Cardamom Search

Monday, June 29, 2009

ILaichi or Cardamom Cultivation Basics


Popularly known as "Queen of spices", small cardamom of commerce is an important and popular flavouring material and spice. The useful part is the dried mature fruit. It is usually referred to as capsule. Cardamom is used for flavouring curries, cakes, and bread and for other culinary purposes. It is also used as masticatory and for flavouring coffee and confectionery.
An essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the seeds, which is used for flavouring processed foods and liquors, in perfumery and beverages. The pleasant aroma and the characteristic warm, slightly pungent taste are due to numerous essential oil components present in the seeds.
The earliest record of cardamom in India is in an Ayurvedic medical treatise compiled in BC 1000. Cardamom is a native of Western Ghats in South India. India had a virtual monopoly of cardamom till recently. But now it is being cultivated in Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Tanzania. Cardamom cultivation in India is confined to three States, viz. Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Cardamom is a perennial bushy herb. The tuberous underground rhizome is its real stem and the aerial shoot is a pseudostem and formed by the encircling leaf sheaths. The leaves are long, alternate and lanceolate in shape. Flowers are borne on panicles and they emerge dire
ctly from the underground stem on long floral stalks.
They are hermaphrodite and zygomorphic. The fruits are tri-locular, ovoid or oblong, greenish-brown capsules containing about 15-20 seeds attached to axil placenta. Light reddish or dark reddish brown seeds are irregularly three-sided, transversely wrinkled or furrow
ed and are covered by a membranous aril.

Climate and soil

Ideal climatic and soil conditions for cardamom are as follows:
• Natural habitat: Evergreen forests of Western Ghats
• Altitude: 600 to 1200 m above MSL
• Annual rainfall: 1500 to 4000 mm
• Temperature: 10 to 35°C. Considerable variations both in the total rainfall pattern and its distribution are noticed in the cardamom tracts.
• Soil type preferred: Forest loamy soils.
• Soil pH: 4.2 to 6.8, generally acidic in nature
• Soil nutrient status: High in organic matter and nitrogen, low to medium in available phosphorus and medium to high in available potassium.


Two varieties of cardamom plants are identified, and they are Elettaria cardamomum Maton, variety Major composed of wild indigenous types of Sri Lanka and Elettaria cardamomum Maton, variety Minor comprising of cultivars like, Mysore, Malabar and Vazhukka. These types are grown in different tracts and are mostly identified on the nature of panicles, size of plants and other morphological characters. Cardamom varieties are highly location specific. High yielding varieties of cardamom released include ICRI 1,2,3:TDK 4 &11;PV 1,CCS 1 Mudugiri 1;NCC 200; MCC 12,16 &40.

Production of quality planting materials

Cardamom can be propagated vegetatively and by seedlings. For vegetative propagation, rhizomes with not less than three shoots are used. Plants propagated vegetatively come to bearing one year earlier than the seedling-propagated plants. But this method has the disadvantage of spreading the ‘katte' disease, which is of viral origin. This disease is not transmitted through seeds. Hence in areas where the disease is widespread, it would be safer to use seedlings for propagation.


Ripe capsules of the desired cultivar are collected from high yielding plants during September-October. The seeds are extracted by gently pressing the capsules.

Cultivation Practices

For planting in new area, ground should be cleared or if it is replanting area, old plants should be removed. Shade regulation, terracing and preparation of pits should be done during summer months.Major cultivation practices include Shade regulation , Field preparation , Planting , Weed control , Irrigation, Soil and water conservation, Forking and mulching, Trashing & Earthing up.

Nutrient Management    
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Fertilizer use has become a regular operation in cardamom plantations. Indiscriminate application of chemical fertilizers will do more harm to the crop than applying no fertilizer at all. Hence, it is absolutely essential that the planters follow a judicious fertilizer schedule
to achieve satisfactory return and also reduce cost of cultivation. Whether fertilizer is applied or not, organic manure is a must for cardamom crop.

The factors to be borne in mind while fertilizer application include:

Schedule for the use of NPK fertilizers, Time & method of application,
Application of organic manures, Lime/dolomite application, Use of micronutrients.

Plant protection


2. Shoot fly ( Formosina flavipes )
4. Root grubs (Basilepta fulvicorne)
6. Cutworm ( Acrilasisa plagiata )

1. Nursery leaf spot
2. Nursery leaf rot
3. Damping off or seedling rot
4. Clump rot ( Rhizome rot )

Bee and insecticide management in cardamom plantation

Cardamom flower is bisexual. The most conspicuous feature of the flower is the large white labellum with violet streaks, which attracts insect for pollination. The essential floral part – stigma, is placed at a higher level by a slender style. Anther is situated well below the stigma.
The flower thus represents a pin flower, which is best adapted to cross-pollination by an insect pollinator. Flower opening in cardamom is maximum between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. Stigma receptivity and pollen viability are maximum during morning hours.
The honeybees Apis cerana indica and Apis dorsata are the major pollinators of cardamom flowers. Fruit setting increases significantly in bee-pollinated flowers compared to flowers prevented from bee-pollination. Bees start foraging in morning hours and it is high between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. During misty days, the forage is delayed for an hour or two. A bee usually visits all flowers in a clump and crawl over the anther and stigma. During this process it carries anther from one flower and a part of it gets deposited on the stigma of another flower. For effective pollination in cardamom, four bee colonies per hectare are required. Studies have indicated that an increase in yield up to nine per cent could be obtained by keeping two to three bee boxes per ha of cardamom.

Since bees are highly sensitive to insecticides, certain precautions may be taken to prevent their destruction by insecticides:
1. Dust formulation, which are more harmful to honey bees than other formulations of insecticides, shall be applied only in times of acute water shortage.
2. Insecticide sprays shall be done in afternoon.
3. Insecticides less toxic to bees may be selected for spraying during peak flowering periods.
4. In the evening, previous to the day of insecticide application, beehives may be closed and covered with wet gunny bags after providing sufficient sugar solution and water in the hives. The hives may be opened on the next day morning.

Cardamom plants normally start bearing capsules from the third

year of planting. Picking is carried out at an interval of 30 days. Harvesting season in Kerala is October-February and the peak period of harvest is September-November. After harvest, cardamom capsules are processed. Cardamom capsules with green colour fetch a premium price. Hence emphasis has to be given on the preservation of green colour during curing and subsequent storage .The post-harvest operation consists of washing, pre-treatment with chemicals, curing, cleaning, grading and packing.

(compiled and written by Harsh saxena)