Moringa Seed Germination Procedure, Spacing, Yield

Introduction to Moringa seed germination procedure (Drumstick)

The Drumstick tree is also known as the Moringa tree. Moringa plant is a perennial plant known for its high antioxidant contents. It is an important food commodity with all plant parts with leaves, flowers, fruits, and immature pods possessing nutritive value. The Moringa plant is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that can reach up to 3 meters in its first year. Drumstick is scientifically known as Moringa oleifera and belongs to the family Moringaceae. Now, let us get into the details of seed germination of moringa plant and growing process from seeds.

A step by step guide to Moringa seed germination procedure

The Moringa tree is easy to grow. Simply plant high-quality Moringa seeds or cutting in a sunny spot and the Moringa tree is a plant that grows mainly in semiarid, subtropical areas. Moringa seeds are large and circular-shaped and grow inside the lengthy pods of the Moringa tree. The pods are hard and can reach around or more than about 1 foot in length. Every individual Moringa pod can produce more than 10 Moringa seeds.

Guide to Moringa Seed Germination.
Guide to Moringa Seed Germination.

Moringa seeds have a unique and enjoyable appearance. The seeds have sets of thin flaps extending from the main kernel and these flaps serve as wings to carry the seeds away from the mother Moringa tree. Moringa tree tolerates clay soils but does not grow well if waterlogged.

Different varieties of Drumstick

Several local tree cultivars are known by the place of their cultivation. Details of local cultivars are given;

  • Jaffna Moringa – It is a perennial type which bares 60-90 cm long pods with soft flesh and good taste.
  • Chavakacheri muringa – This perennial type producing 90 to 120 cm long pods.
  • Chemmuringa – It is a perennial type flower throughout the year and bears red-tipped fruits.
  • Yazhpanam muringa – same as Jaffna type
  • Pal muringai – Pods having thicker pulp and also better taste
  • Puna muringa – Thinner fruits.
  • Kodikal muringa – produces short pods of 15-20 cm long and propagated by seeds.

Varieties of Moringa oleifera

Moringa varieties can be broadly classified into two groups;

  • Perennial and
  • Annual

Perennial Moringa types have probably been in cultivation for thousands of years. In India, perennial types are propagated from cuttings.  These types have several characteristics that have constrained their use for in commercial production and favored development and cultivation of annual tree varieties: long growing time before reaching maturity for production of pods, limited availability of suitable planting materials or stem cuttings, less resistance to pests and diseases and greater rainfall requirements.  They can be unsuited for areas with short growing seasons or shortages of water.

Annual types such as Periyakulam-1 (PKM-1) and PKM-2 are largely the products of recent plant breeding research and have now replaced most of the perennial tree varieties that previously dominated commercial production in India.  They are seed propagated, higher yields, and greater adaptability to varied soil and climatic conditions1.

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PKM – 1 – This “seed Moringa” is propagated through seeds. Plants grow to a height of 4 to 6 m and come to flower in 90-100 days after planting. The first harvest starts 160 to 170 days after planting and on average, each tree bears 200-225 fruits/year. Pods are 65 to 70 cm long with 6.3 cm girth and 150 g weight. A hybrid variety, PKM1 was derived from Moringa and it is grown for its heavy biomass and tender plant leaves. Characteristic features of PKM 1hybrid varieties consist of wide and dark green leaves, long and tender pods, bushy habit, and rapid growth after cropping.

PKM 2 – This “seed Moringa” is propagated through seeds. Pods are extra long (125-130 cm), pulpy, and suitable for homesteads. For PKM-2, the closest spacing of 1.2 x 1.2 m is ideal to obtain the highest yield of about 138 t/ha. The pinching of main shoots on the 80th day after sowing will help register the highest yield of fruits. PKM-2 Moringa is the new variety that has recorded an average production of about 98 tonnes per hectare. It produces long pods of about 125 to 130 cm with a girth of 8.40 cm. On average each of these pods weighs about 280 g.

Named Varieties of Moringa oleifera from India

Anupama is a Drumstick production released from KAU, India.

Coimbatore 1 is widely available in India and considered superior for Drumstick production and quality. Drumsticks are from 45 to 60cm long with two harvests per year.  Tree yield product for 8 to 10 years.

Coimbatore 2 is a more popular variety than Coimbatore 1 in Tamil Nadu with shorter Drumsticks (25-35cm long). A high yielding Drumstick production variety with bulky pods and production life from 3 to 4 years.

Moolanur is a perennial ecotype cultivated by farmers in Tamil Nadu and the trees can be maintained up to 15 years without pruning.

Valayapatti is a perennial ecotype cultivated in and around Usilampatti and Andipatti.  It yields 1000 to 1200 pods per tree.

Properties of Moringa seed

Moringa seed propagation can be useful for planting trees in different climatic conditions and these seeds germinate easily than the tree cuttings. Out of the many varieties, Moringa oleifera seems to handle cold weather better and you can buy these seeds to get trees with good crop yield.

Moringa seed rate

Approximately 500 g/ha of seeds are required. Sow two seeds per pit at a depth of 2.5 to 3.0 cm. The seeds can be sown in the poly bags containing pot mixture and transplanted after 35 -40 days of sowing.

Sowing season and sowing method of Moringa

As it is a warm-season plant, the Drumstick tree is planted after the end of the cool season. The seeds must be planted in an area with light, dry soil, and placed in holes dug 30cm (1ft) deep and 30cm wide. The holes can be filled in with loose soil, and compost or manure to help the tree grow. In each plant 3 to 5 seeds at a distance of 5cm (2in) apart, and water the soil, such that the topsoil remains moist. The Moringa plant will germinate within 12 days.

The spacing of Moringa trees or the spacing of Moringa seeds

For intensive Moringa production, plant the Moringa tree every 3 meters in rows 3 meters apart. To ensure sufficient sunlight and airflow, it is recommended to plant the trees in an east-west direction. When the trees are part of an alley-cropping system, there must be 10 meters between the rows. The area between trees must be kept free of weeds.

Trees are spaced in a line one meter or less apart to create living fence posts. Though, trees are planted to provide support for climbing crops such as pole beans, although mature trees must be used for this purpose since the vine growth can choke off the young tree. Moringa tree can be inter-cropped with maize, sunflower, and other field crops. Sunflower is recommended for helping to control weed growth.

Process of Moringa seed germination

Moringa seeds selected based on their size and color. Moringa seed germination is the first step when you go for growing the plant from quality tree seeds. Soak Moringa seeds in water for 24 hours to enhance quick germination. Next day, you can remove the soaked seeds, put them on a wet paper towel or cotton cloth. Wrap them and place a knot around the neck. Store in a dark place and put them in a vessel. It will take one week for the seeds to start sprouting. Make sure the paper towel or cloth is wet. Once they have sprouted, plant the germinated Moringa seeds in a 4-inch mud pot with green sprouts up the soil level. After one month, you can check whether plant roots are coming out the bottom of the pot. Now you can transplant into about 12-liter capacity pot. This plant can remain in the pot for about 1 year. If you are planning to plant it in the ground, it can be kept for about 6 months in the 12-liter capacity pot.

Moringa trees can be grown for a long time in pots if they are properly pruned. But it is necessary to transplant them once or twice in a year and you have to make sure planting soil is well-drained. The planting area must get bright sunlight and no heavy frost. Prepare the soil before you plant the Moringa tree in the ground. You can dig a hole, about twice the diameter of your pot it is in. Add good loamy soil mixed already with peat moss, and perlite, etc. Plant the pot in this hole. Moringa seeds prefer to sprout in temperature ranges that are between 21° and 32°C. Be sure to plant seeds when the weather is warm, as they will simply thrive, if they can be outside, in the warm sunshine. No matter how you plant them, always allow for good drainage, and their roots will rot in soggy soil.

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Place the Moringa tree in the center of the hole and pack soil mixture around and on top. Water again and use green manure. Moringa is a fast-growing tree, hardwearing to dry conditions. Some species of this tree will grow to 25 to 30 feet which becomes difficult to harvest the leaves or fruit pods. Moringa trees require good drainage. It is advisable to avoid areas with clay that could not allow this plant to grow. Water the soil in the pit before planting the tree. Cut the top around 1 to 2 feet in height. This will force the tree growth down and create a fuller, leafier, bushier tree. Continue this practice always to maintain a full Moringa tree. Moringa tree exhibits good tolerance and it can grow well at temperatures of 21-35°C for good leaves and seeds yield. When the temperature drops down -2°C the Moringa plant will lose all its leaves. A hard freeze will kill the young plant. You must use blankets at its roots and shine lights on it.

If the Moringa seeds are of good quality, the germination of Moringa seeds is assured even after a few months of storage. Depending on how much you prune your Moringa trees, they will become bushier. If the Moringa tree grows tall, it will show irregular growth with its tender branches. Normally Moringa trees can grow more than 15 feet in their first year with good soil. It is necessary to cut them back severely, from the tip on the top. Pinch off every other new top growth of leaves, and you will have a sturdy tree.

For the first 6 to 8 months, the Moringa tree will only give leaves. Small off white color flowers will be coming followed by the fruit pods within one month. Though, Moringa seeds germination is robust with quality Moringa PKM 1 seeds. You can grow them in cold climatic regions also as there are a lot of greenhouses obtainable. During the winter season, you can protect the young plants by keeping them in greenhouses. Once the temperature reaches 21°C you can take them back to the garden.

Process of growing Moringa from seed

Moringa seeds have no dormancy periods and planted as soon as they are mature and they will retain the ability to germinate for up to one year. Older seeds will have spotty germination. Moringa trees will flower and fruit annually and also in some regions twice annually. During its first year, a Moringa tree will grow up to 5 meters in height and produce flowers and fruit. Left alone, the Moringa tree can eventually reach 12 meters in height with a trunk 30cm wide; however, the tree can be annually cut back to one meter from the ground. The Moringa tree will quickly recover and produce leaves and pods within easy reach. Within 3 years a tree will yield 400-600 pods annually and a mature tree can produce up to 1,600 pods. Coppicing to the ground is possible, and will produce a Moringa bush is no main new growth is selected, and the others eliminated.

It is best to plant the seeds directly where the Moringa tree is intended to grow and not transplant the seedling. The young seedlings are fragile and cannot survive to transplant. To plant Moringa seeds directly in the ground;

  • Select an area with light and sandy soil, not heavy with clay or water-logged.
  • Dig holes about 1 ft square and 1 ft deep. Back-fill the holes with loose soil. Compost or manure will help the tree grow better, even though trees can grow in poor soils.
  • Plant 3 to 5 seeds in each hole, 2 inches apart. Plant the seeds no deeper than 3 times the width of the seed.
  • Keep the soil moist enough so that the topsoil will not dry and choke the emerging saplings, but it must not be too wet or else the seeds can drown and rot.
  • When the saplings are 4 to 6 inches tall, keep the healthiest sapling in the ground and remove the rest. Termites and nematodes can kill a young sapling. Take measures to protect saplings from these two dangers.

Paper towel seed germination for sprouting Moringa seeds

  • You can purchase bricks of coconut coir from any large pet supply, as they are used for reptile, amphibian, small animals, and insect bedding. One brick must be sufficient to sprout at least 20 Moringa seeds. The brick is made of densely compacted coconut fiber, which expands to about 4 to 5 times its size when water is added to it.
  • We usually “expand” the brick in a plastic dishpan, as it makes it convenient to transfer the expanded, moist coconut fiber into the planting pots. This displays the compressed coconut fiber, also called coconut coir, brick, and the loose, fluffy results of adding water to it. Since the coconut coir is moist, you can plant seeds right into it, without adding any more water.
  • Place a section of white paper towel in the bottom of planting pot, to keep the coconut coir from falling through. Fill planting pot up to about ¼ inch from the top, and poke a hole into the coconut coir. Drop Moringa seed into the hole, and cover it up with more moist coconut coir. Put the pot either into direct sunlight, if the temperatures outside are over 21°C, or on a warm, sunny windowsill.
  • Every other day, thoroughly water planting pot, and let it drain. Within 7 to 10 days, you should see a bright green seedling’s head popping up above the coconut coir. You can let the seedling grow in the coconut coir for another week, and then we suggest transplanting into a mixture of about ½ organic potting soils, and ½ coconut coir. That will give the seedling the nourishment it needs, for at least another month, when it can be transplanted into all potting soil, and into the ground.

When and how to harvest Moringa

Harvest leaves by cutting leaf stems manually with a sharp knife at 20 to 45 cm above the ground. Subsequent harvesting can be done every 35 to 40 days. Moringa tree takes 8 months to grow after planting.

The yield of Moringa

A farmer can plant about 5,000 Moringa plants on an acre. Each Moringa plant yields an average of 2 kgs of leaves per harvest. When the plant leaves are dried and ground, they produce 200 gms of powder. The Moringa yield is about 50 to 55 tonnes of pods/ha. The new seeds will enable Moringa trees to reach maturity much faster.

Commonly asked questions about Moringa seed germination, farming

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Common questions about Moringa plantation.
Common questions about Moringa plantation.
How long are Moringa seeds viable?

We have planted seeds that are several years old and they have grown but they are only viable for about 3 months.

Is Moringa self-pollinating?

The flowering is dichogamous, favoring cross-pollination; with multiple plants 25% are self-pollinated. Pollination is by bees and insects, which are strongly attracted to the flowers.

How long does Moringa take to grow?

Moringa tree almost takes about 8 months to grow after planting. It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions but prefers a neutral to slightly acidic, well-drained sandy or loamy soil.

How tall do Moringa trees grow?

During its first year, a Moringa tree will grow up to 5 meters in height and produce flowers and fruit. Left alone, the Moringa tree can eventually reach 12 meters in height with a trunk 30cm wide; though, the tree can be annually cut back to one meter from the ground.

How long does Moringa seed take to germinate?

Put the Moringa seeds in a plastic sandwich bag and store it in a warm, dark place like a drawer or cabinet. Germination times range from 3 to 14 days.

Is Moringa easy to grow?

The Moringa tree is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that can reach up to 3 meters in its first year. The Moringa tree is easy to grow.

Why the Moringa tree is leaves turning yellow?

Yellow leaves in the Moringa tree can mean an iron deficiency in the soil. The common reason that leaves turn yellow is because of moisture stress, which can be from overwatering or under-watering.

Do Moringa trees lose their leaves?

The best time to plant a Moringa tree is in the spring. You can plant in the summer, but it will not be as mature as that planted in the spring. Moringa is deciduous, so it loses its leaves with the change of seasons, although green leaves through many mild winters.

How deep should I plant the Moringa seeds?

The seeds must be planted at about ¾ inch below the surface, and not any deeper. Planting too deep causes the base of the radical to dry out, which can affect the first stem emerging from the seed.

Conclusion of seed germination of the Moringa tree

If you are planning for commercial Moringa crop, you must be aware of the seed germination process of moringa for healthy seedlings and better yield. You can use the above information for growing drumstick from seeds in pots/containers, backyards, and indoors. You may also like the Growing Clove Plant from Seed, Clove Plant Propagation.

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