nutmeg cultivation in india

nutmeg cultivation in india

Botanical name of Nutmeg is Myristica fragrans. In Hindi, it is known as ‘jaiphal’. Nutmeg is a dioecious, perennial plant. Nutmeg is an evergreen, conical tree reaching a height of about 10 meters. Nutmeg is grown for nutmeg kernels and mace. Commercial nutmeg is the dried kernel of seed, whereas mace is dried aril surrounding the seeds. Warm, humid climate is most suitable for nutmeg cultivation. Nutmeg grows well up to 1,300m above mean sea-level and with an annual rainfall of 150 cm or more.

Andaman and Nicobar islands has got one of the best tropical and sub-tropical climate with good rainfall which is much suited for nutmeg cultivation. The area under nutmeg cultivation here is 21 ha. with a total production of 31,5000 Nos. of nutmeg. We can very much increase the production of nutmeg by practicing scientific cultural practices and also taking nutmeg as an intercrop in the existing arecanut and coconut gardens. Nutmeg (Myristica fragcans) is the fruit of an evergreen tree reaching a height of about 10 m. It Produces two distinctly different spices – nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the dried kernel of seed, whereas mace is the dried aril surrounding the seeds. 

Nutmeg thrives well in warm, humid, conditions in locations with an annual rainfall of 150 cm and more. It grows well up to 1300 m above mean sea level. Clay loam, sandy loam and red laterite soils are ideal for its cultivation. Dry climate and water logged conditions are not good for nutmeg cultivation. 

Nutmeg is usually propagated by seeds. Its tree being perennial and dioceious in nature, an alternate method for vegetative propagation is in progress. Epicotyl grafting, approach grafting and patch budding have proved successful in nutmeg. However epicotyl grafting is adopted widely for its propagation for overcoming the problem due to the dioceious nature of the plant.

Naturally split, healthy fruits harvested during June – July are used for raising nursery. The seeds are extracted from the pericarp and sown immediately in sand beds of convenient length, 1-1.5 m breadth and 15 cm height. Regular watering is necessary for good germination. The germination commences from 30 – 90 days after sowing. About 20 days old sprouts are transplanted to polythene bags containing a mixture of top soil, sand and well–decomposed cow dung in 2: 2: 1 ratio. About 18–24 months old seedlings are used for transplanting in the field.

The planting in the main field is done at the onset of rainy season. A spacing of 6 – 7 m appears to be adequate. For graft 5mx5m spacing is optimum. Pits of 0.75 m x 0.75 m x 0.75 m size are dug and filled with organic manure and soil 15 days earlier to planting. 
The plants should be shaded in the early stages to protect from sun scorch. Permanent shade trees are planted when the site is on a hilly slope when nutmeg is grown as a monocrop. It can best be grown as an intercrop in old coconut gardens, where light shade conditions are suitable. Nutmeg requires irrigation in summer. 

Manures are applied in shallow trenches dug around the plants. A dose of 20 gm N (40 g urea), 18 gm P2O5 (100 g rock phosphate) and 50 gm K2O (80 g Murate of potash) per tree per year during the initial year and 500 gm N (1090 g urea), 250 gm P2O5 (1380 g rock phosphate), and 100 gm K2O (1670 g Murate of potash) per tree in subsequent years for a fully grown up tree of 15 years or more is recommended. Manuring twice a year, first in May as pre-monsoon and second in November as post monsoon application. 

Cultivation Practices

Raising of Seedlings 
Freshly harvested, healthy but naturally-split nutmeg fruits are used for seed propagation. Seeds are sown directly on the seed beds. Sandy soils are used for preparing seed beds of any length but 1–1.5m in width, and 15cm in height. A light irrigation is done soon after sowing and thereafter irrigation is done as and when required. Germination of seeds commences from 30–90 days after sowing.

20 - 25 days old seedlings are transplanted to polythene bags containing a mixture of good soil, sand and well-decomposed cow dung in a 3:3:1 ratio. About two year old seedlings are used for transplanting in the main field.

Field Preparation 
Field is prepared by adding farm yard manure and organic matter to enrich the soil fertility. Pits of 0.75m × 0.75m × 0.75m size are dug and filled with organic manure and top soil 15 days prior to planting.

Ideal time for planting nutmeg seedlings in the main field is at the onset of rainy season.

For seedlings, a spacing of 6–7m is adequate. For grafts, 5m × 5m spacing is optimum.

Nutmeg is generally grown as an intercrop in coconut, clove, coffee or arecanut plantations where young nutmeg plants are shaded naturally by the tall –growing plantation crops. But if nutmeg is grown as a monocrop, permanent shade trees must be planted well ahead of planting of nutmeg seedlings.

Fertilization schedule 
Organic manures and organic fertilizers are best suitable for nutmeg cultivation. Bone-meal is also very popular among the nutmeg growers. Recommended fertilizer doses for commercial cultivation nutmeg in India are, 20g N(40g urea), 18g P2O5 (110g superphosphate) and 50g K2O (80g muriate of potash) per plant during the initial year and 500g N (1,090g urea), 250g P2O5 (1,560g superphosphate) and 100g K2O (1,670g muriate of potash) per plant per year in subsequent years.

Weeding and Mulching 
Mulching of plant basins with dried leaves or any other mulching material is an essential practice for nutmeg cultivation. Weeding is also an important intercultural operation and must be carried as and when required to keep the field weed free.

Irrigation is necessary soon after planting seedlings in the main field and also during summer seasons. At other times, irrigation is done as and when required.

The female nutmeg tree starts fruiting from the sixth year, the peak harvesting period reaches after 20 years. The fruits are ready for harvesting 9 months after flowering. Flowering and harvesting continue throughout the year. But June– August is the peak period. The fruits ripen and become ready for harvesting when their pericarp splits open. Harvesting is done manually using a bill hook.

Postharvest management
Harvested fruits are split open, the outer fleshy portion is removed, and the mace is manually separated from the nut. The nuts and mace are dried separately on a drying yard, or on a platform arranged in a kitchen. The scarlet colored mace gradually becomes yellowish-brown and brittle when drying is completed.

Processed Products of Nutmeg

Nutmeg Powder or Ground Nutmeg 
Dried nutmeg seeds are used for grinding in order to prepare fine powder of nutmeg.

Nutmeg Pickles 
Fleshy pericarp of nutmeg fruits are used for making pickles, jams and jellies.

Nutmeg Oil 
Nutmeg oil is extracted from nutmeg powder and it is rich in borneol and eugenol. Nutmeg essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of ground nutmeg.

Uses of Nutmeg Oil 
Nutmeg oil is extensively used in perfumeries and pharmaceutical industries. Nutmeg oil is an essential ingredient in the manufacturing of tooth paste, cough syrups, and many traditional medicinal preparations. Nutmeg essential oil is used as a substitute for ground nutmeg or nutmeg powder in various food preparations as a flavoring agent.

Health Benefits of Nutmeg and Nutmeg oil 
Nutmeg is extensively used in traditional medicinal preparations because of its various medicinal properties. Nutmeg is used as an appetizer as it encourages appetite. Nutmeg cures constipation and gallstones. It is also recommended in ayurveda as a tonic for the reproductive system. Nutmeg cures keratin menstrual disorders by regulating scanty periods. Nutmeg is used for curing sexual problems such as frigidity and impotence. Nutmeg is recommended for aiding child birth also by strengthening contractions.

Nutmeg oil is used in ayurvedic medicine as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, analgesic, antirheumatic, carminative, digestive, emmenagogue, parturient, stimulant laxative and tonic. Nutmeg powder if consumed in low doses has several health benefits as the compound macelignan present in nutmeg powder exerts antimicrobial activity against various bacterial infections including carcinogenic bacteria. Nutmeg oil may be applied externally for relieving rheumatic pain, tooth ache, and for curing digestive upsets and bad breath. Nutmeg oil in combination with honey is a best traditional medicine for curing chronic diarrhea, nausea, gastroenteritis, and indigestion.

Nutmeg Oil and Aroma Therapy 
Use of nutmeg oil is recommended for aroma therapy or vapor therapy because of the various medicinal and cosmetic properties of nutmeg oil. Nutmeg oil stimulates the heart and blood circulation Nutmeg oil fights inflammations of body and relieves rheumatic pain. Nutmeg oil when used for body massage acts as a stimulant and an invigorating agent for mind. Nutmeg oil revives people from fainting spells, and stimulates digestive system. Nutmeg oil with its pleasant aroma helps fighting wind, chronic vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.

Blend of Nutmeg Oil and Orange Oil 
Nutmeg oil may be used as blended massage oil in combination with orange oil. This blended oil massage is best for relieving muscular aches, gout, and rheumatism. It also cures gallstones, and arthritis. Blend of Nutmeg oil and orange oil also increase blood circulation, and cures digestive disorders and sexual problems.

Adverse Effects of Nutmeg 
Large doses of nutmeg powder may result in some side effects as it is reported that consuming nutmeg powder in large quantities may induce results similar to marijuana, a known drug. This intoxicating effect of nutmeg powder is attributed to the presence of a compound myristicin which is similar in chemical make up with methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Nutmeg oil when taken internally produces a hallucinogenic effect which is due to the presence of this same compound, myristicin.