"Teak is a fast growing species, whose roots by this time would have been strongly established," says Mr.Anwardeen, District Forest Officer, Tiruchi

Though 600 hectares of teak plantations across the district have entered their second year of maintenance (when only soil works are carried out), the Forest Department is confident that this year’s monsoon deficit will not adversely affect their growth. “Teak is a very strong taproot, which is capable of surviving even the harshest of droughts,” says I. Anwardeen, District Forest Officer, Tiruchi. According to him, it is quite possible that the secondary tissues of the teak become stronger when faced with drought-like conditions.

The project, under which teak plantations have been established along Public Works Department (PWD) canals in the district, does not provide for irrigation of the seedlings beyond the first year of maintenance.

“Teak is a fast growing species, whose roots by this time would have been strongly established,” says Mr.Anwardeen. The roots, which grow relentlessly to support the weight of the tree’s top crown, is capable of finding the water table, however deep. “Since the plantations are along canal banks, that have water for several months in a year, the water table is quite strong in these parts making it needless to irrigate the seedlings beyond a point,” he says.

Trees such as teak are naturally capable of going on a ‘growth hiatus,’ where they stop actively growing till the next rains. “Tiruchi district has been getting summer showers every once in a while, despite the overall monsoon deficit,” says the DFO, who also pointed out that since teak was not a regular agricultural crop, there was no reason to worry.

According to A.Sekar, a forest ranger involved in the project, the most important period in a teak seedling’s life was its raising year, when it is nurtured at a nursery. Starting from the collection of seeds from a mature specimen, to their plantation at the canal bank sites, the project involves around 16 distinct processes.

The raising year, which refers to the nursery stage, involves pre-treatment of seeds with water mixed with cow dung; preparation of the mother bed with equal proportions of cow dung manure, silt soil and red soil; sprinkling and incubation of seeds (using hay) to induce sprouting and regular watering (with rose cans only) for a period of 25 to 30 days.

“The seedlings, once about two feet tall are removed from the soil, and are cut short so that only an inch above its bulbous root is left and planted within plastic bags that have been packed with the same mother bed soil,” says Mr.Sekar. After 30 days, the seedlings are transported to the sites that have been prepared: “The seedlings are planted in 1.5 metre deep pits that are filled with poultry manure,” says the ranger, who added that manual irrigation of the site is carried out till the end of the first year of maintenance.

“In order to help the seedlings retain water from irrigation or rain, the soil around the pit is removed in the shape of a saucer that is 1 metre in diameter,” says Mr. Sekar.