Pine Nut Cultivation – Farming, Production In India

Introduction to Pine Nut Cultivation in India

Pine trees are coniferous trees of the genus Pinus and belong to the family Pinaceae. Pine nuts are small edible seeds that are extracted from the cones of various species of Pine. The most commonly eaten Pine variety is that from the European stone Pine, which is native to northern Mediterranean regions. The small and oil-rich seeds are encased in a hard shell. Usually, Pine nuts are the smallest and the fanciest of all nuts. The taste is sweet and subtle. The Pine nut tree is also called the ‘Stone Pine’. This name comes from the idea that Pine nut tree grows well in stony ground. Pine trees grow best in dry cold areas and it is an attractive large tree that bears cones of edible nuts considered a delicacy.

A Step by Step Guide to Pine Nut Cultivation in India

Different species of Pines bear edible Pine nuts and these nuts are the kernels that are released when seeds are cracked open, and each cone has numerous seeds. Normally, different species have different sized seeds, different ease of cracking, and different flavors. Pine nuts are nutritious and have been an integral part of the native diet in many areas. It is the most important genus of conifers with more than 100 species, found mainly in the Northern hemisphere. Pine trees are evergreen, coniferous resinous trees whose height mainly depends on the species, ranging from 10 m up to 30 m tall. Pine nuts are kernels that release the Pine seed that cracked open every cone in a proper way. Normally, cone harvesting and extraction process and preparation of the kernels are time-consuming to some extent.

Guide to Pine Nut Cultivation (Pic Source: Pixabay)

Pine nuts are an essential ingredient in many traditional dishes. The nuts are highly valued for their taste. Also, like all tree nuts, they have an interesting nutritional profile, high in vitamin E and vitamin K, and minerals such as iron and magnesium, among others. Also, they are high in polyunsaturated fats (34%). Approximately 20 species of Pine nut trees produce Pine seeds that are large enough to harvest. The harvested seeds come from four Pine tree varieties they are Mexican pinon, the Colorado pinion, the Italian stone Pine, and the Chinese nut Pine.

Pine Nuts Origin and Distribution

Pine trees have the wonderful distinction of being adaptable to wide ranges. Depending on the species variety, they will grow in climatic Zones 1 to 10 inclusive. They can grow in soils ranging from wet clay to sandy loam soils.

The Pine nuts fulfill multiple uses, not only in providing a bountiful harvest of edible nut Pines and aromatic cones which are sold at prices that make them a worthwhile commercial crop that will out produce cereal crops. Also, they lend to the landscaping business which rivals other conifer trees with their beautiful foliage of light green color to bluish coloring. Pine nuts are one of the main crops for many animals. Once established, the Pine trees start production as early as 8 years from seed and they will continue production for their lifespan. The trees need minimum maintenance and we have not encountered any pests to date.      

Himachal Pradesh is one only place where quality Pine nuts are grown on a large scale in India. Pine nuts are famous in India by the name of “Chilgoza.”

Pine nut tree native to the trans-Himalayan region of India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It is distributed in the dry temperate region of the north-west Himalayas in Kinnaur, Pangi of Himachal Pradesh, Indus Valley, Gilgit, Dachhin area in the Marwah valley of Doda and Malari and Bampa area of Garhwal.  

Climate and Soil Requirement for Pine Nut Cultivation

Pine nut is mainly grown in chilled weather with a temperature level of 2 to -2°C rate. This climate helps to tree growth to a high level that provides navigated regions and source to some extent. This soil must be tight and heavy. The drainage system of the Pine nut tree should be properly done so that water does not store. The Pine nut species grow almost soil other than highly alkaline lime soil.

Land preparation and Season for Pine Nut Cultivation

Pine nut trees are rarely planted for nut production purposes. Most of the Pine nuts available on the market come from natural forests, where no cultivation methods are applied except for silvicultural practices. Commercial plantations are very scarce for some reasons. Depending on the species and the growing conditions, Pine nut trees take a long time to bear nuts, between 10 and 40 years (or even more). Although Pine nuts are collected without any expense of plantation forestry, the labor cost is important given that the collection and processing are very labor-intensive. Pine nuts are grown at high altitudes between 1800 meters and 3,500 meters. Pine nut trees can be used as a multi-purpose crop. Low branches develop which remain green all their lives and lower branches tend to deter rabbits while the tree is young they do not like Pine needles in their eyes.

In coastal areas, the Pine nuts are useful for shelterbelts and erosion control and will grow in both areas of sand and clay soils. They cope with very hot summers and cold conditions down to 23°C below freezing. Now, it is being recommended to plant Pine nuts on sandy sites where the branching will be lighter and a good salt wind blowing through will help obtain good nut production. (This has been disputed by some growers in other regions.)

Propagation Method in Pine Nut Cultivation

Pine seeds need varying amounts of cold treatment or stratification before they will germinate. If sown directly into the field, rodents and birds damage the Pine seeds. Seeds must be sown in a well-drained potting mix, preferably in deep pots and covered with 10mm of the mix, and kept at about 19°C. Higher temperature levels inhibit germination. When seed germination occurs a long taproot will grow before the shoot emerges. Take care not to damage this taproot.

An established Pine nut tree may help establish mycorrhizal infection around the seedling roots. This soil will probably have fungi that live in close physical association with the Pine, to their mutual benefit. These symbiotic fungi are essential for the Pine nut trees to grow and remain healthy. Without this mycorrhizal association, seedlings can simply stop growing after a couple of years. Different Pine species need different fungi and young plants are susceptible to frost damage. Seedlings do not need shading except in hot and sunny locations.

Seed Sowing and Seed Germination in Pine Nut Cultivation

The temperature for Pine nut seed germination is about 17-19°C. If temperature levels are above 25°C seedling establishment will be inhibited. Temperature level below about 10°C creates seed dormancy. As with most Pine nut seeds, they will rot if the soil is too wet. It is very important to add mycorrhizal fungus gathered from under a stand of other Pine trees because in the absence of the fungi the trees are likely to suffer phosphorous deficiency and make poor growth. Once established, the young Pine nut trees must not be over-watered. Once the nutshell has fallen, you could replant it into deeper containers. One must be careful to care to avoid breaking the taproot.

Usually, seeding quality helps to important for the better field of survival source for production. It provides to improve Pine nut cultivation process properly. This raises its seedling in the stage of nurseries that improve the growth of the product for Pine nut cultivation. As a result, it provides poor quality Pine nuts, that’s why saving trees that grow in the wild. It is a very important source of livelihood to continue the growth for meeting productivity.

Spacing and Planting Process in Pine Nut Cultivation

  • Pine nut trees are best planted at a spacing of 10 meters for nut production or 5 meters if planted as a shelterbelt.
  • Place the Pine nut tree in rich well-drained soil and mulch with organic matter. This is a hardy plant that will tolerate extreme conditions.
  • Pine nut harvesting is an arduous procedure. Pine nut is the specimen of Pine from which most commercial nuts are harvested.
  • Most Pine trees are tolerant of a wide range of soils and climates. Most are hardy to the United States Department of Agriculture zones 1 to 10, although the exact zone will depend upon the tree variety.
  • Swiss stone Pine
  • Korean Pine  
  • Colorado pinyon Pine
  • Single-leaf pinyon  

Normally, Pine nut trees range from 200-foot-tall monsters to more manageable 10-foot-tall bushes. Four species to try with good-sized Pine nuts and easy care are;

Verify to check with reputable dealers for viable seed or potted plants ready to go into the ground.

Production of Pine Trees

To start growing Pine trees from seed, first gather large brown or slightly green color cones in the fall season. The cones must be closed; if open, they probably have already released their seeds. Too good says Pine nut trees that have a lot of cones are more likely to have viable seeds. Lay the cones in an open box at room temperature level. When dry, the cones will open and then release their seeds.

To improve odds of seed germination, stratify the seeds – Mix them with moist peat or sand, place them in a clear plastic bag, and refrigerate them for 3 to 7 weeks. Then, sow the seeds and provide bottom heat of about 15°C. Seedlings can be transplanted outdoors into larger pots in spring, when they’re 2 inches tall (6 to 8 weeks after they germinate).

Pine nuts production mainly dependent on how the Pine nut trees produce, so the better the treatment you give them the sooner the trees will produce nuts.

Application of Manures and Fertilizers in Pine nut Cultivation

This increases the yield of dates and supplementing soils that composted FYM (farmyard manure) of 12 to 35 tons at the beginning of winter. Chemical fertilizers of N: P: K that is used for a ratio of 30:20:50 kg/hectare at the time of cultivation. Pine nut trees benefit from organic mulch.

Pine Nut Tree Pruning

In Pine nut tree pruning, it is desirable to prune trees from year 3 to remove all the lower branches. Then, clearing of the lower branches facilitates the production and harvesting of the Pine nuts and enables sheep to graze. As the growth of branches begins close to the ground, and the lower branches can become large if left unpruned. Removal of the lower branches and removal of a second leader, if it develops, and also improves the value of the tree for timber.

For Pine nut production the tree has a single trunk and then develops into an umbrella or parasol shape. Then, this provides enough height to walk underneath when gathering the cones. Pine trees can be pruned but you have to prune cleanly to healthy branches with good clusters of needles because Pines will not re-sprout from bare wood as many deciduous plants will. Never remove any more than 50 to 60% of the total foliage at any pruning session.

Intercultural Operations in Pine Nut Trees

The flower is self-fertilized and pollinated wind that takes place from November to December. Then, this provides seed ripens that provide a different source within April. These species hybridize to seedling trees to produce Pine nuts.

Plant Protection Measures in Pine Nut Cultivation

The Pine nut trees required proper measures that cause damage to the groundnut crop within the first 45 days of its productivity or growth. After sowing seed, the most critical period of productivity of nuts is the first 3-4 weeks. It mainly affects due to poor management of crop yield. An easy to grow Pine nut tree affected a few pests and diseases, but not necessarily productive.

Because of the long taproot system, Pine nut trees transplant badly if they are left in one place for more than 2 years. Plant into permanent positions as soon as possible and mulch will help suppress weeds.

In case if you are interested in this: Organic Coconut Farming.

When and How to Harvest Pine Nuts

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When to Harvest Pine Nuts (Pic Source: Pixabay)

Pine nuts ripen in the late summer or fall season, and this is when you start Pine nut harvesting. The Pine nut seeds are found in the cones and take about 18 months to mature. Usually, Pine nuts are ready to harvest about 10 days before the green cone begins to open. To speed up the drying process, the cones are dried in a burlap bag in the sun for 20 days.

When Pine nut trees are producing large cones, it is the best time for harvesting the crop. It depends on the height of the trees that pose the biggest issues in Pine nut production. Mature cones to find the Pine nut seeds delicious to provide nuts for delicious food. Some of these shells are thin and easy to take off whereas other shells are thicker and more challenging.

Pine Nut Yield and Storage

The number of cones per Pine nut tree is a function of tree diameter and the average crop yield is about 15 to 22 kg of Pine nuts per 100 kg of cones.

Storage – Generally, Pine nuts can be stored for many years after dried.



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