Litchi is an exotic tree fruit, is always scarce. Imported and found exclusively in the most upmarket greengrocers and specialty stores in Nairobi, litchi’s retail price of 1,000/= to 2,000/= Kenya Shillings a kilo keeps it firmly out of the reach of the majority.

With good adoption, Litchi fruit farming in Kenya and even neighbouring countries would join the world’s litchi producers. This would make the delectable fruit accessible to most people and bring nutritional gains for the population.

The litchi is an evergreen tree up to 20m high and bearing fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is covered with an inedible, pink-red, roughly textured rind, easily removed to expose the sweet, translucent, white flesh.

Fruit cultivation is always beneficial both in terms of profit and market value. fruits are good for the body. Slowly people are realising the health benefits of fruits and hence cultivation of fruits has also increased. Today, there are so many different varieties and cultivars of many different fruit trees. As technology has advanced, so have the methods for cultivation and farming of fruit trees.

Soil

Litchi can be cultivated in a variety of soils. The ideal soil would be loamy soil. But any soil with a good fertility and rich content of organic matter will do well for growing litchi plants. The soil needs to have a very good drainage system as litchi plants cannot tolerate waterlogged condition. Litchi grows well in acidic soils. Alkaline soils must be avoided for the cultivation of litchi. The ideal ph of the soil would be 6.0-8.0.

Land Preparation

Do ploughing, cross ploughing of land and then levelled the land. Prepare land in such way that water stagnation should not occurred in field.

Sowing

Time of sowing
Planting can be done just after monsoon in month of August-September, sometime it can be extended up to November in Punjab. For planting select two year old plant.

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Spacing
Use distance of 8-10 meter in row to row and also plant to plant in case of square method.

Sowing Depth
Dug pits of 1m x 1m x 1m and expose to sun for some days. Then fill the pit with top soil with 20-25 kg of well decomposed cow dung, 2 kg of bone meal and 300 gm of MOP. After filling sprinkle some water on it. Plant the seedlings in middle of pit.

Method of sowing
Direct sowing or transplanting method.

Propagation

Litchi is commercially propagated by Air-Layering method. Seed propagation is not common one and takes long time for tree establishment. For air layering, select branches of 2-3cm diameter and 30-60cm long free from pest and disease. Remove 4cm wide ring of bark with help of sharp knife. Place wet moss on exposed portion and then wrapped polythene sheet around it tightly. Root development will start after 4weeks. When good numbers of roots are developed detached  from mother tree. After then immediately plant it in nursery. Then apply irrigation to it.

Pruning and Training

Initially training is needed to give definite shape. But pruning is not much needed for Litchi plants. Light pruning is needed after harvesting of fruits to promote new shoots.

Intercrops

It is slow growing crop and required about 7-10years to come into commercial bearing. Intercrop can be taken during initial 3-4 years. It will give additional annual income along with enriching the soil and improve soil condition also help in weed control. Quick growing plant like peach, plum, can be taken as intercrop. Also vegetables and pulses are preferred as intercrop. When orchard come into commercial bearing, uproot intercrops.
Litchi is cross pollinated and pollination is done by insect, honey bees etc. Place 20-25boxes of honey bees per hectare to get proper pollination and fruit sets.

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Protection of young plant

To protect young crops from hot wind in summer and cold waves in winter, plant suitable windbreak trees around litchi plantation upto 4-5 years. Growing of Dhaincha around litchi plantation will protect plant during summer and winter, for that grows dhaincha seeds in middle of February. To protect crop from heavy winds grow tall trees seedling like Mango, Jamun etc. around litchi plantation.

Fertilizer

Litchi cultivation requires more nutrition than other plants. Appropriate quantities of nitrogenous fertilisers have to be added in 2-3 split doses. Farmyard manure at the time of land preparation is essential. Litchi plants can suffer from zinc and boron deficiency if proper nutrients are not provided. It is better to do a soil testing to find out whether the soil is deficient in nutrients. Accordingly, the nutrients can be provided.

Irrigation

Apply irrigation at all stage of development. At early growth stage frequent irrigation is needed. Give irrigation after completing fertilizer application. Fruit development stage is critical for irrigation. At this stage apply irrigation twice a week; it will help to reduce cracking of fruits to greater extent.

Intercultural Methods For Litchi Farming

Mulching in litchi crop is very effective for control of weeds and conservation of soil moisture. Apart from this, a light pruning is required during harvesting. Intercropping of litchi with other vegetable and legume crop can be done at the early stages of crop growth.

Pest Control For Cultivation Of Litchi

The following are the commonly affected pests of litchi plants and their control measures:

  • Litchi mite
  • Leaf miner
  • Weevils
  • Caterpillar
  • Fruit borer

Yield Of Litchi

A mature tree of litchi can produce a yield of 150-200 kg of fruits per tree. With using bees as cross-pollinators, the yield can be increased further.

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Benefits Of Litchi

  • Litchis are a rich source of Vitamin-C. This vitamin is so much important as it defends the body against diseases and strengthens the immunity system.
  • Being a good source of antioxidants, the litchis eliminate free radicals out of the body and maintain proper functioning of the body organs.
  • Litchi has anti-inflammatory properties which prevent injury and reduces inflammation of body tissues.
  • Litchi can help lower blood pressure and in the process keeps the heart healthy.
  • The antioxidant power of litchis also protects the liver from stress and keeps the liver working in normal condition.

Litchi Farming – Conclusion

The litchi is a very delicious fruit and also perishable in nature. Efforts must be made for proper storage of the fruits so that they can be transported to father places. The short fruiting season is inadequate for the huge demand of this fruit in the local as well as the international market. Modern methods and implements can use for increased yields and improved quality.

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