Mr. Murali, Mr. Batevani,
Trees cultivation can be done 1. if farmer does not have much time to daily look after his farm. 2. if farmer wants to grow trees as fence/boundary and use it as additional income once every 8-10 years 3. if farmer is doing intensive cultivation on multi-tier basis and trees occupy the highest tier. 4. if farmer is practising dairy/cattle/goat/sheep farming and has land suitable for growing pasture.
Trees can be used as feedtsock for biomass based energy industries. But viability of such industry is good only if one can get the land reasonably cheap. There is an american company called Clenergen that has taken thousands of acres in tamil nadu and growing melia dubia, bamboo, marjestica, paulownia, etc for energy industry. They are using polypoidisation to increase the yield of bamboo to 60 tonnes per acre per year. Their website is clenergen.com
Export of biomass in biomass pelletised form is now growing between south america and europe since european union has mandated renewable energy norms. I think brazil, colombia, etc are exporting wood chip pellets in sail powered (?) ships to europe so that the whole process is carbon-neutral.
However biomass industries not doing well in India following the Jatropha oil fiasco. Therefore most people growing trees grow them for timber sale.
In many states people grow casuarina for biomass or sale as straight poles or for sale to paper industries. You can cultivate casuarina upto 5,000 trees per acre and harvest in about 4-5 years. Normally it should grow at a rate of 25-35 tonnes per acre per year with rain fed irrigation. So in 4 years you will get about 100-140 tonnes. In tamil Nadu, TN Newsprint and Sesahayee Paper Mills are I think currently offering about Rs 2500 per tonne net to farmer. So if you cultivate say 2000 trees per acre with proper irrigation, you shud be able to acheive 40 tonnes per acre per yaer. This will give you 160 tonnes at end of 4 th year and a return of 4 lacs per acre after 4 years. This is best case situation. Advantage in this system is that once planting is done, all that needs to be done is security so that nobody cuts your trees off in the night and one person to ensure water for every tree once a fortnight. The paper mills take care of harvesting and transport if you have prior agreemnt with them. If you dont want to sell to paper mills, you can sell as poles for pandals, shamianas, houses, etc. The traders for this type will offer you 3000-4000 rs per tonne depending on season.
Timber can be of two types - plywood and hardwood. Tress like melia dubia, marjestica, silver oak, etc are suitable for harvesting plywood. Many coffee, tea, cardamon estates plant silver oak, etc for shade purposes such that every 8-10 years when these trees are harvested they yiled an additional income apart from the plantation crop. (One person I know with about 20 acres coffee estate gets couple crores every five or six year from cutting half his silver trees) These trees can be cut in about 6-8 years time after planting when their DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) is atleast 9 inches or more, best 12 inches or more. Bole (straight length) should be at 30 ft or minimum 10 ft. Cubic foot rates of such wood is abuot rs 400-650/cb ft. If dbh is 12 inches and bole is 30 ft, then cubic foot is (pi x r2 x h), i.e. 22/7 x .5 x .5 x 30 = 23.5 cft approx, for which at rs 400/cft, you shud get 9,400 per tree. However, in actual practice, buyer, normally a saw mill owner, will reduce 1 inch from both sides for bark and thus u will get only 6,500 per tree. From this he will also deduct licence fees, cutting and transportation cjarges of rs 500-1500 per tree and you will be left with about 5,000 rs per tree. (Saw mill owner will then make about 200-500% profit depending on sawn sizes and demand from various cities) In this type of cultivation, one can grow a minimum of 300 trees per acre upto even 800 trees per acre. However lesser trees you grow the bigger will be dbh of each tree. Melia dubia is being promoted now in big way. University people will tell you that it can be harvested in 4 years. But always discount university field trials because they are always controlled by scientists monitoring things closely, but farmers have to grow in the field and leave a lot of things to God’s mercy.
Hardwood timber requires a minimum of 15 years to yield good quality hardwood. If anybody tells you that teak will grow in 10 or 20 years dont beleive it. Teak takes atleast 30 years for good quality. Best hardwood to grow now is mahogany, which can be grow at the rate of 300-450 trees per acre or 150 trees per acre if planted on border. Many rubber estates plant mahogany at borders of every two acres to act as wind protection for rubber trees. apart from rubber income, every 15 years these growers get bumper yield from mahogany. Mahogany takes about 15 years to mature. Currently price is about 800-1200 rs/cft. But I am not sure. You can get say about 25-50 cft of good hardwood per tree after 15 years. Mahogany in many states can only be sold thru forest auctions. When your mahogany is ready you have to cut it under forest supervision and turn it over to forest dept who will auction it and give you net proceeds. I understand this is done to keep a tally of total mahogany trade so that 100+ year old mahogany trees in forests are not illegaly cut down. So take care to register with forest dept when you plant mahogany, teak, neem, acacia, gmelina, albizzia, etc.
Dont do rosewood or sandalwood. Though much higher in value, rosewood takes about 60-100 years to give good quality and sandalwood also takes 40-60 years and is difficult to protect with all bandits and forest officials around.
Mr. Batevani, you should ask your local KVK which trees ae best suited for your farm climate.
Normally when planting density is around 300-500 trees per acre ( assuming double row planting ) then you can benefit from large interspaces which can be cultivated for other crops. I think most value would be added if you plant forage crops like cowpea, millets, alfalfa, etc which add nitrogen to soil and also provide foder for cattle. Cattle and goats can be raised free range in this system, provided you can ensure that they dont eat the tree leaves. You can make shifting cattle pounds for this purpose or weigh their heads down with a hobble or tie their neck and front feet loosely. Thus you will earn from trees and also from cattle/goat rearing.
Instead of forage crops, you can also do other crops like fruit trees, herbs, bananas, etc, but ensure that they are shade-tolerant. A good thing will be to grow turmeric. Turmeric is shade tolerant, had good market value and can be stored for a longer period than most other crops without losing value.
But main criteria for deciding what to grow as intercrop is 1. how much time can you spare and 2. availability of labour.
All seasonal vegetables, root crops, cereals, etc are intensive cultivation things and your level of acreage depends on the effort you can put in. If you have 25 acres then it is easier to plant trees on all 25 acres and do inter-cropping on say only 5 acres. Of course, if you have sufficient labour, then intercrop on all the acreage.
Another aspect you might like to think about to reduce efforts is a form of permaculture. Some crops like say jasmine, moringa, etc activities like free-range poultry give continuos yield after they start yielding. You dont have to keep planting and replanting. This will save you a lot of mandays and you will be assured of some income every day.
Most of the above info is from my relative along with some infomation from some known people who are doing plantation crops in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
NB. Mr. Batevani, Please visit website of M/s savera farms of Mr. Johrin and agromania.blogspot of Mr. Vishnu Sankar