Litchi is one of the important fruits which can be grown successfully in the sub-montane part of the Punjab State comprising parts of Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Roopnagar, SAS Nagar Mohali and Patiala districts. In view of the export possibilities of litchi fruit from Punjab, its future appears to be quite bright.
Climate and Soil
The climatic conditions of sub-montane tract of Punjab are suitabale for the growth and fruiting of litchi. In these areas summers are quite hot to encourage vegetative growth of plants and winters are cool enough to provide 200-300 hours of chilling temperature to facilitate fruit bud differentiation in litchi. Quite frequently, summer temperature rises above 40'C during the period of fruit growth and development. This is favorable for sun-burning and cracking of fruits to varying intensities in all the recommended cultivars.Litchi likes a deep, fertile, well-drained, medium textured soil,which is free from hard pans of any kind and salinity. Preferably,the soil pH should be around 7.5 to 8.0. In high pH and saline soils,litchi is difficult to establish and flourish. Therefore, such soils should be avoided.
Dehra Dun (1967) : It is an early, regular and heavy-bearing cultivar, with fruits ripening in the second week of June. Its fruit shave an attractive color but are prone to splitting. The pulp is sweet,moderately juicy, medium soft in texture, juice has 17 per cent TSS and 0.48 per cent acidity. The pulp stone ratio is 3.75:1.
Calcuttia (1967) : It is heavy bearing cultivar with excellent fruit quality. Its fruits are large, attractive mature in the third week of June. It is less prone to cracking. The pulp is sweet and soft in texture, moderately juicy with good flavor, juice has 18% TSS and 0.49% acidity. The pulp/stone ratio is 4.78:1.
Seedless Late (1967) : It has shriveled seed and a much greater proportion of flesh in the fruit. Fruits mature in the third week of June and are more prone to splitting than Calcutta. It is prone to irregular bearing. Fruits are deep carmine red, pulp is soft, sweet and very 67 68 juicy with an agreeable flavor, juice has 18.7 per cent TSS and 0.3 per cent acidity. The pulp/stone ratio is 28:1. It comes into bearing rather late.
Litchi is propagated commercially by air-layering (gootee). Aterminal branch, 45-60 cm long and 1.0-1.25 cm thick is selected. A4 cm wide ring of bark is removed with a sharp knife. Place wet moss or roots of water hyancinth on the exposed portion and wrap it with polythene sheet. The ends of wrapped polythene sheet should be tied tightly.
The rooting starts after about 4 weeks. However, the gootee should be severed from the mother tree only when a good number of roots have developed. After severing from the mother tree, remove the polythene sheet and immediately plant the gootee in a nursery bed. Apply irrigation to the gootee after plantation in the nursery.Middle of July to September are the best months for the air layering of litchi.
Litchi should be planted towards the end of the rainy season when the environmental temperature becomes moderate and the atmosphere has high humidity i.e. in September. Two year old plants should be planted in the field as it considerably reduces field mortality.Young litchi plants if purchased should be planted in the nursery.
Protection of Young Plants Against Cold and Hot Weather
The young litchi plants need protection against winter frost and summer winds up to 4-5 years. Cover the plants with locally available materials like sarkanda. Growing of dhaincha around the young plants provide good protection in summer and winter. The dhaincha seed should be sown around plants in the basin in the middle of February. It grows sufficiently by the middle of April to provide shade to the plants of litchi. Dhaincha can be tied in winter to act as protection against frost. The open spaces in dhaincha stems can be plugged with locally available straw. Root pruning of dhaincha plantsis necessary to avoid competition with litchi roots. It should be done three or four times in a year.
Wind Breaks: Litchi orchards should be protected from strong winds which can cause the uprooting of trees and drop of flower sand fruits. A row of tall growing trees such as seedling mango,Jamun, Eucalyptus etc. should be planted around the orchard.
Manures and Fertilizers
Dose per tree (g)Age of tree Farmyard Urea Superphosphate Muriate of Potash(years) manure (kg)1-3 10-20 150-500 200-600 60-1504-6 25-40 500-1000 750-1250 200-3007-10 40-50 1000-1500 1500-2000 300-500 Above 10 60 1600 2250 600 Farmyard manure, superphosphate and muriate of potash should be applied in December. Half of urea should be applied in the middle of February and the other half in the middle of April after fruit set.
Litchi should be carefully irrigated at all stages of development.Irrigate young plants twice a week during April-June and at weekly intervals in winter. In bearing trees, irrigation need is critical during fruit development which occurs from the second week of May to the end of June. Twice a week irrigation during this period reduces cracking of fruits to a great extent and helps in proper size development.
After the withdrawal of monsoon young orchards should be irrigated at weekly/fortnightly intervals from September on wards. Butto the bearing orchards irrigation should be applied at the end of November or first week of December to protect it from frost injury.Later on irrigation during winter should be applied depending upon rain and soil moisture conditions.
Litchi is a slow growing plant and it takes about ten years to come into commercial bearing. Moreover there is sufficient space in the orchard to grow inter crops. Besides inter cropping quick growing fruit plants such as peach, plum and Kinnow can be inter planted in litchi orchards. As soon as the litchi orchard comes into commercial bearing the filler plants should be uprooted.
The growing of inter crops not only provides income to the farmer but give protection to the young plants and keep the weeds under 69 70 control. The type of inter crops depends upon the soil, climate as well as the marketing facilities. Pulses and vegetables should be preferred as inter crops. The irrigation for inter crop and orchard should be independent.
Fruit Maturity and Harvesting
The fruit is harvested in bunches. As the whole of the fruits do not ripe at one time, spot picking is done. The fruit should be harvested with as little foliage as possible. The fruit is then packed in small baskets and sent to the market.
A. Insect Pests
A number of insects and mite pests are damaging the litchi plants and fruits in the State. Among the various pests, leaf curl mite, fruit borer (especially Blastobasis sp.), leaf roller (Tortrixepicyrta) and bark eating caterpillar are very serious.