Tree information

Local name: 

nimmaro (निमारो)

English name: 

Figs

Genus: 

Ficus

Species: 

auriculata

Author: 

Lour.

Family: 

Moraceae
Characteristics

It is a medium-sized tree which is widely used for fodder in all regions of Nepal, and which grows up to about 2000 m. It is a strong light-demander. The seedlings are rather frost-tender; when they were planted on an exposed slope at 1900 mat Pakhribas, about 33 per cent died, and the tops of all the survivors were killed by cold and frost. Such trees will usually recover however. The trees may be killed even by light fires. They pollard and coppice well.

Artificial regeneration

Burslem (1988; 1989) has carried out experiments on germination of the seed. He found that germination was equally good whether the material in the seed trays was soil, sand, or a mixture of the two, but that best results were obtained by covering the seed, after sowing, with fine sand (rather than coarse sand or soil), very lightly, so that some of the seed were still visible through the sand. Watering from below gave considerably better results than watering with a local watering can with large holes in the rose.

Sowing should be designed to produce a seedling density of about 20,000 m-2; 4-5 g of seed m-2 will normally give this. Before 1985 the best community nursery sending in returns produced the equivalent of 360,000 plants kg-1 of seed, equivalent to about eight per cent germination, but the median was much lower, only about 10,000 plants kg-1. Laboratory germination can be as high as 95 per cent, and in research nurseries 45-75 per cent germination has been achieved when appropriate techniques were used. It is clear that techniques in many nurseries leave much to be desired. Heavy mortality of seedlings after germination was reported from several nurseries, up to 47 per cent in one case; this was largely due to damping-off.

Propagation by hardwood cuttings has given varying results. At Hetauda cuttings produced buds and leaves, but no roots, and at Chalnakel only 12 per cent rooted. However at Lumle 87 per cent of cuttings taken in the last week in MaJch rooted ; these were 30-45 cm long, set in a bed containing 40 per cent compost and 60 per cent forest soil, mulched with Schima-Castanopsis litter, and under partial shade (Napier, 1988). Parajuli (1988) also obtained 77 per cent and 86 per cent rooting from cuttings taken in February and March respectively. Thus success from cuttings can be obtained, and it is certainly worth continuing trials on factors influencing rooting.

Survival and growth in plantations have been very variable. At Tistung (1900 m) up to 1985 trials of planting in the open failed completely. In a later trial there, 50 per cent of the plants survived when planted in the open without fertilizer, but the survival was 87 per cent when the plants were given half a pathi (2.2 l) of compost each, and also when they were planted under the shade of pines, with or without compost. In another trial at Tistung after six months, survival in the open was 75 per cent, under pines was 100 per cent.

There were also responses to fertilizer in trials planted in 1985 at Irkhu, Melechaur and Sangachowk in Sindhupalchok District Here all the figs were planted under pine of different ages and the fertilizer used was 50 g of Complexol (20:20:0) per tree. At Sangachowk, under four-year-old pine, fertilized plants had 70 per cent survival after 28 months, unfertilized none; in the other two trials fertilizer increased height growth by 44 and 67 per cent respectively, though even with fertilizer the best mean height growth was only 50 cm, which is far from outstanding. There is a possibility that though the shelter of pine trees may assist F. auriculata to become established, growth may later be suppressed, and gradual opening of the pine canopy may be needed.

Experiments at Pakhribas (1700 m) have been reported by L. Joshi and Sherpa (1992). One, on date of planting, gave 100 per cent survival after one year for seedlings planted in May, June, August and September, 75 per cent 10 October, 67 per cent in November, and 41 per cent in April.

Another, on site amelioration after two years, showed increased survival after mulching with black polythene sheet or ban mara (a common weed), but relatively little effect on growth. Adding six mana (3.5 l) of farmyard manure mixed with compost slightly improved survival, as compared with the control. In the control the young plants suffered from tip damage, which was not recorded in the treated plots. Even under the best treatment growth was very slow, 29 cm after two years. The experiments were replicated, but no data on significance levels have been published.

Among the best results in early growth in trials are those obtained by Napier and Parajuli (1987), at Hetauda (470 m) and Chalnakel (1370 m) with mean heights after 18 months of 1.5 and 1.6 m respectively. These were on soil which had been weeded and thoroughly cultivated and 10 which 400 kg ha-1 of Complexol (20:20:0) fertilizer had been added. Thus they represent somewhere near the optimum growth to be expected from these sites. Other reasonably good results were obtained at Pokhara (900 m) with mean heights of 1.3 mat 17 months and 2.3 m at 34 months (RB. Thapa and Budathoki, 1987); Karmiya, in the Terai, 1.9 m at two years (M.B. Karki, 1988); and Tistung, under pine shelter, 1.1 m at 2.5 years.

At the Pakhribas Agricultural Centre, Y.B. Malia (1988) made records of trees planted by farmers at altitudes between 1300 and 1900 m. Height growth was as follows: one year 1.5 m; two years 2.4 m; three years 3.3 m; four years 3.1 m; five years 4.1 m; six years 4.4 m; seven years 4.5 m; and eight years 5.4 m. Diameters at breast height ranged from 5.1 cm aged three years 10 8.7 cm aged eight years. These results are better than any achieved in trials, and perhaps represent the effects of care given to small numbers of valued trees by farmers.

Elsewhere, however, growth has been very slow at least in early life, with 30 cm height at age two years, and perhaps 50 cm at age three years being typical figures. Although in trials there is a tendency for height growth to decline with increasing altitude, there are many exceptions to this trend. Ficus auriculata appears to be a species which will only grow well if it is thoroughly tended, and should not be planted where this is not possible.

The figs, which grow in clusters from the trunk and larger branches, ripen between June and September, but usually in July-August Fertile figs, producing seed, and gall figs occur on different trees. There are 3-8 million seeds kg-1. The dried seed should be stored in sealed containers. Germination takes from ten days to eight weeks. Below 700 m the seed should be sown in early to mid-February, to provide plantable seedlings by the monsoon. Above 700 m sowing in early August will provide plants for the next monsoon.

Importance in Nepal

As with other fodder species, its importance varies between different localities, but in a number of districts it is one of the species most preferred by farmers. In Salle village, Dhankuta District, it was by far the most preferred fodder species; in 1989, 85 per cent of farmers already had F. auriculata trees on their land, and 75 per cent took seedlings for planting (B. Thapa et al., 1990). It also has been recorded as the preferred fodder tree in Lumle and other places. Because it needs good care and tending it is more suitable for planting by individual farmers than in larger scale plantations.

The main use of F. auriculata is as fodder. Although semi-evergreen its main season of leaf-fall is in the spring dry period, between mid-December and mid-March; new leaves flush soon after. In Lamjung District farmers lop the trees twice in a year, first between mid-April and mid-June, and secondly between mid-September and mid-November (K.P. Gajurel et al., 1987). In other places the leaves are used between December and March. Sometimes the trees are completely defoliated.

The leaves contain about 13 per cent crude protein, varying from 11 per cent in the dry season between October and February, and 13 per cent in the monsoon, 10 almost 15 per cent in March-April, after the new flush. Dry matter contents for the same periods were 40,27, and 37 per cent respectively (Subha and Tamang, 1990). The tannin content is fairly low, with peaks in December and March. Feeding the leaves sometimes causes dysphagia, and in trials at Pakhribas addition of them to basic rations decreased milk yields of buffaloes, in contrast to other species which increased milk yields.

The fruit is edible, and is used for making a sort of jam. In the Pokhara area two varieties are distinguished; seto nimmaro growing between 1200 and 1600 m, and rato nimmaro from 1600 to 2000 m.

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