Commemorating 50th anniversary of the formation of Phek district
A plantation guide
Tree plantation drives are conducted every year through various agencies and community groups, especially on the occasion of World Environment Day (June 5). It is a meaningful community activity with the message of caring for the environment, mitigating the impact of climate change, and reversing the damage human activity has on nature.
However, it is also true that such activities are not carefully planned or executed and with little or no follow-up care. Only a small percentage of the tree saplings survive and huge resources are wasted such as human labour, valuable tree saplings, and management cost. Without proper review, such activities are repeated the following year through planting in the same spots where the plants have died in the previous years.
Therefore, we should pay careful attention to ‘planning’, ‘planting’, and ‘caring’ whenever large plantation drives are carried out.
1. Know the purpose of planting. Are you planting for fruit, flower, shade, prevention of soil erosion, forest rejuvenation, reduction of air/noise pollution, privacy screen, wind break, to define ROW?
2. Choose the right plant for the right place. Is the plant variety suitable for the climate and soil? Consider the growth characteristics, leaf patterns, root system, and the matured size of the tree while choosing the location and spacing between plants. A quick Google search can provide the right answers. Watch out for overhanging wires, surrounding buildings, concrete pavements, etc.
3. Avoid planting for the sake of the one-day program. If the area is under development, for example, a two-lane highway project is ongoing, do not plant there. Plantation can be done in the following seasons after the highway is completed. The roadside is not the only place for tree plantation drives. Consider planting on degraded forest lands, wastelands, public and community lands, borders of agriculture fields, along rivers, canals and streams.
4. Avoid cutting native trees. It is more reasonable to nurture an existing native tree than to cut it and plant a sapling in its place. Cutting down nearby trees to make protection fences for the saplings should be avoided.
1. Properly handle the saplings while packing and loading from the nursery and during transport to the plantation side. Avoid injuries and extreme exposure to sunlight.
2. Dig a hole that is 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball. The depth can be the same as the size of the root ball.
3. If the roots are overgrown and circling inside the polybag or pot, break up the pattern so that the tree is not choked in the future by its roots.
4. Do not bury the trunk. Plant at the level where the root flare (where the first main roots attach to the trunks) is at the surface level.
5. Fill the hole gently and firmly and remove air pockets. Watering helps to remove air pockets. There is no need to use soil amendments. Break the soil you have dug out, remove the weeds and stones, and fill the same back in.
6. Plant with a stake (bamboo or wooden stick) in the same hole and loosely tie it to the sapling with a rope. This will help to stabilize the plant and prevent wind breakage.
7. In waterlogged areas, plants can be planted by creating mounds (slightly raised ground, a small hill, or heap of soil).
1. Around the base of the plant, put 3 to 6 inches thickness of mulch. Straw, leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, and compost can be used as organic mulch. They keep the soil moist and prevent weeds. Do not let the mulch touch the base of the plant.
2. Protect the plants from grazing cattle. Make tree guards using bamboo or tree branches that are locally available.
3. Aftercare which includes removal of weeds, watering, pruning, etc should be done for a few years till the plants are established. If the day of the plantation drive is followed by a spell of hot and dry weather, regular watering will be vital for the survival of the plants. To entrust volunteers or respective department personnel or village youths to take care of the plants is important for the ultimate success of the plantation drive.
Some suggested plants:
1. An unexpected but attractive plant for plantation drives is to plant bamboo. They are fast-growing (some can grow 3 feet a day), can be harvested every 3-5 years, and are super strong (more tensile strength than steel). Bamboos are plants of the past, present, and importantly the future.
2. Ficus trees (e.g. Indian banyan, Common fig, Peepal) are promoted as framework or keystone species for tropical forest restoration. They are traditionally found near Naga traditional gates, resting sheds, and along the village roadside. Ficus trees not only saw but shaped our human history and environmental degradation has turned scientists to this tree as the most critical species to repair forest ecosystems.
3. Wild apple (Docynia indica) trees are low maintenance and prolific in bearing fruit.
4. Rhododendron trees are native trees and can live for over 100 years. They are attractive not only during the blooming season but their leaves and bark are beautiful.
5. Cherry trees are one of the fastest-growing trees. Due to their fast growth rate compared to other trees, they could be a viable alternative for firewood, timber, and various domestic construction works. Cherry blossom is a tourist attraction.
6. This one is not a plant suggestion. Consider relocating a tree rather than cutting it down. With powerful machinery at our disposal such as excavators and chainsaws, we can prune a large tree to a manageable size and relocate it if it is an obstruction for another project work. It may take a lifetime for a small sapling to reach that tree size. With some effort, we can enjoy that tree in its glory again by relocating it.
Prepared by Dr Sao Tunyi, President, Phek District Farmers Union.