Thanks to the fast growing nature of malai vembu (Melia Dubia) variety of neem, some of the educational institutions in Gobi-Sathy area have evinced interest in planting them in their campuses by procuring seedlings from the Forest Department.
For the Forest Department, which has been encouraging agro forestry activity through Tree Cultivation in Private Land (TCPL) under Tamil Nadu Bio-diversity Conservation and Greening Project (TBGP) in the last two years, the educational institutions are helping in a significant way to increase green cover.
The Montfort School at D.G. Pudur near Sathyamangalam, for instance, has planted over 1,000 saplings in phases. The saplings planted in the first phase have grown to more than 20 feet in just one year time.
“Educational institutions would prefer to plant malai vembu in large numbers as they grow fast to provide shade and healthy atmosphere," said school principal Mariaprakasam.
The institutions have been apprised by the Forest Department of the commercial value of the tree variety. Once the tree gets past 10 years, the wood would fetch nearly Rs. 20,000, they have been told.
A study by the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, Udhagamandalam, has proved malai vembu to be highly suitable for farm forestry and agro forestry. Melia Dubia not only fetches handsome price in the market, but also requires only low maintenance, the study states.
It is the fastest growing tree, reaching up to 40 feet in just two years. Planting of 300 to 400 trees an acre can ensure a minimum profit of Rs. 1 lakh a year. The straight pole fetches good price in the market, the study says.
The centre had conducted demonstrations on commercial growing of the tree into farming systems in the Ayalur Model Watershed in Erode district, under Macro- Management of Agriculture (MMA-NWDPRA) programme of the Union Ministry of Agriculture.