Vanilla Farming Complete Project Report
Vanilla is a tropical orchid that is cultivated for its pleasant flavour and is one of the costliest spices after Saffron in the International market. There exists about 50 species of Vanilla but only 3 are the important ones for the source of vanillin. In India, the Vanilla exports multiply rapidly and account for approximately 2% of the total Vanilla exports in the whole world.
The country’s Vanilla cultivation leads in Karnataka state which is followed by Kerala and Tamilnadu. Out of the 1000 hectares under Vanilla cultivation in India, 60% is in Karnataka. Vanilla is native to the Atlantic coast from Mexico to Brazil and it is grown in large scale in Java, Mauritius, Madagascar, Zanzibar Brazil, Jamaica, Tahiti, Seychelles and even in the other Islands of the West Indies and it was introduced to India in early 1835.
Vanilla can be grown indoors, in greenhouses, in pots and even in containers. It can also be grown hydroponically and it produces higher yields when it is grown under the shade or when it is grown individually rather than cultivating it as an intercrop.
It requires high humidity, shade and moderate temperatures and due to this they are cultivated in shaded houses which are fitted with a micro sprinkler to give it the required microclimate. Pollination is important to carry out the fertilisation process and production of fruits, so it is an important factor in the production of Vanilla spice.
Here in this article we will learn about the Cultivation of Vanilla.
Introduction to Vanilla
Vanilla is derived from Vainilla which means ‘little pod’ and belongs to the family of Orchidaeceae and genus of ‘Vanilla‘. The plants of Vanilla start to yield after three years of planting the crop and thereafter it continues to produce upto 12 to 14 years. In general, Vanilla crop is not planted as an individual crop but is grown as an intercrop in the fields of ‘coconut’ and ‘areca nut’.
Vanilla essence is mostly used for preparing ice creams, chocolates, bakery products, puddings, pharmaceuticals, liquors and perfumes and its desirable flavour makes it to one of the most common ingredient in the Global Marketplace where it is used as a primary flavour or component for another flavour and also for its desirable aroma qualities.
Vanilla is also used in industries in various forms, and in retail stores or households, it is used as Vanilla beans or as Vanilla extracts.
Varieties of Vanilla
Vanilla has around 50 species but only three are the major species that are currently grown globally and they all are derived from a species that was originally found in Mesoamerica and including the parts of modern day Mexico. They are:
- Vanilla planifolia, which is grown in Madagascar Union and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean. This variety is widely cultivated on a large scale and has more commercial value for its vanillin content.
- Vanilla tahitensis, which is grown in the south Pacific.
- Vanilla pompona, which is found in the West Indies, Central America and South America.
Health Benefits of Vanilla
Following are some of the health benefits of Vanilla:
- It helps in healing burns, wounds, and cuts.
- It promotes healthy skin and has anti-aging properties and is good for acne.
- It promotes healthy hair.
- It helps in treating anxiety and depression.
- It helps in weight loss.
- It helps in getting relief from nausea.
- It provides relief from digestive disorders.
- It is good for dental health.
Ideal Conditions for Cultivation of Vanilla
Here we will see some ideal conditions for cultivating Vanilla.
Vanilla plants require a warm and humid type of climate with a well distributed annual rainfall of about 150 to 350 cm and temperature range of 25°C to 34°C for optimum growth.
It can be grown above mean sea level of 1400 metres and it prefers 45% shade and grows well under filtered light. Vanilla plants can be cultivated in shade houses or nets fitted with micro sprinklers and foggers in those areas where proper climate is not there.
Vanilla crop can be grown in various types of soils from sandy loam to laterites, but it grows well in loose and friable soils with any type of loamy texture and it requires high organic matter content in the soil for better production.
The soil should have a well drainage facility with the lands having a gentle slope and the pH of the soil should range between 6.5 to 7.5.
Vanilla cultivation in Western Ghats is best suited as the soils are rich in organic matter and humus and they also have good drainage facilities. For commercial cultivation of the crop, soil test is essential.
The land is prepared by ploughing it a couple of times to bring the soil to a fine tilth stage and to remove any type of weeds that may have been left from the previous crops. If the soil is not fertile, organic manure is added during the land preparation process.
Vanilla vines require support for growing, so any type of living trees, rock pillars or iron pillars can be arranged for supporting them.
Propagation Methods for Vanilla Farming
The crop is usually propagated from the cuttings of the shoot having 18 to 24 internodes. The cuttings are adjusted depending on the availability of the plant material and the area of the field. However, the cuttings less than 5 to 6 inches or shorter than 60 cm length should be avoided to plant in the main field and for cultivating it in a polybag even 2 nodes of shoot cutting would be enough.
Long cuttings of the shoot start to flower in the second year itself but the short cuttings take three years for flowering. However, long cuttings have slow growth as compared to the shorter ones. Vanilla plants can also be propagated using tissue culture methods.
For propagation the leaves of the 4th to 5th node from the tip is removed and the cutting is kept loosely in a shaded place for 2-3 weeks and when it forms a complete root system then it is transplanted to the field.
Three to four internodes are placed at a shallow trench with the lower end of the cutting with a depth of 3-4 cm and 10 cm wide. The trench is then filled with evacuated soil and the rainy season is considered the best time for this process.
Planting & Spacing of Vanilla plants
Vanilla trees are climbers, so they need support for growing and it grows well in partial shade of low branching trees that have rough bark and small leaves. These supports should be legume so that it can enrich the soil and it can be adjusted so as to make them at a height of 120 to 150 cm.
The best time for Vanilla planting is the month of August and September, when the weather is not too rainy or too dry. The cuttings of the vine are laid on the soil surface and is then covered with a thin layer of about 2-3 cm soil.
The growing tips are gently tied to the support for climbing by the aerial roots and are covered with dry grass or palm fronds or other suitable materials and if the soil is dry water is sprinkled on them for early establishment of these cuttings.
A space of 2.5 to 3 metres is required between the plants and about 2 metres distance between rows and 2 metres distance within the rows, thereby making a population of 1600 to 2000 trees per ha. Vanilla cuttings are planted in rich organic content soil and they are filled in the trenches with the spacing of 8ft and in these trenches 7 feet long support pillars are placed with spacing of 6 feet.
Micro Climate for Vanilla Farming
Green houses and shade nets provide a controlled environment for Vanilla plants, thereby producing more yields and this environment provides them the required humidity, light and temperature which are maintained by the essential components.
Any net that provides 60% of shade can be considered as the shade house. The irrigation and humidity requirements are fulfilled using micro sprinklers with both irrigation and misting or fogging facilities that are installed in the shade net house.
Flowering & Pollination in Vanilla Cultivation
Vanilla plants start to flower from the third year of planting in the month of January and February month but irrigation should be stopped during the month of December and the tips of the vines should be regularly pruned.
Abundant irrigation should be provided for inducing more flowers during this stage. There is an absence of specific pollinating agents so natural self pollination is not possible, hence artificial pollination is carried out by hand with the help of bamboo splinter, sharpened toothpick or a stiff grass.
The ideal time for pollinating is in the early morning period between 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and it is preferred to pollinate only the first formed 7-10 flowers on the lower side of the inflorescence.
It is recommended to take 5-6 flowers per inflorescence and not more than 10 to 12 inflorescence per vine for pollination. The pods take 6 weeks to attain full size from fertilisation but 4 to 10 months for reaching full maturity depending upon the climatic conditions.
Intercultural Operations in Vanilla Cultivation
The main intercultural activities in Vanilla farming are:
- Mulching – In order to protect the soil from erosion or loss of moisture, mulching is done using dried leaves or coconut leaves or husks and it is also done in order to enrich the soil fertility and weed control.
- Manures & Fertilisers – For Vanilla plants, a well composted farmyard manure like cow dung, vermicompost or any organic material such as neem cake is applied. Nitrogen (125 gram) is applied in two split doses in June-July & September-October months. Vermiwash is essential for good growth & yield.
- Irrigation – Irrigation is important during the dry & hot summer seasons and also during the first 2 to 3 years of planting. Sprinkler Irrigation is ideal for Vanilla However, you can also opt for micro irrigation or drip irrigation but water stagnation or flooding should be avoided as the crop is sensitive to these conditions.
- Trailing – For limited growth of the plants, trailing operation is carried out and about 150-160 cm height is maintained for easy manual pollination. These plants are trailed bh coiling them around the branches of the support pillars or on horizontal support such that the vines should not touch the ground.
Pests & Diseases in Vanilla Cultivation
Some common pests & their control measures are:
- Vanilla bug which can be controlled by egg mass at the first nymph stage.
- Beetles which can be controlled by collecting and destroying them or by spraying Malathion @0.1%.
- Vanilla vine weevil which is controlled by collecting and destroying the weevils during their adult stage.
- Caterpillars which can be controlled by destroying them whenever seen.
- White grubs which can be controlled by adding Chlorpyrifos @ 0.05% at the base of the soil.
- Achatina which can be controlled by destroying them and avoiding such mulch materials that do not decompose easily.
Some of the diseases found in Vanilla plants are:
- Root Rot – These are controlled by removing the affected roots, removing the mulch and drenching the soil. Coc (0.2%) @ 3litres per plant can be sprayed on the vines.
- Stem Blight – It is controlled by spraying Bordeaux mixture @1%.
- Bean Rot – Potassium Phosphonate (0.4%) is used for its control.
- Bean shedding – Carbendazim (0.2%) is sprayed at every 2 weeks interval for its control.
- Shoot tip rot – Carbendazim (0.2%) is sprayed at every 2 weeks interval for its control.
However, for best solutions you can contact your local horticulture department.
Harvesting of Vanilla plants
The Vanilla beans obtain a full size in six weeks after pollination and take 8 to 11 months for reaching maturity. The plants are ready to harvest between 6 and 9 months after flowering when the parts are dark green and the tip begins to turn yellow.
The beans should be harvested when the distal end turns pale yellow in colour. On an average about 80 to 90 matured beans could make 1 kg of Vanilla.
The final product after the harvesting is obtained after these stages:
- Curing – Here the beans are dipped in hot water at 63 to 65 °C for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Sweating – In this stage, the beans are exposed to sunlight for 2 hours everyday by spreading them on a raised platform for 5 to 6 days.
- Drying – The beans are spread on racks in an airy room for about a month.
- Conditioning – The dried beans are bundled and covered in butter paper and then kept in wooden boxes for about 3 months.
Yield of Vanilla Plants
The yield of any plant depends upon the soil, climate, irrigation and variety of the crop used. Vanilla plants produce yield as per:
- 250 grams/plant in the 3rd year
- 500 grams/plant in the 4th year
- 750 grams/plant in the 5th year
- 1000 grams/plant from 6th year upto 15th year.
Marketing of Vanilla
Vanilla is the costliest spice after Saffron. The beans are bought by the pharmaceutical companies and food processing companies in bulk and for growing this crop on a large scale, it is very important to have a good marketing plan.
Vanilla is mostly used in flavouring ice creams and soft drinks. The total production of Vanilla beans is about 3000 tonnes per annum with an international demand of about 19000 tonnes.