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Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) a wonder tree

  Introduction
 Common Name
 Khejri Plant
 Plantation and Cultivation
 Agricultural uses of Khejri
 Environmental conservation
 Other uses of Khejri
 Medicinal Properties
 Worship of Khejri
 Khejri fruits and Food value
 Economy
 Shoot borer attacks khejri trees
 New Research
 References

  Introduction

      Khejri tree

 Khejri (खेजडी) or Prosopis cineraria is a small to medium size tree, native to arid part of Western and South Asia , including Afghanistan, Iran, India, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In India it is  found in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan.  Khejri is the golden tree of Indian deserts, plays a vital role in preserving the ecosystem of arid and semi-arid areas. It is the  symbol of socio-economic development of the arid regions.

  It is the state tree of Rajasthan (India) and provincial tree of the Sindh province of Pakistan. Large and well known example of species is Tree of Life in Bahrain – approximately 400 years old specimen growing in desert devoid of any sources of water.
  Since all the parts of the tree are useful, it is called "kalp taru" and also known as the ‘king of desert’, and the ‘wonder tree’. Khejri is a tree which is worshipped by a large number  of people such as Bishnoi a great environmentalist community  in Rajasthan. The importance of the medicinal value of Khejari  tree has been highlighted in ancient Ayurveda literature.



  Khejari is frost-resistant drought resistance and withstand in wild temperature extremes, ranging from 104-114 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. It requires minimum rainfall. Khejari is the preferred plant species for livestock grazing in the area, and it provides shelter to the grazing animals, people, birds  with its shade

  Common Name

 Botanical name: Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce
 Latin name:       Prosopis cineraria
 Family:             Fabaceae
 English name :  Prosopis cineraria
 Sanskrit:           khejri
 Hindi            :   khejri  (  खेजडी)
 Rajasthani  :     jant/janti, Loong Tree
 United Arab Emirates:   Ghaf
 Punjabi:           jand
 Sind:               kandi
 Gujarat:           sami, sumri
 Kannada:        Banni
 Tamil:             Vanni
 Telugu:           Jammi

   Khejri Plant

 The tree is evergreen or nearly so. It produces new flush leaves before summer. The flowers are small in size and yellow or creamy white in colour, appear from March to May after the new flush of leaves. The pods are formed soon thereafter and grow rapidly in size attaining full size in about two months time.

  It is one of the indigenous trees of  the Western Rajasthan, plains of the Punjab  and Gujarat. It is a common tree in Bundelkhand, near Delhi and Agra. It is also found in the dry parts of Central and Southern India, in parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka south of Godavari ( गोदावरी) River. It also extends to West Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

  Plantation and Cultivation

 Climate:  The tree prefers a dry climate and the most important areas of its distribution are characterized by extremes in temperature. In Punjab it occurs throughout the alluvial plains (rainfall 10-25cms). The tree is a light demander and the older plants are drought resistant. The tree is able to withstand the hottest winds and the driest season, and remains alive when other plants would succumb. 

  Soil:  The tree grows on a variety of soils. It is seen at its best on alluvial soils consisting of various mixtures of sand and clay. It is common on moderately saline soils, it quickly dries out where the soil is very saline.

 Propagation:  Natural regeneration through seed is confined to moist places, nut in dry situations the tree regenerates itself by root suckers. The seeds need scarification and soaking in water before sowing. Germination percentage is about 65.  
  About one year old nursery plants are planted in the field. Artificial regeneration through direct sowing on lands either subject to occasional floods or under irrigation has been found to be quite successful. The trees can also be successfully raised by sowing in conjunction with field crops in irrigated lands. On an average, the yield of green forage from a full grown tree is expected to be about 60 kg with complete lopping having only the central leading shoot, 30 kg when the lower two third crown is lopped and 20 kg when the lower one third crown is lopped.

 The root system of ''Prosopis cineraria'' is long and well developed. Growth above the ground is slow but below the ground the roots penetrate deeper and deeper for the sub soil water. Very deep roots help in securing firm footing and in obtaining moisture supplies from deep soil layers. Taproot penetration up to 35 m depth has been reported

 Postage Stamp on Khejri. Stamp Issue Date : 05/06/1988 on World Environment Day, by the Department of Posts, India

    Sangari, Khejari fruit

 Dry Khejri fruit (Sangri)
Fresh Sangri is green in colour while the dry Sangari is brown or black in colour. Dry Sangari is very costly in market  ( nearly Rs,400 -500 per Kg.). Dry Sangari vegetable is very tasteful.

 This year 2014 Sangri yield is expected to be lowest.
A hot climate is essential for the minger (flowers) of Khejari tree to develop into the sangri fruit. This year 2014 was less heat in summer due to storm, untimely rain and cloudy climate, The minger (fruits) were converted to Narde (a round beri like hard nut).

 Khejri is a tree which is worshipped by a large number of people such as Bishnoi community in Rajasthan.

   Agricultural uses of Khejri

 Khejari’s diversity make it a valuable “companion” to agricultural crops. Khejari is a nitrogen fixer, which means it improves soil quality by making nitroen in the soil more available to other plants. Its leaves further improve the soil by adding organic matter. With a taproot that can extend more than 100 feet deep and an extensive root mass , khejari helps stabilize the sandy desert soil and shifting sand dunes. It can serve as a windbreak, protecting farms from strong desert winds, and its wood is excellent for firewood and charcoal. Khejari is a symbol of sustainable socio-economic development the arid Indian deserts.

   Environmental conservation

 Khejari has a very deep tap root system and hence it does not generally complete with the associated crops. The improved physical soil conditions compared with higher availability of nutrients under the Khejri canopy explain the better growth of the crops associated with it. Due to  its extensive root system it stabilizes shifting sand dunes and is also useful as windbreak shelterbelt and in afforestation of dry areas. It fixes atmospheric nitrogen through microbial activities. It adds organic matter through leaf litter decomposition thus rejuvenating poor soils. Since in arid regions, this is the only tree species, it provides much needed shade and shelter to the farmers working in the fields as well as to the cattle and wildlife during the summer months. Pods of Khejari are eaten by cattle, sheep, horses, mules, donkeys, goats, camel and other wildlife in desert especially black buck and chinkara in western Rajasthan have survived by eating pods and leaves of this tree.

  Other uses of Khejri

 Khejari is most important top feed species providing nutritious and highly palatable green as well as dry fodder, which is readily eaten by camels, cattle, sheep and goats, constituting a major feed requirement of desert livestock. The leaves are of high nutritive value, locally it is called ''Loong''. Feeding of the leaves during winter when no other green fodder is generally available in rain-fed areas is thus profitable. The pods are a sweetish pulp and are also used as fodder for livestock.

   Khejari Pods are locally called ''sangar'' or ''sangri''. The dried pods locally called ''Kho-Kha'' are eaten. Dried pods also form rich animal feed, which is liked by all livestock. Green pods also form rich animal feed, which is liked by drying the young boiled pods. They are also used as famine food and known even to prehistoric man. Even the bark, having an astringent bitter taste, was reportedly eaten during the severe famine of 1899 and 1939. Pod yield is nearly 14,000 kg/km² with a variation of 10.7% in dry locations.

  Khejari Gum : Khejari produces a brown shining gum just like Arbic Gum which is obtained during the months of April to June.
 Khejari wood is reported to contain high calorific value and provide high quality fuel wood. The lopped branches are good as fencing material.

  Medicinal Properties

 Khejari flower is pounded, mixed with sugar and used during pregnancy as safeguard against miscarriage. Water-soluble extract of the residue from methanol extract of the stem bark exhibits anti-inflammatory properties.
  Khejari plant produces gum, which is obtained during May and June. The bark of the tree is dry, acrid, bitter with a sharp taste; cooling anathematic; tonic, cures leprosy, dysentery, bronchitis, asthma, leucoderma, piles and tremors of the muscles. The smoke of the leaves is good for eye troubles.  The pod is considered astringent in Punjab. The bark is used as a remedy for rheumatism, in cough colds, Asthma. The plant is recommended for the treatment of snakebite. The bark is prescribed for scorpion sting.

  The bark of the tree provides immediate relief to a person bitten by snake or scorpion. Its leaves and fruits are used in preparing medicines for curing nervous disorders. The medicines prepared from its bark are also used for treating diarrhoea, dysentery, piles, worm infestations and other skin problems. The bark is also used to cure leprosy, bronchitis, asthma, tumour of muscles and to improve concentration. The gum of the tree is nutritive and good in taste and is used by pregnant woman at the time of delivery.

  Worship of Khejri

  During Vedic times, khejri wood was used to kindle the sacred fire for performing a yajana. In Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, mention the usefulness and significance of this tree. It is said that Lord Ram (श्री राम) worshipped khejri tree, which represents the goddess of power, before he led his army to kill Ravana. The worshipping of this tree is referred to as samipuja. Pandavas also worshipped this tree and hid their weapons in it during their Agyatavasa. Mainly men and married women worship Khejari (jand ) tree, in an elaborate way.

  Gogaji is popular as a snake-god and almost every village in Rajasthan has a Than (sacred place) under a Khejari (खेजडी) tree dedicated to him. Gogaji  is also venerated as a saint and even as 'snake-god'. A saying about Gogaji

    गांव-गांव खेजडी न्ह गांव-गांव गोगो

  The Bishnois, a community in Rajasthan [राजस्थान], would not cut Khejari trees even from their agricultural fields. Among the 29 principles propounded by the founder of the sect prophet, Lord Jhambheshwar, cutting and lopping of green trees is strictly prohibited. The Government of India has recently instituted the 'Amria Devi  Bishnoi National Award for Wildlife Conservation' in the memory of Amrita Devi Bishnoi, who in 1731 sacrificed her life along with 363 other members for the protection of khejri trees in Khejarali village near Jodhpur in Rajasthan ( Bishnoi a great environmentalist community)

Khejri Tree can predict earthquakes- says a report
 In some forecasting methods, plants like Khejri (Prosopis cineraria )is now catching the eyes of geoscientists. In a research report in Rajasthan State, we can gauge the geological tremors through the leaves of Khejri. In case, the activities under the earth decrease, then the leaves of Khejri trees faint. The geologists say that the loss of life and property can be prevented through the pre-indication of Khejri leaves planted in the earthquake –prone areas. The specialists advise to plant and protect the Khejri tree.

Khejari leaves is the top feed of camels
A recent survey by the Arid Forest Research Institute (afri), Jodhpur, reveals that nearly- four-centimetre-long yellowish brown insect, the shoot borer (Derolus discicollis) attacks have taken a heavy toll on khejri trees in the state.

   Khejri fruits and Food value

  Khejari fruits or  Pods are locally called sangar or sangri. The dried pods locally called Kho-Kha are eaten. Dried pods also form rich animal feed, which is liked by all livestock. Green pods also form rich animal feed, which is liked by drying the young boiled pods. The dried green sangri is used as a delicious dried vegetable which is very costly (Nearly Rs.500 per kg in market in the year 2013). Many Rajasthani families use the green and unripe pods (sangri) in preparation of curries and pickles.

   Economy

  Khejari tree has played a significant role in the rural economy in the northwest arid region of Indian sub-continent. It is the only indigenous tree species, which has withstood well the rigorous and exacting conditions of the Rajasthan desert. This tree is a legume and it improves soil fertility. It is an important constituent of the vegetation system. It is well adapted to the arid conditions and stands well to the adverse vagaries of climate and browsing by animals. Camels and goats readily browse it. In areas open to goat browsing, the young plants assume cauliflower shaped bushy appearance. Khejri tree used for fodder and fuelwood in villages and provides wood of construction class. It is used for house-building, chiefly as rafters, posts scantlings, doors and windows, agricultural implements and shafts, spokes, fellows and yoke of carts. It can also be used for small turning work and tool-handles. is most important top feed species providing nutritious and highly palatable green as well as dry fodder, which is readily eaten by camels, cattle, sheep and goats, constituting a major feed requirement of desert livestock. Locally it is called Loong.

   Shoot borer attacks khejri trees

  Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) trees are becoming easy prey for hungry beetles. A recent survey by the Arid Forest Research Institute (afri), Jodhpur, reveals that insect attacks have taken a heavy toll on khejri trees in the state. The culprit has been identified  yellowish brown insect, the shoot borer (Derolus discicollis).

 At present around 60-70 per cent trees are afflicted by the disease in Nagaur district of Rajasthan, according to afri. Other affected areas include Churu, Sikar and Jhunjhunu. Over the past few years, the number of khejri trees in some villages has fallen from 50 to five.

  Though the alarming trend came to light in 1999, not much has been done to improve the situation. Even afri, which conducted studies on the prevalence of the disease, has not yet been able to assess the extent of damage. Its team, however, feels that excessive cutting of branches, especially during drought, makes the tree vulnerable to insects. The stump of the tree is the perfect place for the insect to lay its eggs. The larvae of the insect destroy the tissue of the trees by feeding on the sap and heartwood. "Each year the number of new leaves lessen and finally the tree dies," reveals K K Chaudhuri, director, afri. A tree can be entirely destroyed in two to three years.

  Derolus discicollis  was first identified in Karachi (Pakistan) in 1906. While the insect's lifecycle has been studied, its interaction with khejri was not considered. "The problem of khejri mortality is more pronounced now, due to the continuing drought in the area," points out M P Singh, a scientist in the Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur. Khejri is the lifeline of the desert. It is an alternative source of income for many people in Rajasthan during the dry season. Besides being the staple food of the livestock, khejri is also used as a fuelwood. A decrease in its numbers is bound to have an adverse effect on the region's economy. "Due to its several advantages, it was nominated as one of the 10 national trees of India," says S M Mohnot, director, School of Desert Sciences, a Jodhpur-based non-governmental organisation.

   New Research

  A team of National Research Institute of Bagwani in Bikaner recently developed a new technology for the growth of Kejari in a very short period. The team of agriculture scientist working on this project since 2005. Generally a khejari tree takes 10-12 years to give friuts (Sangari). Now by the new technology a Kejari can be fully developed in 3 years up to 5 feet and will provide fruits and feeder for animals.

   References

  1.The Ghaf Tree:  Abdel Bari E.; Fahmy G.; Al Thani N.; Al Thani R.; Abdel-Dayem M.;(2007)
  2. KHEJRI (Prosopis cineraria): Published by the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun
  3. Environmental analysis of the Thar Desert.: Gupta, R.K. & Prakash Ishwar,  Dehra Dun.
  4. Trees or grass lands in the Rajasthan-  Indian Forester Kaul, R.N. (1967).
  5. Recent Advances in Desert Afforestation- Dissertation:  Burdak, L.R. (1982).
  6. Tropical Forages . Centre for International Agriculture Research and Food and Agriculture Agency. 2005.

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