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Steps in establishment of an Orchard

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After the selection of the site and drafting the plan, next comes the establishment of an orchard with fruit plants. For this, the selected site should be thoroughly surveyed for studying its size, topography, flow of irrigation water, drainage and fertility gradients. The positioning of main and subsidiary roads, wells, wind breaks etc.should be planned clearly. Steps: 
1.Clearing of the land: Preparation of the soil depends largely on its condition,previous history and grower‘s plans. If the land has been under cultivation and has been well
maintained, nothing further may be required. On the other hand if the site is a new one and was never under cultivation earlier, much has to be done well in advance for planting. If the land is a virgin land i.e. it is not under cultivation previously, the existing vegetation is to be cleared. Standing trees, shrubs, bushes etc. should be cut down and uprooted along with the stumps and removed. No vegetation should be left on the site. Otherwise, they may shade the young plants; compete for water, light and nutrients. Further, their removal at a later date is expensive and risky. All the stumps and roots may be removed. Otherwise they may harbour white ants, termite hills, diseases etc. and spread to the new plants. Along with vegetation, stones, rocks and ant hills, termite hills etc.should be removed. 

2.Leveling: Leveling is important for efficient irrigation, drainage to check soil erosion and also for improving appearance. If the land is sloppy contouring (if the slope is 3 to 10%) or terracing (if the slope is less than 10%) is to be done. During leveling sub soil should not be exposed. 

3.Fencing: Fencing is necessary to protect trees from stray cattle, human trespassing and also for attractiveness. The fence may be of stone, barbed wire or live fence. Growing of live fence is an expensive one. At the initial stage it may be cheap but afterwards the maintenance is costly. Live fence needs periodical punning or trimming to shape and also to control their growth and encouraging more branching. This is one of the costly items of the orchard cultivation. Characteristics of a good fence plant: Drought resistant Easy to raise from seed Quick growing Should have dense foliage Should stand severe pruning Should not be hard to secature Should be preferably thorny. Live fences are sown at the commencement of rainy season to minimize irrigation. They are dibbled in 3 rows; 20-30 cm apart in a trench dug 60 cm deep and manured soil. 
Examples of non-thorny fence plants: Tamarind, Thevitia, Lawsonia, Casuarina, Gliricidia etc. 
Examples of thorny fence plants: Agave, cactus, Prosophis, Commiphora barli, Inga dulcis etc.

4. Wind break plants: The wind breaks are provided to resist the velocity of wind which causes loss of bloom, wind erosion and evaporation of moisture and to keep the orchard warm by checking frost and cold waves. The beneficial effect of wind break is felt up to a distance equal to 3 times its height.
The characteristics of a tree suitable as wind break are:

  • It should be fast growing
  • It should be easily estabishable
  • It should be able to acclimatize to the environment
  • Should have dense canopy
  • It should not harbour pests and diseases
  • It should be frost resistant
  • It should be drought resistant
  • It can be propagated by various methods
  • Planting material should be easily available and cheap
  • It should have multipurpose uses like fuel wood, fodder etc.
  • It should with stand periodical pruning.
Some plants usually employed for growing as wind break plants are: Casuarina (Most effective in open sandy soils), Pterocarpus santalimus (Redsanders), Erythrina indica (Requires pruning to make tree top bushy),Cassia‘s and Polyalthia longifolia (Slow growing) are some trees which can also be used. For mango orchards, seedling mangoes and polyembryionic mangoes may be planted as wind breaks to provide chance seedlings and root stocks.
There should a spacing of 12m between the row of wind break and the first orchard row. This space may be occupied by roads and drains. The wind break trees should be planted closer than their spread so as to form a thick screen. A spacing of 5m is maximum for most plants. 

5.Roads and drains: These are laid out according to the plan prepared in advance taking the convenience and levels into consideration. Main irrigation channels also have to be plotted. Open drains should be straight, running parallel to the gradient. Silt catching devices should be employed in the drains. Covered drains should be filled with big stones at the base and smaller ones over them and the top 12 inches should be covered with the orchard soil so as not to impede ploughing and other operations. 

6.Tillage: Tillage including sub soil should be done thoroughly at this stage, since it cannot be done after planting without disturbing the roots of the trees. 

7.Sowing green manure crops: A green manure crop is sown thick and uniformly allover the area to be planted. Apart from the manurial value the crop reveals by its growth, infertile patches of the land, so that they can be examined and suitable steps are taken for amending them. 

8.Marking plant positions: The system of layout should be decided first. Then one of the fence lines or a road should be chosen as the base line. In deciding the base line, due regard should be given to appearance of the rows from the road along which the visitor or the manager is expected to walk. 

9.Digging and filling of pits: Generally the pits are dug 2 to 3 months in advance of planting i.e. March to May. Allow the pits to weather. A planting board (a plank about 1.5 m long or longer with two end notches and a center notch) is applied to the marking peg by its central notch and two pegs are driven at the end notches. Then the board and the marking pegs are removed and a pit of 1-meter cube is dug. The two pegs driven at the end notches remain in position on either side of the pit. All pits are dug similarly so that plant position is not altered at planting time. While digging, the topsoil should be kept on one side and the bottom soil on another side separately as the topsoil is somewhat fertile than the bottom soil. While filling the pits, the topsoil is mixed with farmyard manure or compost, leaf mould or green leaf and a kilogram of super phosphate. Then the pits are filled with the bottom layer of soil first and then with the topsoil mixed with the manures. The soil after filling should rise about a foot over the orchard level so as to allow for shrinkage on setting.

10.Filling of pits: Filling is done a fortnight or two after digging pits. The pits are filled with a mixture of Top soil; FYM, leaf mould and bone meal. Pits are filled a few inches above the ground level for shrinkage and settlement. 

11.Selection of plants from the nursery: Generally the plants are purchased fromthe nursery well in advance. The grower should visit the nursery and select the plants. Plants are selected on the basis of certain characters of the plants. Branching: The main branches on the young plants become leaders on a grown up tree. These branches arise on a plant at an angle (crotch).This crotch should neither wide nor narrow but it should be medium i.e. 40-50O. If the crotch is wider splitting or breaking of limbs will occur because of heavy crop load. If it is narrow (less than 30O) forms weak frame work. So plants having medium crotches are best. The branches on the trunk should not be opposite or in a whorl but alternate with at least 15cm spacing. Growth of the plant: The plants should be uniform in growth and is determined by uniform length of internodes. For immediate planting, plants in active growth should not be selected because they may wilt during transit and die on planting. Deciduous fruit plants should be planted when dormancy is about to terminate. They put up new growth quickly and establish early. Age of the plants: Growers generally prefer older plants believing that these plants come to bearing early. For this there is no experimental evidence. Younger plants make up in a few years and become equally vigorous and out grow older plants. So, no benefit of selecting older plants. Choosing young plants have many advantages like cheaper in cost, easier to transport and they withstand transplanting shock and easier to transplant. Pests and diseases: Plants should be free from pests and diseases like scale insects, mealy bugs, aphids, nematodes etc and diseases like canker, and viral diseases. 

12.Lifting and packing: Before lifting of plants from the nursery the nursery is thoroughly irrigated one day in advance for easy lifting of the plants without damage to the root system. Then the plants are lifted carefully along with a ball of earth attached to the root system. The roots are wrapped in straw or grass or covered with a gunny cloth and placed in a basket or a wooden crate for packing. Depending on the size of the basket or crate 6-7 plants are kept for each basket.4-5 long bamboo splinter or wooden pegs are forked into the sides of the basket and tied at the top. In between the plants and at the top of the basket after filling, the plants re covered with straw so as to avoid falling during transit.

13.Season of planting: The distribution of rainfall in the tropics and subtropics and the break of spring growth in temperate zone determine the season of planting. In tropical climate, most trees are planted between July and December and few in January also. In general planting is done during the monsoon in moderate rainfall areas and at the close of the monsoon in heavy rainfall areas. Planting should be done on cloudy days and preferably in the afternoons rather than in the morning. 

14.Planting: The planting board should be used at the time of setting the plants, so that they are in a perfect line. The plants should be set in the soil to the same level as it was in the nursery. The bud / graft joint should not be covered with soil. Plants should be irrigated once copiously to get the soil particles to closely adhere to the roots and also to drive away the air around the roots completely. The plants should be staked with a straight bamboo piece or other twig. Graft bandage should be removed if not already done. Any buds on the rootstocks should be rubbed off. 

15.Heeling inn: If the plants after transport are not directly planted in the field, they may be kept in shade in a slanting position along the side of a trench moistening the ball of earth .They may be left in this position till active growth commences by which time they should be planted in the field. This process is known as healing inn.
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