Cashew is a fast growing plant that grows on a tropical evergreen tree. The plant is native to Brazil and was brought to India in the late 16th century by the Portuguese. Now it is cultivated in around 28 countries that have tropical types of climate. According to a 2007 FAO report, total area of land for Cashew farming was estimated around 3,953,175 hectares which was 665% more than in 1961.
In the year 2019, about 3.96 million metric tonnes of total cashew was produced of which Vietnam being the largest producer of Cashew nuts had produced 2,598,220 tonnes of Cashew, followed by India, Ivory coast, Philippines, Benin, Tanzania etc. India had a total production of about 786,326 tonnes in 2019.
Cashew is an export oriented crop and it was first farmed for soil conservation and afforestation purposes, but it has emerged as a major foreign exchange earner after tea and coffee plantations. The fruit is highly nutritious and has a delightful taste.
The cashew tree produces nut (seed) and cashew apple and is one of the most important nuts grown in the world and is even ranked first among the other nuts such as Hazelnuts, Almonds etc. Cashew trees have a lifespan of 60 years annually producing about 1 tonnes per hectare depending upon the cultivar and management skills.
Cashew farming is a long term project and is highly profitable if you grow it properly with the right marketing strategy. You just need an adequate amount of land for Cashew cultivation and the right farming skills and it will earn you a good amount of profit as the plant has a very good demand and value.
We will learn about the Cultivation requirements of Cashew in this article, starting with the basic Introduction of the fruit.
Cashew – An Introduction
Cashew nut or Anacardium occidentale is an evergreen tropical tree belonging to the family of Anacardiaceae. The dwarf variety of Cashew grows upto 6 metres while the tall variety can even grow up to 14 metres.
However, the dwarf variety produces more, giving more profits. Cashew nuts can be used and consumed in various ways. Apart from the nuts, other parts such as shells, leaves, sap from bark etc can also be harvested.
The leaves yield tan, shells yield cashew nut oil and the sap from bark yields you indelible ink. The cashew nut shells are even used in paints and lubricants.
Cashew nuts are generally harvested for three products – the nuts, the fruit (Cashew apple) and the nut shell liquid. The fruit of the tree is called ‘pseudocarp’ and the edible nut is ranked second in the international market.
The nut hangs below the fruit and is curved in shape. The fruit contains a chemical on the skin called ‘urushiol’ because of which the sweet astringent taste of cashew comes. For consuming the fruit, it is initially steamed and washed in cold water to remove the waxy substance from the skin.
The Apple or fruit of the Cashew is often consumed fresh or cooked and is even fermented to form vinegar or alcoholic drinks and the oil produced from the shell is a resin which is yellow in colour that comprises of 70% Anacardic acid, 18% Cardol and 5% Cardanol and is used for preparing drugs, antioxidants, fungicides and biomaterials.
Cashew tree is a large evergreen tree with short trunk and irregular branches with a maximum height of 14 m which is symmetrically spread upto 25 m. The leaves of the tree are elliptical, broad, leathery and are arranged in a spiral form.
The cashew plant develops flowers at the panicle which is initially pale green in colour that turns red upon maturing and has five slender petals. The flowers usually grow in clusters. The plant bears pear shaped fruits that are generally red or yellow in colour and at the end of the fruit is the edible nut which is double shelled and kidney shaped.
It is one of the fastest growing trees where the seedling trees flower in the third year and the fruits mature in just 2 months. The fruit is majorly produced in the coastal regions of Asia.
The tree has a lifespan of about 60 years but it can bear nuts for only 20 to 30 years at the maximum. Cashew nuts are an unavoidable snack in all social functions, especially in western countries. It has a great demand and export market as well.
Major Cashew Producing Countries
Cashew is produced in tropical climatic regions. The fruit is native to Brazil but is now grown in about 28 countries that favour its climatic conditions. Here is a list of top 10 countries in the world that produces Cashew.
- Ivory Coast
Health Benefits of Cashew
The cashew nuts are rich in Carbohydrates, Fibre, Protein, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Vitamin B and C and some amount of a DFE folate and fat. It also contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids due to which it offers numerous health benefits of which some are mentioned below.
- The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and also regulates the levels of LDL cholesterol.
- Magnesium helps in enzymatic reactions in the human body, relaxing of muscles and also lowering the risk of abdominal artery calcification.
- The nuts boost the metabolism in the body and contribute to weight loss.
- It reduces the risk of gallbladder problems.
- It reduces the problems related to low bone mineral density and also maintains the collagen content in the body.
- It is good for the heart, nerves and bones.
- It prevents colon, prostate and liver cancers.
- It supports healthy brain functions.
- It is good for skin health.
- It lowers the risk of diabetes.
Varieties/Cultivars of Cashew Nuts
There are about 30 varieties of Cashew nuts that are farmed in different regions of India producing a good yield of about 8 to 10 kgs per tree. The different varieties according to their regions are:
- Andhra Pradesh – BPP 1, BPP 2, BPP 3, BPP 4, BPP 5, BPP 6, BPP 9/8, TNo. 39 TNo.1, TNo.56, m44/3, BPP 10, BPP 11.
- Karnataka – Ullal 1, Ullal-2, Ullal-3, Ullal-4, UN 50, NRCC1, NRCC3, selection-1, selection 2, chintamani-1.
- Kerala – Anakkayam-1, BLA 39-4, K30.1, K-22-1, NDR-2-1, BLA-139-1, BLA 273-1, M-25/1, M262-2, M3/4, Madakkathara-1, Madakkathara 2, Dhana, and Priyanka.
- Maharashtra – Vengurla (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)
- Orissa – Bhubaneswar 1 and WBDC 1
- West Bengal – Jhargram 1
- Tamil Nadu – VRI (1,2 and 3) and BRI-1
- Madhya Pradesh – TNo 40
- Goa – Goa 1, Vengurla 4, Vengurla 7, Vengurla 8, Bhaskara (Goa 11/6)
Cashew Farming is mostly taken up in 8 states of India mainly in the eastern and western coasts viz. Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. It is also grown in some parts of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.
According to the 2010-11 census, India has about 9.53 lakh ha of land for Cashew cultivation which produces about 6.74 lakh tonnes of raw Cashew nuts and it accounts to 23% of the global production. The cultivation process involves millions of people, mostly womens (90%) and a large number of peoples earn their livelihood through Cashew farming.
Economic Importance of Cashew Farming
Cashew nuts are important in many confectionery items. The kernels are finely chopped and used in sweets, ice cream, cake and chocolates, both at home and even in industries. It is also used as pastes in breads and various other dishes as an important ingredient.
The oil derived from the kernel is also used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The cashew nut shells are used in making paints, resins, flame retardants etc. The covering of the kernel, testa, contains tannin that is used in the leather industry.
The Cashew apple is rich in Vitamin C which is a pseudo fruit, used in the treatment of scurvy, diarrhoea, uterine complaints and dropsy.
Soil Requirement in Cashew Farming
Cashews can grow on a wide range of soils as it adapts itself to varying soil conditions. However, Red sandy loam soil is best suited for its cultivation. The soil should be well drained and rich in organic matter.
However, you should go for a soil test to find the soil fertility and if there are any nutrient and micronutrient deficiencies then it should be supplemented in the soil. The best ideal pH level for cashew nut farming is 5.0 to 6.5.
The plains as well as hillslopes having 600 to 750 ft elevation is suitable for farming. Water stagnation, flooding and pH level above 8.0 should be avoided. Excessive alkaline or saline soil are also not supportive to its growth.
Climatic Requirements in Cashew Farming
Cashew is a tropical crop and can thrive in high temperatures but the young plants are sensitive to frost conditions.
They can grow upto 750 m above mean sea level and the ideal temperature range is 20°C to 35°C. It requires annual rainfall of about 1000 to 2000 mm and a well defined dry season of 3 to 4 months can produce good yield.
During the flowering and fruit setting stage, temperature above 36°C can be harmful. Also, excessive rainfall and high relative humidity can result in flower drop and can even cause fungal diseases.
Propagation in Cashew Farming
Propagation of plants is mainly done through seeds or by vegetative propagation method. Commercial cultivation requires cross pollination and vegetative propagation. Traditionally, 3 seeds were planted in a single pit but now different methods of Vegetative propagation are followed. These methods are:
- Softwood Grafting – The saplings are grown in a nursery to collect the root stock, then grafting is done and are taken care of until they survive. It is the best method for Cashew cultivation.
- In Situ Grafting – It is the same as softwood grafting and the only difference is that the seeds are grown in a main farm instead of a nursery.
- Top working – Here, fully grown trees are beheaded and the cut ends are treated with chemicals to avoid diseases. Then, the scions of another high yielding variety are grafted to these cut end branches. This method is mainly used for improving the yield of less productive cashew
- Air layering – In this method, the mature shoots of the tree are removed and are planted in a growing medium to enable rooting and once the roots develop they are used as planting material. This method is an old practice and is no longer in use.
Best Season for Cashew Farming
Cashew can be cultivated at any time of the year if it is provided with good irrigation. However, the best time for cultivating it in the South Asian region is between June to December.
Land Preparation & Planting in Cashew Farming
The land should be ploughed a couple of times and levelled and in case of forest lands, the dead trees, weeds and dried branches should be removed.
For better moisture conservation, soil trenches are recommended to be dug across the contours. The land preparation should be done before the monsoon season starts, probably during May to June.
Cashew plantations have three different planting arrangements i.e square, triangular or rectangular and the spacing is done according to the land, purpose and the type of soil.
For field preparation, dig pits of size 60×60×60 cm and leave them open for 15 to 20 days and then cover them with top soil, 20 kg of well composted farmyard manure, 400g of Rock phosphate and 1 kg of neem cake with a spacing of 8 ×8 metres. Avoid water logging conditions and if there is excess water then it should be removed.
The plantation should be started during July to August and 5 to 12 months old graft from high variety cashew should be used as planting material and the grafting should be planted in such a way that it is 5 cm above the soil and support the graft with the stalk.
For the regular planting method, it requires 200 plants per ha while in high density planting 500 plants per hectare with the spacing of 5×4 m is recommended. High density plantation has a high yielding in the same area due to greater number of plants.
Irrigation Requirement in Cashew Farming
Cashew crop is a hardy crop and is basically a rainfed variety. It requires water for up to three years and irrigation during the flowering and fruit setting stage is extremely important for the productivity and quality of crops.
Sandy soils require irrigation during summer months and to avoid water stagnation proper drainage systems should be provided. Drip irrigation with drippers at a distance of 1 m from the crop is recommended to produce higher yields.
Manure & Fertilisers Requirement in Cashew Farming
Cashew plants respond very well to the application of manure and fertiliser and it is very important to apply them properly & timely. It is recommended to apply 10 to 15kg of Farmyard manure per plant for better growth along with 500 g of Nitrogen and 125 g of Phosphorus and Potassium each in a year.
Manure should be applied during the first 15 days after planting and fertilisers should be applied at the base of the plant with a radius of 22.5m and depth of 15cm. The fertilisers for the first year should be 50g of urea, 175 g of rock phosphate and 85 g of muriate of potash.
Intercropping in Cashew Farming
In the beginning of 3-4 years, other intercrops such as Turmeric, Groundnut, Chillies, Papaya, Bhendi can be cultivated between the Cashew plants to facilitate extra income to the farmers.
Intercultural Operations in Cashew Farming
Some intercultural activities performed in Cashew Farming are:
- Training & Pruning – The low lying branches should be removed and the trunk should be developed to a height of 1 metre. The twigs and branches which have become dry or dead should also be removed. It will help in establishing a good framework of the Cashew Pruning of dried leaves should be done every 2 or 3 years to enable proper and healthy growth.
- Weeding – For a better yielding and proper growth of the Cashew plants, weeding is essential. The first weeding should be done before the application of the first dose of fertilisers and manure. For this, do light digging during the rainy season and remove the weeds manually or by hoeing. For controlling the weeds, Agrodar-96 (2, 4-D) @ 4 ml/l and Gramoxone @ 5 ml/l of water can be sprayed. Approximately, it requires 400 litres of the solution per hectare. The spraying of this solution is repeated again in the post monsoon season.
- Cover cropping – Leguminous cover crops can be cultivated in Cashew Farming in between the plants. It helps in enriching the soil with plant nutrients, adding organic matter to the soil, thereby preventing soil erosion and preserving moisture. These cover crops can be sown at the beginning of the rainy season in seedbeds of size 30×30×30 cm and then covered with top soil. Their seeds should be soaked in water for 6 hours before sowing.
- Mulching – Mulching can be done for controlling the weeds if not using herbicides. It also prevents soil erosion, and conserves moisture and soil fertility. The mulching material for Cashew Farming can be Black polythene.
Pests & Diseases in Cashew Farming
To achieve higher yields and quality nuts, it is important to control the pests and diseases.
The common pests in Cahsee Farming are:
- Stem & Root borer – This can be controlled by swabbing 0.1% of BHC twice a year.
- Tea mosquito bug – For controlling them, spray 0.1% of carbaryl or 0.07% of phosalone during the flowering stage.
- Thrips – For the control of this pest, Monocrotophos @ 0.05% and carbaryl @ 0.1% should be sprayed.
- Leaf miner – Spray Quinalphos @ 0.05%.
- Fruit & Nut borer – Spray Monocrotophos @0.05% to control them.
The common diseases are:
- Die back – Prune the affected parts and apply Bordeaux paste @1%.
- Anthracnose – Spray Bordeaux mixture @1%.
- Powdery Mildew – Spraying Sulphur @2% is effective for its control.
- Damping off – Do soil drenching with Bordeaux mixture @1%.
To control the pests and diseases, it is essential to select quality and disease resistant plant material. Also, you can contact your local agriculture or horticulture department to know about the symptoms and their control measures.
Harvesting & Yield in Cashew Farming
The cashew plants can be harvested three years after plantation and the complete yield gets from the tenth year after plantation which will continue till 20th year. The fully matured nuts can be harvested during February to May.
The harvesting consists of picking up the nuts which have been dropped to the ground after maturing and if the apples are to be used for making jam, juice, syrup, fenni etc then it has to be harvested before it falls naturally.
The maturity of the nuts can be tested by flotation method. After picking up the nuts, they should be separated from the Apple and left for 2 to 3 days in the sun to bring down their moisture content to 10%. The well dried cashew nuts are then graded and packed. Generally, good cashew nuts are smooth, well filled and grey green in colour.
The yield of a crop depends on many factors like the variety, age of the tree, the management practises, method of planting, type of soil and climatic conditions.
However, on average it is expected to yield 8 to 10 kg of nuts per tree and for hybrid varieties and high density planting, the yield could be much more. The cashew apples yield 8 to 10 times more than the nut.
Post Harvest Management in Cashew Farming
The post harvesting includes – Cleaning, Roasting, Shell Preparation, Drying, Peeling, Grading and Packing of the Cashew nuts. After the manual picking of the nuts, they are cleaned in open pans or hot oil baths.
Then, Roasting of the nuts is done using the Rotary method as it is highly efficient and hygienic. The manual shelling recovers the kernels as a whole and when they are air dried in hot chambers, it facilitates peeling.
The sound kernels are called ‘whole kernels’ and the broken ones are called ‘splits’. After this, Grading is done as white, scorched, dessert etc. The whole nuts are graded differently and split once differently, then they are packed by the Vita Pack method that involves removing air from the packing and pumping carbon dioxide into it and thereafter the pack is sealed.
Cashew Farming is a profitable business plan if proper Orchard management practises is followed with the correct farming techniques and harvesting process.
You can contact your local seed companies, food processing companies for bulk purchase as a part of marketing and it is better to make the marketing plans before going to large scale or commercial production of Cashew nuts.