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Satish Lele

Moringa Oleifera (Drumstick tree)

Introduction: Drumstick tree, also known as horseradish tree and ben tree, is a small to medium-sized, evergreen or deciduous tree native to northern India, Pakistan and Nepal. It is cultivated and has become naturalized well beyond its native range, including throughout South Asia, and in many countries of Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, tropical Africa, Central America, the Caribbean and tropical South America. The tree usually grows to 10 to 12 meters in height, with a spreading, open crown of drooping, brittle branches, feathery foliage of tripinnate leaves, and thick, corky, deeply fissured whitish bark. It is valued mainly for its edible fruits, leaves, flowers, roots, and seed oil, and is used extensively in traditional medicine throughout its native and introduced ranges.

Leaves and young shoots:Leaves are bipinnate or more commonly tripinnate, up to 450 mm long, and are alternate and spirally arranged on the twigs. Pinnae and pinnules are opposite; leaflets are 12 to 20 mm long and 6 to 10 mm wide. Lateral leaflets elliptic, the terminal ones obovate, petioles of lateral leaflets are 1.5 to 2.5 mm long, those of terminal ones 3 to 6 mm long. The leaflets are finely hairy, green and almost hairless on the upper surface, paler and hairless beneath, with red-tinged midveins, with entire (not toothed) margins, and are rounded or blunt-pointed at the apex and short-pointed at the base. The twigs are finely hairy and green, becoming brown.
Flowers, fruits and seeds: The fragrant, bisexual, yellowish white flowers are borne on slender, hairy stalks in spreading or drooping axillary clusters (panicles) 100 to 250 mm long. Individual flowers, set in a basal cup (hypanthium) 3 mm long, are approximately 7 to 10 mm long and 20 mm broad, with five unequal yellowish-white, thinly veined, spathulate petals, five stamens with five smaller sterile stamens (staminodes), and a pistil composed of a 1-celled ovary and slender style. The fruits are pendulous, linear, three-sided pods with nine longitudinal ridges, usually 200 to 500 mm long, but occasionally up to 1 meter or longer, and 20 to 25 mm broad. The pods, each usually containing up to 26 seeds, are dark green during their development, and take approximately 3 months to mature after flowering. They turn brown on maturity, and split open longitudinally along the three angles, releasing the dark brown, trigonous seeds. Seeds measure about 10 mm in diameter, with three whitish papery wings on the angles. Seed weights differ among varieties, ranging from 3,000 to 9,000 seeds per kg.

Applications / Uses: The wood of Moringa oleifera is little used except as a fuelwood and occasionally for light construction. In India, it is used to a limited extend in the textile industry for shuttles and picking-sticks and is suitable for pulp production for newsprint, cellophane, and textiles. The corky bark yields a coarse fiber, which is utilized in making mats, paper, and cordage. The stem exudes a mucilaginous gum that is used in leather tanning and calico printing. In many parts of its range, the leaves and twigs are used as fodder for cattle, sheep, goats, and camels. The flowers are a good source of pollen for honeybees.
The tree is mainly valued for its edible, tender pods, which have a taste very similar to asparagus. These are eaten as a nutritious vegetable, either cooked or pickled. The tender leaves taste like watercress and, along with the flowers, are eaten cooked or raw. They are rich in protein, minerals, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, and other vitamins, particularly vitamins A and C. The ascorbic acid (vitamin C) content of the green pods ranges from 92 to 126 mg per 100 g of pulp. The young fruits, flowers, and leaves contain 5 to 10% protein. The immature seeds, which taste like peanuts after frying, are also consumed raw or cooked. The roots, which have the pungent taste of horseradish, are used as a condiment or garnish after peeling, drying, and mixing with vinegar. The root bark must be completely removed as it is rich in alkaloids, notably moringine, a toxic compound allied to ephedrine.
The seeds contain 19 to 47% oil. Known commercially as ben oil, it is similar to olive oil and is rich in palmetic, stearic, behmic, and oleic acids, and is used for human consumption, and in cosmetics and soaps. The oil is highly valued by perfumers for its power of absorbing and retaining odors, and by watch makers as a lubricant. The oilcake is used as a fertilizer. The dried, powdered, seeds have been used, both in crude form and following extraction of their active principle in petroleum ether through a hot percolation process, as an effective and low-cost coagulant for removing turbidity and reducing bacterial and viral contamination from drinking water in rural communities in the Sudan, Malawi, India, Myanmar, and Indonesia. Leaf extracts have been found to increase Rhizobium root nodulation, nodule weight, and nitrogenase activity in mung bean when applied to seeds or as a root dressing.

The Demand :

Cultivation Process : Seedlings develop a swollen, tuberous, white taproot which has a characteristic pungent odor, and very sparse lateral roots. Trees grown from seeds develop a deep, stout taproot with a wide-spreading system of thick, tuberous lateral roots. Taproots do not develop on trees propagated from cuttings.

Plantation: Moringa oleifera grows rapidly on favorable sites, with height increments of 1 to 2 meters per year during the first 3 to 4 years. It is not known how long trees normally live. While trees rarely grow taller than 10 to 12 meters, they occasionally attain heights of up to 16 metrs with stem diameters of up to 750 mm. Fruit production begins as early as 6 to 8 months after planting in the case of trees raised from stem and branch cuttings.

Irrigation And Intercropping:

Plant Protection:

Harvesting and Yield: Fruit yields are generally low during the first 2 years, but from the third year onward, a single tree can yield between 600 and 1,600 fruits each year.

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