Brazil nut Cultivation – Farming In India

Introduction to Brazil nut Cultivation in India

Brazil nuts are also known as Amazon nuts. Brazil nuts are the fruit tree species native to the higher elevations of the Amazon rainforest. The Brazil nut is a South American tree in the Lecythidaceae family. Also, it is the name of the trees commercially harvested edible seeds. It is one of the largest and longest-lived trees. Brazil nut has a high content of proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, unsaturated lipids, and essential minerals. In this article we also discuss the below topics about Brazil nut cultivation;

  • How to grow a Brazil nut tree from the seed
  • Brazil nut cultivation practices
  • How long does it take for a Brazil nut tree to grow
  • How are Brazil nuts grown and harvested
  • Why are Brazil nuts so expensive
  • How to grow a Brazil nut tree
  • Brazil nut tree care
  • Brazil nut tree growing conditions
  • Where are Brazil nuts grown

A Step by Step Guide to Brazil nut Cultivation in India

The Brazil nut is aptly named after its important country of origin. Fruit (hard balls) falls from the Brazil nut tree from November to March. These balls contain 8 to 12 seeds, known as Brazil nuts, in the shell. Brazil nut tree is high (among the highest in the Amazon rainforest) about between 30 and 50 meters high. Brazil nut trees cultivated properly produces creamy white flowers with edible nuts. Growing Brazil nut trees is difficult, even if you live in a Brazil nut tree growing zone, but also a very rewarding task. An important portion of the crop for international trade is sourced from the wild rather than from plantations.

The Brazil nut tree cultivation needs to take 10 to 20 years to begin producing actual nuts. Brazil nut trees need to have a perfect ecological setting to grow properly. An intricate balance is necessary between the Brazil nut tree, a species of bees, orchids, and a certain type of rodent. Brazil nuts are an interesting crop and grow to 150 feet tall and produce nuts for centuries. The Brazil nut tree is very large with a long straight trunk that is 1 to 2 meters in diameter. The Brazil nut tree produces large, pale yellow or greenish flowers and round fruit. Brazil nuts are eaten raw and are a good source of magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, thiamin, and Vitamin E, and are a rich source of selenium, important antioxidant benefits to the immune system and heart health.

Brazil nuts have high nutritional value, and which adds to another reason why Brazil nuts are so expensive. Because of this reason, Brazil nuts can be a great addition to most diets. Brazil nuts have high amounts of selenium and can easily overhaul your recommended daily value amount in just a few nuts. In their preferred environment, these majestic canopy trees are long-lived, up to about 500 years, and can become enormous, up to 60 meters tall. The trees are fast-growing and semi-deciduous in extended dry periods with a straight trunk having a diameter of 1-2 meters and branching only begins high up. The large oblong tree leaves are alternate, simple, coriaceous, and glabrous, 20-35 X 10-15cm. They are reliant on a very specific ecosystem.

Soil and Climate Requirements for Brazil nut Cultivation

Brazil nut trees need well-draining soil, rich in well-rotted organic matter. Think about their natural environment where plant leaves, branches, and other matter fall to the forest floor and rot over time. Soil a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5 is preferable. The trees will grow on sandy clay or clay soils provided they’re well-drained. In its natural habitat, the tree grows in deep, rich alluvial soils, well-drained, rich in organic matter, and on high ground. It does not tolerate flooding.

Lowland humid tropical regions up to altitudes of 500 meters mean daily temperature of 27-32°C and humidity of about 80-90%. A substantial dry season is necessary to induce flower production and nuts grow naturally only in regions with a 3-to-5-month dry season. They are intolerant of waterlogging. The Brazil nut tree requires lots of sunshine and heat.

When to Plant Brazil nut Tree                                   

Plant in late spring or early summer when temperature levels are consistently warm above 21°C. Generally, Brazil nuts require a host of very specific conditions to sprout. The best method to achieve most of these conditions is to prepare an environment similar to the rain forest. Fill a large-sized canning jar two thirds full with moist and nutrient-rich potting soil.

Propagation for Brazil nut Cultivation

Brazil nut tree propagation is done by seeds and grafting. Seeds can remain viable for 12 months.  Intact seeds may take 6 to 24 months to germinate whereas when the integument is removed it may be only 25 to 30 days. Seeds are prepared for sprouting by a series of intermittent soakings, to simulate conditions in their native jungle.

Soaking allows the outer husk of the seed to soften for shelling and then allows the nut time to sprout. Fill a large mason jar one-third full with nuts still in the husk, and cover for 24 hours. Pour out the water and then rinse the nuts. Continue the process, reducing soaking time to 8-hour increments until you see sprouts. Once you see sprouting the seed, carefully remove the outer husk of the nut. Once you have a raw Brazil nut, you can plant it in a container using nutrient-rich soil. Once the seeds have germinated, and then you can move them to a larger container.

Sprouting the Seed or Nut

  • The Brazil nuts you buy in the store have been processed, so they won’t germinate.
  • The Brazil “nut” is a seed. Place several nuts in a mason jar and then cover with water for 24 hours.
  • Tip the water out and refill every 8 hours and then repeat this step until you see the nuts sprouting.
  • Gently remove the husk of the nut.
  • Fill several containers with a good quality seed raising mix and bury one sprouted seed in each. Then, water gently without soaking the nut and soil.
  • Cover the top of the jar with cheesecloth and then use a rubber band to hold it in place.
  • Move the jar to a warm location out of direct sunlight.
  • Water as needed and remembering not to overwater the tree.
  • Keep the pot inside until the Brazil nut tree is about 3 feet tall.
  • You’ll want to increase the container size incrementally as the tree grows.

Plant Brazil nut Trees from Seeds

  • Brazil nut trees boast a height of about 160 feet, and when cultivated correctly produces creamy white flowers and massive segmented fruits filled with edible nuts. Boiling kills the seed and making it impossible to sprout.
  • Fill a large mason jar one-third full with nuts still in the husk, and cover for 24 hours. Pour out the water and rinse the nuts.
  • Prepare the planting site and create a depression in the soil deep enough to cover the entire seed.
  • A germinated seed will show signs of sprouting, though a failed germination will show mold in the jar.
  • Once the Brazil nut tree develops a set of true leaves, move it to a larger pot.
  • Introduce orchids near the tree once it begins to grow to attract a special species of “orchid bees” to naturally pollinate the tree and then stimulate the growth of the tree, its fruit, and nuts.
  • Space them 32 feet apart if you have the space for planting more than one tree.

Process of Planting the Brazil Nuts

Firstly, plant the seed and create a depression in the soil deep enough to cover the entire seed. Cover the seed with soil, and then water moderately without making the soil boggy. Cover the jar with cheesecloth, and then secure it with a rubber band. Then, place the jar in a location with low or indirect sunlight.

Check the seed for signs of germination, or failed germination. A germinated seed will show signs of sprouting, though a failed germination will show mold in the jar. If the seed has germinated, move the container to a sunny location. Remove the cheesecloth for approximately 3 to 4 hours a day to provide the plant with fresh air. Water the Brazil nut tree as needed. Once the tree develops a set of true leaves, move it to a larger container.

Flowering and Pollination in Brazil nut Cultivation

Generally, each Brazil nut flower has 2 to 4 sepals, 4 to 6 unequal petals, 80 to 130 stamens joined on the lower side of the flower. Flowering occurs during dry periods and cross-pollination is necessary for good crop yields.  Flowers open early in the morning and are open for a single day. Several species of bees are the main pollinators. While there is massive flowering, the fruit set is less than 1% and lack of effective pollination is the usual cause of the lower set. The main problem they encounter is that pollination is difficult outside the proper ecosystem where the principal pollinators are large female bees that are strong enough to get through stiff flower staminodes. Male bees are attracted to an orchid that does not grow on these trees but nearby trees. Then, the orchid produces a scent that the male bees need to attract females. Without the orchid, the bees do not mate and the tree flowers do not get pollinated.

The bees are dependent on certain other plants that provide them with pollen and nectar during the times when the Brazil nut trees are not flowering. The successful plantations have worked out the auxiliary species they want to interplant with the Brazil nut trees. Brazil nut tree produces large flowers that bloom and fall to the forest floor in a daily cycle. Then, this daily bloom provides a short window of opportunity for the flowers to be pollinated. In a healthy population, there must be an equal balance between deaths and newly sprouting trees that will reach reproductive and fruiting age. To achieve this important agent that pollinate the flowers and disperse the seeds should be in a healthy condition, combined with the suitable light conditions occurring in the forest at the right times.

Water Requirement for Brazil nut Cultivation

Brazil nut trees love humidity and moisture, but also they like the water to drain away. If you live in a dry area, water well a couple of times a week regularly and don’t let the soil dry out completely.

Pruning in Brazil nut Cultivation

Brazil nut trees are genetically programmed to be large, so no matter what size containment pruning is undertaken, they will still need lots of space. Training to increase lower branching must not be done for the first 2 years.

Nut Collection in Brazil nut Cultivation

It has been found that the nut collection process employed is very important to the sustainability of the Brazil nut tree. Though, these methods can vary on a regional basis throughout the Amazon. The collection practices are termed “wild harvesting” or “extractive” harvesting, where manpower is used to collect the forest produce in situ from the natural environment.

Brazil nuts
Brazil Nuts (Pic credit: Pixabay)

Common Pests and Diseases in Brazil nut Cultivation

Brazil nut leaf blight

Symptoms – Spots on plant leaves; blighting of young stems

Management – Control of the disease can be achieved by using the fungicides cuprosan after grafting.

Cocoa weevil

Symptoms – Circular boreholes on nutshells where the adult has emerged; adult is a small means 3-5 mm long beetle which is a mottled dark brown and larvae are small yellow-white grubs.

Management – The primary method of controlling the cocoa weevil pest is through the use of fumigants on the stored Brazil nuts.

When and How to Harvest Brazil Nuts

Seedling trees may take 6 to 20 years to bear fruit and grafted plants 3-6 years. Fully mature production will be attained over the following 20 years. Alternate bearing with a 2 to 3-year cycle is common. The fruit has a long maturation period of about 15 months. Fallen capsules are gathered from the ground and then opened and seeds dried promptly to avoid dangerous mould growth. Good yields of about 300kg of in-shell nuts have been reported in favorable conditions for some trees.

Brazil nut trees flower during the dry season. After the flowers are pollinated, the Brazil nut tree sets fruit and takes a full 15 months to develop it. The actual fruit of the Brazil nut tree is a big seed pond that looks like a coconut and can weigh up to 5 pounds. The first step of Brazil nut harvest is to let the pods drop naturally from the Brazil nut trees. Then, gather all the nuts off the forest floor and break open the very hard outer shell. Each Brazil nut is inside its hard shell that has to be smashed before eating.

The storage place must be dry and well-ventilated. This is facilitated by regularly turning the mound over. To be transported, the harvested Brazil nuts are then placed into crates for up to about 20 kg of nuts. This crate unit is used to pay the collectors. Normally, a mature Brazil nut tree can produce approximately 250 and 500 pounds of unshelled nuts a year.

Transport and Storage Brazil Nuts

Up to 9 to 10 months can pass from the time the Brazil nuts are collected to when they are finally processed. This goes to show that correct storage and the organization of a rapid transport system are important. Otherwise, an infestation with the fungus can hardly be avoided. Great care must be taken because the only method of transport is often by water. After the Brazil nuts have been transported to the processing centers, and they need to be stored for quite a while longer before finally being processed. The Brazil nuts are piled meters high upon a wooden floor and need to be turned regularly by hand for ventilation. An alternative storage process is placing them in the round, ventilated metal silos.

That’s all folks about Brazil nut cultivation practices and production guide. In case if you miss this: Organic Coconut Farming.



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