Melia Dubia or Malabar Neem Cultivation Guide

Melia dubia or Malabar neem is a deciduous and one of the fastest growing tree species. A fully grown tree attains the height of 65 to 100 feet with a spreading crown and a straight bole of up to 35 feet. The girth of the straight bole reaches up to 4-5 feet and has high commercial value.

Melia dubia is an ideal agroforestry species and is primarily cultivated for its great pulp class and timber quality. In fact, the paper making industries and plywood producers are the major benefactors to cultivators of Melia dubia tree.

Melia Dubia at a Glance

Melia dubia has been acknowledged as one of the fastest growing and sizeable yield producing agroforestry crops to farmers. Also, called as a ‘Forest Neem’, it boasts of being among the fastest growing farming tree genres, which takes merely 5-7 years to set for harvest while the yield is found considerably hefty. Equally, by incorporating suitable crops in the same field, farmers can enhance their income via Agroforestry model.

Scientific NameMelia dubia
Common NameMalabar Neem, Barma Dhek, Maha Neem (Bengali), Ghora Neem (Hindi), Malai vembu (Tamil), Konda Vepa / Malabaru Vepa (Telugu), Hebbevu / Karibvam (Kannada), Batra (Odia)
Botanical FamilyMeliaceae
Planting SeasonMonsoon is the best time for transplantation but can be done around the year with supplementary irrigation
Crop DurationFrom 2-3 years to 10-15 years for different utilisation
Crop TypeAgroforestry

Uses

it is a versatile plant and has different uses. The wood is termite proof and it has multipurpose uses from secondary timber to high quality plywood.

Malabar neem leaves
Malabar neem leaves
  • Plywood: Melia dubia is mainly used for manufacturing of plywood, particle board, MDF and panel products. Its high pealing quality makes it the perfect face veneer in plywood. Due to its resistance to termite, Melia dubia has very high demand for making termite proof plywood without adding extra chemicals.
  • Pulpwood: Melia dubia is used as biomass for the pulp and paper industry.
  • Timber: Matured plants deliver quality timber which is extensively used for furniture making, building and constructional purposes.
  • Secondary timber: It is a good secondary timber. It is used in manufacturing matchbox/matchsticks, packing boxes, tea boxes, musical instruments, false ceiling planks, splints, agricultural implements, firewood, etc.
  • Medicine: Leaves and fruits of this plant contain antioxidant, anticancer, antimicrobial, antidiabetic properties and have medicinal values. Leaf extract is used as a biopesticide in organic farming.

Demand

India is a timber-deficient country and depends on imported raw materials. Around ⅔ raw material cost of plywood comes from timber within which ‘face veneer’ alone costs 8%. India has a shortage of quality face veneer and most of them are imported from Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Gabon and other countries. After recent economic sanctions on Myanmar, timber trade with the country is significantly reduced.

In the quest for self-reliance and assured supply of raw materials the industry is looking for domestic supply and has identified Melia dubia as a high quality plywood material for core and face veneer. Wooden quality of Melia dubia is superior and is suitable for furniture, plywood, MDF, particle board, etc. This shows clearly that Melia dubia has a ready and assured market.

Where Melia Dubia Grows?

The deciduous species is a native to India, Australia, and South East Asian countries. Melia dubia grows naturally in tropical moist environment ideal for deciduous forest in Indian sub-continent. In India, large scale Melia dubia plantation are found in Sikkim Himalayas, upper Assam, Khasi Hills, and N. Circars, in Dooars of North Bengal as well as in the Hills of Orissa, Decaan, and Western Ghats at an altitude of 1,500 – 1,800 m. Recently, Malabar neem is being planted on farmlands in various states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, etc. under agroforestry and quickly becoming a success story.

Melia dubia plantation
A Melia dubia plantation

Ideal Conditions for Melia Dubia Plantation

Melia dubia naturally grows in tropical moist forestlands. However, managed irrigated plantations on farmlands can give better results.

Soil

Well drained, deep and fertile sandy loam or laterite soil with pH ranging between 5.5 to 8 is ideal for Malabar neem cultivation while its growth in gravel mixed shallow soil shows poor growth rate. The root system penetrate deeper soils. Even as the soil should have the ability to hold needed moisture, the field should be well-drained and must not be waterlogged.

Climate

Areas with rainfall ranging above 1000 mm annually are considered the best for the desired growth of Melia dubia. Nevertheless, in areas having lower rainfall, they can grow consistently if supplementary irrigation are provided. Standard temperature and high sunlight exposure is helpful.

Melia Dubia Cultivation

1. Propagation

To start a plantation, farmers need high quality disease free and fast growing Melia dubia saplings. When it comes to propagation of Malabar neem tree, farmers have options to go for seed germination or vegetative propagation methods. It is better to procure high quality planting materials from Melia dubia nurseries instead of growing the saplings from seeds on their own farm.

a. Melia Dubia Seed Germination Process

Seed germination of Melia dubia is not just challenging but also a comprehensive process as well. The success rate of seed germination is found to be only about 30%. Enough seeds should be planted for germination keeping the germination rate in mind. About 200-240 Melia dubia seeds comes per Kg. So, a minimum 5-6 kg of kernels should be planted for germination in the nursery bed for 1 acre of plantation (300 saplings).

Melia dubia tree
Melia dubia tree before transplantation
  1. Seed treatment is done to soften the hardy outer coat.
  2. Inner hard cover is removed to reach the kernel inside. These kernels or dried drupes are sown for generating seedlings in the nursery. Be careful that kernels are not damaged in the process.
  3. Raised nursery beds are prepared with a combination of sand and soil in 1:1 ratio. For faster results, use dung in 50/50 proportion with the blend of soil and sand.
  4. The drupes are dibbled within the soil separately keeping a distance of minimum 5 cm. within them. The ideal period of showing Melia dubia seeds is March-April.
  5. The seedbed needs to be watered two times a day and then the bed should be covered with a poly pack or its equivalent that helps sustain desired moisture.
  6. Nursery beds should be kept under the shade. It takes nearly 90 days to germinate drupes. Once the seedlings attain approximately 2 feet of height, they’re prepared for transplantation in the farm.

b. Vegetative Propagation

Vegetative propagation is done from small lively stem cuttings. 1000 – 2000 PPM Indolebutyric acid (IBA) is applied to let the shoot respond well. IBA releases Auxin, a naturally-plant hormone that encourages the plant shoot taken from grown-up trees react faster toward rooting and foster vegetative propagation. Since shoots are extremely vulnerable to root decaying proper measures should be undertaking while placing them into sand medium. That should not get water logged. Dry seasons are ideal for vegetative rooting and if properly done, you can get 75% roots through shoot propagation. While cutting stems, choose matured trees to get better results.

2. Planting

Pits of size 2ft X 2ft X 2ft are dug and filled with topsoil mixed with topsoil, 500gm organic manure and 50gm NPK. Monsoon is the best season to do the plantation work for rapid growth.

Standard Spacing in Malabar Neem Plantation

SpacingPlants/acre
10ft X 10ft435
12ft X 12ft302
15ft X 15ft193
19ft X 19ft120
26ft X 26ft64
33ft X 33ft40

One acre of farmland can accommodate 50-60 plants if planted only along the border. About 300-400 trees are planted per acre in monoculture block plantations. Low density plantation gives room for intercrops.

3. Intercropping

There is a great opportunity for intercropping with papaya, banana, sugarcane, melon, groundnut, pulses, vegetables and various spices like turmeric, chilli, pepper, etc. The intercrop should be chosen according to plantation density and age.

Plantation Management and Care

Manuring and Fertilisation

Organic manure and NPK give very good result. Quarterly doses of 25-50 gm of NPK per plant up to 3 years and thereafter 100gm per plant is very useful for fast growth.

Irrigation

Melia dubia can be grown in rainfed conditions but the growth is almost half that of irrigated plantations. Regular watering is very helpful for speedy growth especially during dry season when protective irrigation is essential. 3-5 irrigation per month is very effective. Drainage system must be good to avoid water logging during monsoon. In dry lands or plains, regular watering and protecting plants from extreme heat or frosty environment are some preconditions.

Pruning

Time to time pruning is required up to 3 years for straight bole and fast growth. This will avoid multiple branches and pest attack on diseased, dead or damaged branches. Clear, straight boles without knots fetches higher market price.

Thinning

Melia dubia plantation thinning
Melia dubia plantation thinning

Thinning is a complex but more economical practice followed in some plantations. In this practice, high density or ultra-high density plantation is carried out initially and harvesting is done phase wise by cutting down alternative rows.

Thinning can be done at 2-3, 5 and 8 years of age. Harvesting done at different stages is marketed for different products. In this way income starts early at 2-3 years of plant age and few plants are left to be harvested after 6-8 years to be sold as quality timber. Large plantations may follow thinning to harvest at different stages but small farms may face marketing problems.

Weeding

With scheduled weeding sessions to get rid of unwanted shrub growths in plant adjoining areas in the rising stage and elimination of decayed/ deceased tree branches, planters can keep the trees vivacious and fast growing.

Pest Control

Melia dubia is resistant to common termite but there are other pests which may cause considerable amounts of damage. Red spider, polyphagous defoliator, mealy bug, leaf miner, sap sucker, etc. are harmful especially during nursery period. Another concerning disease is root rot which is caused due to water stagnation. Spraying a suitable amount of pesticide is helpful to control the infestation.

Harvesting and Yield

Melia dubia can be harvested at different ages for different purposes. Planting density is another important factor. High density plantation is harvested early and trees under low density plantation are left for higher girth size. Thinning can be followed in large high density plantations to harvest at different stages.

Age at HarvestingUtilisation
2-3 yearsMatchstick, pulpwood, firewood
4-5 yearsPencil, packaging box, cigar box, building materials, ceiling planks
6-8 years and abovePlywood, furniture and constructional needs like ship, boat, bridge construction, etc.

Growth and yield of Melia dubia plants depend on irrigation, soil and management. A properly irrigated and well managed plantation gives 2-3 times the yield of the unmanaged plantation. Melia dubia yield per plant can be 12 to 15 CFT of timber after 5-6 years in managed plantations where the thumb rule for unmanaged plantation is 1 CFT/ plant/ year.

Marketing

Plants up to 5 years old are sold per tonnage. Current market price of Melia dubia varies between Rs. 4500-5500 per tonne. Plants over 6 years of age with a minimum girth of 3ft. have demand for the plywood industry and are sold by measuring CFT. Current market price varies between Rs. 450 to Rs. 600 per cubic feet of wood.

A Sample Melia Dubia Cultivation Project

Here is a sample project of Melia dubia cultivation based on the following assumptions. Area under plantation is considered 1 acre with a plant spacing of 12ft X 12ft which accommodates 302 plants/acre. Cost per plant is considered Rs. 18 and.

1. Expenditure

Item1st Year2nd Year3rd Year4th Year5th Year6th Year
Land preparation and planting9,00000000
Plants5,43600000
Drip irrigation system45,00000000
Fertilisers and manures4,50010,00015,00020,00020,00020,000
Irrigation1,0002,0002,0002,5003,0003,000
Manpower18,00018,00018,00015,00015,00015,000
Total Expenditure82,93630,00035,00037,00038,00038,000
(Amount in Rs.)

2. Profitability

Profitability depends on the uses of the timber. In this sample project, the objective of the plantation is to generate quality timber for the plywood industry within 6-7 years. Each plant can fetch Rs. 5000-7000 per tree in the plywood industry if the cost of harvesting and transportation is borne by the buyers. Considering Rs. 5000 per plant an amount of around Rs. 15,00,000 can be achieved which converts into Rs. 12,00,000 per acre profit from Melia dubia cultivation.

Large farmers or a group of farmers can do value addition by setting up a peeling lathe to convert the logs into plywood veneer and sell directly to plywood manufacturers for higher return.

Should You Grow Melia Dubia?

Existing farmers have the opportunity to plant along their farm border and earn a handsome income after 6-7 years. Large farmers and individuals with high non-farm income can go for block plantation to capitalise on the growing domestic demand.

Advantages

  • Huge demand-supply gap for raw material in plywood and wood panel industry.
  • Fast growth, straight bole, less shade on field crops and ready market makes this plant a perfect agroforestry crop.
  • Unlike many other tree crops, Melia dubia can be harvested at different stages and marketed accordingly. Agroforestry coupled with thinning makes early and regular income.

Disadvantages

  • Good water supply is required for fast growth. Commercial plantations in low rainfall zones or areas with a crisis in irrigation water may not be viable.
  • Water stagnation affects Melia dubia badly. So, plantations in low areas where water does not drain well should be avoided.
  • Finally, Melia dubia is a highly commercial tree species with specific utilisations. It has different utilisations for harvesting at different stages. Before starting a plantation for a specific product one must be assured of its demand in the local market for higher return.
Is Melia Dubia profitable?

Melia dubia is a profitable long term agroforestry tree species. Rs. 10-12 lakh of profit can be achieved per acre after 6-7 years of plantation.

What is the price of Melia Dubia per kg?

Price of Melia Dubia wood per kg is around Rs. 5 or Rs. 5000 per tonne in 2023.

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13 thoughts on “Melia Dubia or Malabar Neem Cultivation Guide”

  1. Hi, I need nursery name and address in west bengal near Uttar Dinajpur or Malda district.
    Please help.me to get my requerment as per my needs.

    Reply
  2. Nice Information . However i want to meet the farmers also those who are sowing the plants to get more and more knowledge.

    Reply
  3. Sir,
    Hi I want to do melia dubia plantation in Nadia dist of west bengal, it it will be possible and how it will be farming, please send instruction

    Reply
  4. Sir I want to go for Malabar Neem plantation in upper Assam so Pls guide me about the process and from where I can acquire good seeds for plants.. We are in Tea cultivation and we are having acres of Tea Garden so is it fruitful to plant in boundary and middle of tea Garden.. Pls advice

    Reply
  5. I’m impressed by the presentation on Malaba Need. Pl let me know whether they can be grown in Kalaburagi, Karnataka state of South India, plain area, high temperature during summer & moderate temperature during rest of the year with irritation facilities throughout the year in black soil.

    Reply
  6. Hi, I have a 1acre land on steep slope in Goa. Can I plant Melia Dubia? Would it do well with the weather here? Also how many trees would I be able to plant and what is the best guidance for distance between each plant. I plan on growing vegetables and herbs as well on the same land. Your advice and guidance is much appreciated. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. I need nursery and seed suppliers in Pune region / in Mahaharashtra for Milia Dubia. Has anybody plantation in Pune Maharashtra region.

    Reply
  8. I want to go for malabar neem plantation in Bargarh district of Odisha.where shall I get these plants ? Please guide me in this direction.

    Reply
  9. I want to plant Malabar Neem in my farm Rajgarh Madhya Pradesh..
    Where I contact to get plants (saplings)

    Reply
  10. I want to do the neem plantation in District Nadia, west Bengal. Need some more knowledge and over all guidance. Can you suggest some one whom I can contact.

    Reply

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