The Directorate of Cashew Research (DCR) (former National Research Centre for Cashew) was established in 1986 at Puttur, with the main purpose of giving thrust on increasing the production and productivity of cashew in the country. Since its inception, it has made major strides in enhancing the production and productivity of cashew. This Directorate serves as a national repository for cashew germplasm and a clearing house for research information on cashew. The impact of research efforts of DCR is now visible with the adoption of new varieties, production technologies and high demand for quality planting materials by the cashew farmers. All India Coordinated Research Project on Cashew (AICRP-Cashew) was also initiated as an independent project in 1986 with the main purpose of giving thrust on increasing the production and productivity of cashew in the country by addressing location specific problems. Since then India has progressed substantially in research front on cashew and the significant achievements in the area of Crop Improvement, Crop Management, Crop Protection, Post – Harvest Technology and Transfer of Technology are discussed hereunder. There is need to utilize available technologies for enhancing raw nut production. The important achievements are:
Fruits of variety : Bhaskara
Production of quality planting material
Crescent bund as soil and water conservation measure
Tea mosquito bug damage on shoots
The production of cashew has increased from 1.30 lakh tonnes during 1972-73 to 6.92 lakh tonnes during 2011-12. With the nutritional awareness and the stable price in the international market for cashew kernels, the trend in the consumption of cashew kernels is expected to increase in the coming years. One of the main advantages which India enjoys is the superior processing capacity established in the country. Further in the international trade, linkages developed by India are much stronger than any other country. Another advantage for the cashew export is that none of the major cashew importing countries has cashew cultivation. India also has the benefit of a well -structured development agency viz., Directorate of Cashewnut and Cocoa Development (DCCD), Kochi for cashew related activities besides state line departments. Cashew production at the national level can take the advantage of both research as well as, development network established in the country to further boost the crop prospects in the years to come. Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI), Kochi established in 1955 caters to the requirements of cashew exporters with respect to international trade. Further, in the international market, demand for Indian cashew kernels is increasing as they are rated to be the best in terms of quality.
Availability of high yielding varieties released from different Research Centres and Agricultural Universities during last 25 years is one of the major strengths. Out of the 41 varieties released so far, 13 varieties have the yield potential of 2.0 tonnes and above per hectare. As large planting material is needed both for area expansion and replanting programmes, certified regional nurseries have been established. These nurseries have the capacity of producing over 150 lakh cashew grafts annually, which will help the country to become self sufficient in raw cashewnut production and continue to maintain a leading position in the international cashew trade in spite of stiff competition from other cashew growing countries.
The stable price of the cashew kernels in the international market is a main opportunity for cashew cultivation in India and the recent increase in the price of raw cashewnut would encourage the farmers to expand the area under cashew. The domestic market is growing rapidly and also various food products having cashew are being aggressively marketed which ensures a continuous demand for cashew kernels. Cashew kernel compares well with other tree nuts and has high protein, minerals and unsaturated fatty acids. By developing cashew kernels with higher nutritive value, it is possible to exploit the international demand of quality conscious consumers.
The technologies developed based on new research strategies would help in enhancing the productivity of cashew resulting in increased production and lesser dependence on import of raw nuts with self reliance on indigenous raw nuts required for processing. In addition to this, research on utilization of by-products particularly research on cashew apple and cashewnut shell liquid are also being carried out by various Research Institutes. Product diversification efforts have resulted in enhanced trading of cashew products and market for cashew products as ‘health food’ is attracting the consumers across the globe. Intensification of research on these lines will definitely add value for effective utilization of this potential crop.
Besides degraded lands of sub-tropical / coastal region, large area suitable for cashew cultivation is available in various parts of the country which can be utilized for area expansion of cashew. Cashew is known to perform well even under moderate management conditions. Raw cashewnuts can be stored over a long period unlike other perishable horticultural produce and sold opportunely to get higher price. Establishment of cashew processing units can generate employment opportunity for women and cashew apple products can promote small scale cottage industries at farm level.
Genetic improvement of cashew, improved crop management practices, integrated pest management approaches, water, nutrient and soil resource management and farmer friendly public policies are the key strategies to increase productivity of cashew. The advances made in recent past in cashew production technology need to be emphasized. However, more research efforts are needed in order to generate cost effective cashew production technology. In addition, increase in productivity and expansion of area under cashew is another strategy for enhancing raw nut production in the country. Increasing productivity is the main aim of research activities at this Directorate and under the AICRP-Cashew set-up.
Further, research should focus on modifying the plant architecture and designing new ideotypes which can utilize solar energy, nutrients and water more efficiently. It is important to improve the efficiency of all production inputs viz., water and nutrients, minimize the losses caused by pests, diseases and weeds to achieve sustainable increase in cashew productivity along with effective post-harvest handling to ensure produce of superior quality. Emphasis should be laid on integrated nutrient management, efficientmanagement of water, soil health management, integrated pest management, weed management etc.
There is an immediate need for achieving quantum jump in cashew production in order to meet the raw nut requirement of the cashew industries by increasing productivity. The cashew production can also be increased by area expansion under high yielding varieties in collaboration with various development agencies. Various technological approaches such as high yielding varieties, high density planting, drip irrigation, optimum use of fertilizers etc., are being evaluated for their suitability in the various cashew growing tracts and being recommended to enhance productivity. Research strategies for increasing productivity with priority are given in Annexure 1.
The foremost constraints limiting the cashew productivity in the country are: