cardamom soil is generally rich in organic matter and nitrogen, medium in available phosphorous and medium to high in available potash. pH ranges from 4.5 to 6.0. Even though the crop can be grown in undulating and steep terrains, land with moderate slope is preferred.

Large cardamom grows well in forest loamy soils with gentle to medium slopes. Water logged condition is detrimental to the growth of the plants. It performs well under shade.

Land Conditions
Planting is done during June-July when there is enough moisture in the soil. The land selected for planting is cleared of all under growth, weeds etc. Pits of size 30 x 30 x 30 cm are prepared at a spacing of 1.5 x 1.5 m after the onset of monsoon showers. The pits are left for weathering for a fortnight and then filled with topsoil mixed with cowdung or compost. Seedlings/Suckers are planted in the centre of the pits. Care should be taken not to plant the seedling/rhizome very deep in the pit. After planting the seedling/ suckers may be staked and the base of the plant is mulched with dried leaves.

For a sustained production the soil fertility should be maintained to its optimum. Well decomposed cattle manure/ compost or organic products, non-edible oil cakes may be applied atleast once in two years in April- May.

Weed control in the plantations is important for the maximum utilization of the available soil moisture and nutrients by the plant. Three rounds of weeding are required for effective control of the weed growth in the initial two to three years. Weeding can be either hand weeding or sickle weeding depending upon the intensity of weed growth. From around the plant base the weeds can I)e pulled out by hand and the weeds in the inter space need only be slashed with sickle. Clean weeding may be avoided. While weeding, dried shoots and other trashed materials can be used as mulch around the plant base to conserve soil moisture in the ensuing dry months, and to prevent weed growth around the plant base.

It is observed that productivity is higher in plantations where irrigation is provided. In some of the large cardamom plantations, water sources are available which can be exploited to irrigate the crop by gravity flow, either through pipes, sprinklers or flood irrigation through open channels. The plants may be watered during dry months. Depending on availability of water sources hose or sprinkler or flood irrigation through channels can be adopted.

Although there are many species of insects and pests, large cardamom is free from the attack of any major pests except for the sporadic incidence of leaf eating caterpillars. Aphids are found in most of the areas, which transmits virus diseases viz. Chirke and Foorkey.

Diseases Problem due to fungal or bacterial diseases are seldom reported in this crop. Only minor diseases like leaf streak or rot diseases are found in isolated areas. The major threat to large cardamom is the widespread occurence of the viral diseases; viz; Chirke.and Foorkey. The diseases are seen throughout the large cardamom growing tracts of Sikkim and Darjeeling District of West Bengal. They cause considerable crop loss. Spread of Chirke is faster than Foorkey.

Management of viral diseases
Being a viral disease, the affected plants cannot be cured but the losses can be minimized by adopting appropriate management practices.
Constant vigil must be kept to detect disease affected plants. Regular roughing of infected plants to be adopted as soon as symptoms appear ( uproot and destroy affected plants). Repeat detection and roughing at regular intervals. Use seedlings produced in certified nurseries. Propagation through suckers is recommended only through certified multiplication nurseries

Harvesting and Curing
The indication of time of harvest is when the seeds of topmost capsules turns brown. As soon as the said colour appears and to enhance maturity bearing tillers are cut to a height of 30-45 cm and left for another 10-15 days for full maturity. The spikes are harvested by using special knives known as `Elaichichhuri`. The harvested spikes are heaped and capsules seperated and dried. The cured capsules are rubbed on wire mesh for clearing and removal of calyx .

The properly dried capsules should be allowed to cool and then packed in polythene lined jute bags. The bags may be stored on wooden platform to avoid absorption of moisture, which may result in fungus growth damaging the stored produce.
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