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Chromosome Number: 42
Taxonomic Classification
Class
:
Magnoliopsida
Order
:
Magnoliales
Family
:
Myristicaceae
Genus
:
Myristica
 
Nutmeg is an evergreen, conical tree reaching a height of about 10m. It produces 2 distinctly different spices—nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the dried kernel of seed, whereas mace is dried aril surrounding the seeds.
   
Climate and soil  
Nutmeg thrives well in warm, humid, conditions in locations with an annual rainfall of 150cm and more. It grows well up to 1,300m above mean sea-level. Clay loam, sandy loam and red laterite soils are ideal for its cultivation. Dry climate and waterlogged conditions are not good for nutmeg.
 
Varieties
There are no released varieties of nutmeg in India. However 10 nutmeg accessions with high fruit set have been identified as promising lines. One line, A9/4, is in the pre-release stage. Sixty elite trees have been identified based on a survey. They could be used as parent trees for multiplication of planting materials along with other selections.
   
Propagation
Nutmeg is usually propagated by seeds. Its trees being perennial and dioceious in nature, an alternate method for vegetative propagation is in progress. Epicotyl grafting, approach grafting and patch budding have proved successful in nutmeg. However, epicotyl grafting is adopted widely for its propagation.
   
Cultivation  

Nursery

Naturally split, healthy fruits harvested during June–July are used for raising nursery. The seeds are extracted from the pericarp and sown immediately in sand beds of convenient length, 1–1.5m width and 15cm height, prepared using river sand. Regular watering is necessary for good germination. The germination commences from 30–90 days after sowing. About 20 days old sprouts are transplanted to polythene bags containing a mixture of good soil, sand and well-decomposed cowdung in a 3:3:1 ratio. About 18–24 months old seedlings are used for transplanting in the field.

Planting

The planting in the main field is done at the onset of rainy season. The spacing varies widely. Even a spacing of 6–7m appears to be inadequate. For graft 5m × 5m spacing is optimum. Pits of 0.75m × 0.75m × 0.75m size are dug and filled with organic manure and soil 15 days earlier to planting.

The plants should be shaded in the early stages to protect from sun scorch. Permanent shade trees are planted when the site is on a hilly slope when nutmeg is grown as a monocrop. It can best be grown as an intercrop in old coconut gardens, where light shade conditions are suitable. The coconut gardens along the river- beds and adjoining areas are best-suited for its cultivation. Nutmeg requires irrigation in summer.

Generally organic manures are applied for nutmeg. Bone-meal is very popular among the growers. Manures are applied in shallow trenches or pits dug around the plants. However, a dose of 20g N(40g urea), 18g P 2 O 5 (110g superphosphate) and 50g K 2 O (80g muriate of potash) during the initial year and 500g N (1,090g urea), 250g P 2 O 5 (1,560g superphosphate) and 100g K 2 O (1,670g muriate of potash)/year in subsequent years for a fully grown up tree of 15 years or more is recommended.

Aftercare

Nutmeg can be grown as an intercrop in coconut, clove, arecanut and coffee gardens. Regular mulching of plant basins after slashing weeds and shading in summers in the early years are very essential. Banana can be raised for shade in early growth phase of nutmeg at 1m away from nutmeg on three sides.

Irrigation

Nutmeg needs sufficient water for its growth, requiring irrigation in summer season. The quantity/frequency of watering depends upon the region and the condition of the plant.

   
Harvesting & Postharvest management
The female nutmeg tree starts fruiting from the sixth year, the peak harvesting period reaches after 20 years. The fruits are ready for harvesting 9 months after flowering. Flowering and harvesting continue throughout the year. But June– August is the peak period. The fruits ripen and become ready for harvesting when their pericarp splits open. Harvesting is done by a bill hook. The fruits are split open, the outer fleshy portion is removed, and the mace is manually separated from the nut. The nuts and mace are dried separately on a drying yard, or on a platform arranged in a kitchen. The scarlet coloured mace gradually becomes yellowish-brown and brittle when drying is completed. The fresh pericarp can be used for making pickles, jams and jellies. The fresh pericarp can be used for making pickles, jams and jellies.
 
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Nutmeg
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