-The great smelling
Planting and after care
Vanilla can be raised either as monocrop or intercrop in coconut
and arecanut gardens. It is usually trained on trellies or on low
branching, rough barked trees like Glyricidia maculata, Plumeria
alba, jack (Artocarpus heterophyllus), Erythrina spp., etc. or on
dead standards. In some places arecanut is also used for trailing
vanilla. The standards have to be planted well in advance at a spacing
of 1.2-1.5 m within rows and 2.5-3.0 m between rows. Approximately
1600 to 2000 standards can be accommodated in a hectare. If dead
standards are used, shade should be provided to the vines initially
by planting banana or suitable plants. The vanilla plants should
be allowed to trail horizontally on poles/trellies tied to trees
after trailing to a height of 1.5- 2.0 m or coiled around the branches
so as to facilitate pollination and harvesting. Flowering will not
occur as long as the vines climb upward. The shade trees should
be regularly pruned to maintain a light shade. The pruned leaves
and branches can be applied as much.
Planting of cuttings should be taken up preferably during September-November
in shallow pits, filled with humus and mulch. The cuttings should
be planted with two nodes below the soil surface and at the rate
of two cuttings per standard. Care should be taken to ensure that
the basal cut end of the cutting is kept just above the surface
of the soil to prevent rotting. It is advisable to provide adequate
shade to the newly planted cuttings. A thick mulch of leaves should
be provided immediately after planting. The cuttings sprout within
Inter-cultivation is not generally recommended in vanilla plantations.
However, occasional slashing of weeds is beneficial. Care should
be taken not to disturb or damage the roots during cultural operations
since they are mainly confined to the surface layer of the soil.
Regular mulching combined with irrigation during summer enhances
growth and yield.
The quantity of fertilizers to be applied may vary based on the
fertility status of the soil. However, 40-60 g of N, 20-30 g of
P2O5 and 60- 100 g of K2O should be given to each vine per year
besides organic manures such as vermicompost, oil cakes, poultry
manure, wood ash, etc. Organic manures can be applied during May-June
and NPK in 2-3 splits along with leaf mulch during June-September
on the topmost layer of the soil when sufficient moisture is available.
As in the case of other orchids, vanilla also responds to foliar
feeding. A 1% solution of 17:17:17 NPK mixture can be sprayed on
the plant once a month for boosting growth and flower production.
Flowering and pollination
Vanilla usually starts flowering in the third year of planting;
however, it depends on the size of the original cutting used for
planting. Maximum production of flowers occurs during the 7-8th
year. Vanilla flowers during December to February and each flower
lasts for only a day. Pinching off the top 7.5 to 10.0 cm of the
vine, 6-8 months before the flowering season encourages flower production.
Similarly, pruning off the older branches (which bore fruits the
previous year) also encourages flower production. The flowers are
borne in axillary racemes and each inflorescence consists of 15-20
flowers. The flowers are to be artificially pollinated (hand pollination)
for fruit set. Since the flowers last only for a day pollination
must be done on the same day. The remaining flower buds are nipped
off. About 10-12 inflorescences may be pollinated in a vine. In
hand pollination method, a pin or needle or small piece of pointed
wood or a tooth pick is ideal to apply pollen on the stigma of the
flower. The pollen of the vanilla flower is produced in a mass called
pollinia, and is covered by hood or anther cap. The stigma is protected
with a lip known as ërostellumí or ëlabellumí.
For pollination, the stamen cap is removed by a needle exposing
the pollinia. Then the flap like rostellum is pushed up and the
pollinia are brought into contact with the stigma. The ideal time
for pollination is 6 am to 1 pm. An efficient worker can pollinate
100-150 flowers a day.