Melia Dubia, also known as the Malabar Neem Wood, is a tropical deciduous tree. It is a very fast-growing tree, particularly under irrigation. As a softwood tree, it grows best in well-drained, fertile soil. Very few side branches grow on this tree, which can be easily trimmed. It has a small, thin crown. This means that the owner of a Melia Dubia plantation can engage in intercropping by planting additional crops like groundnuts and grams; and with proper spacing of at least 15x 15 feet gap between the trees, farmers can also grow banana trees or coconut trees alongside.
Plantation of Melia Dubia trees involves very low-maintenance costs. It is cheaper than cultivating other timber trees. The primary challenge of the Melia Dubia farming is the low germination rate of its seedlings. Melia Dubia seeds have a hard seed coat, which interferes with germination. The seeds can be partially decomposed by placing them in cow dung heaps. About 5 kg of dung is required per 2 kg seeds. The dung should be moistened with water and kept under shade for about 2 months. Then, the outer seed coat will be soft and can be peeled away, exposing kernels that look like sunflower seeds.
Germinating Melia Dubia Seedlings
- The first step of growing Melia Dubia is germinating the seedlings. To begin this process, first, mix red soil with fine sand in a prepared seedbed. Then, the seed should be dibbled and irrigated twice per day- once in the morning and once in the evening. Cover the seedbed of your Melia Dubia nursery with plastic sheeting to maintain the moisture. The seedlings will germinate within 3 months of planting them. It is best to sow seeds during March-April.
- When the second leaves of the seedlings emerge completely, they should be removed from the nursery seedbed, and placed into polyethylene measuring 15 x 8 c, which is filled with red soil, fine sand, and organic manure.
- The seedlings will grow by up to 60cm (2 feet) in the next 30 days. Once they reach this height, they can be placed in the main Melia Dubia plantation field.
Plantation of Melia Dubia Saplings
- Dig the pit of 2 x 2 ft size and put 2-3 kgs of organic farmyard manure in each pit. Then close the pit with soil available from digging. After 10 days, open the pit slightly by ½ feet and add 40 gm of Phospho bacteria, Azospirillum, and Trichoderma Viride each in addition to 10-20 gm of Pseudomonas, and 100 gm of VAM (Vesicular Arbuscular Mycorrhiza), which helps in promoting good growth.
- Finally, plant the saplings. If the sapling's height is more, use support poles for each pit to avoid breaking of the sapling and irrigate. The rooted saplings are planted at the beginning of the monsoon or during monsoon so that irrigation is minimal or you can use drip irrigation for 2 years. The suggested pit size is 2 x 2 ft.
- The spacing must be 3.5m x 3.5m which will give better girth in a short duration. A large tree attains a height of 20m with a spreading crown and a cylindrical bole of 9m length x 1.2-1.5m girth.
- 6 to 9 months old saplings can be planted at an espacement of 3 x 3m or 3 x 4m. To get straight cylindrical boles, annual pruning is a must. The required spacing for plantation is 15 x 15 ft and around 300 to 425 trees can be planted in an acre. The suggested pit size is 24” x 24” x 24” cubes and the espacement of 12’ x 12’ is recommended.
- The proper spacing for the trees in your Melia Dubia plantation is
- 2 x 2m for pulp and plywood.
- 5 x 4.5m for plywood and furniture construction.
- 6 x 6m for construction timber.
- Irrigate the saplings once on the third day after planting. Then, light irrigation should be applied every 7-8 days. Take care not to over-irrigate, and prevent rainwater from stagnating around the plants during the rainy season. Make sure to provide adequate drainage, as excessive water will harm the tree. Within a month of about 4-8 months, the saplings will grow between 1.2-1.8 meters (4-6 feet)
- Pruning the tree as it grows will result in better-quality wood. Side branches may begin to emerge when the branches reach between 2-4m (6-12 feet) of height. It is advised to cut and prune them as they emerge at an interval of one every 15 days. Removing the side branches allows the man trunk to grow more quickly and produce higher-quality wood.
- Melia Dubia attains a height of about 20 feet after just 2 years of growth. Continue to prune and irrigate your trees properly, and they will grow quickly. It takes 3-4 years for the tree to mature be used in the paper and pulp industry. For plywood, it takes 5-7 years, while the trees used for construction timber must mature for 7-15 years.