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Introduction to Sandal tree (Santalum album L.):
Sandalwood is the fragrant heartwood of the species Santalum album L. The Sandal tree is of great economical importance because of its scented heart wood which yields very high commercial returns. Sandal tree is a hemi parasite which requires a host tree for absorption of few minerals from the root system of the host tree. The current demand of heartwood would fetch around Rs. 4,000 – 5,000/ kg of heartwood and the oil costs around Rs. 1.0 – 1.25 Lakh/liter. All the parts of the tree are commercially important with guaranteed high returns. Heartwood being the highest valued part of the sandalwood tree, followed by the mixed wood and sapwood. Even the seeds are sold at a market price of around Rs. 300 – 500/kg and leaves are also used as fodder.
Sandal tree is a small evergreen tree attaining a height of 12 to 15 meters and a girth of 1 to 2.4 meters. The shape of the leaves vary with six morphological types recognized widely. The stem gradually turns brownish and becomes hard after one year of planting. The bark is reddish brown or dark brown and red inside, the outer most sapwood is white in colour and scentless, whereas, central core wood called heartwood is yellowish to brown in color and highly scented. The tap root system is not deep and lateral root runs almost parallel to the ground and the young rootlets produce haustoria. Root system contains the highest oil content in the tree. Variation in heart wood and oil content depends on genotype (source) and edaphic (soil and climate) conditions.
Distribution of sandal:It is naturally distributed in an extent of around 9600 sq.km mainly in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh of peninsular India. It has also been introduced into a number of other states in India and has become naturalized in parts of Rajasthan, Orissa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Sandalwood is capable of growing in different kinds of soils like; sand, clay, laterite, loam and black-cotton soil (avoiding water-logged conditions).
Sandal wood cultivation at present is a very high lucrative investment with guaranteed returns. Establishment of sandal wood cultivation requires a very less investment and low cultivation costs. With increase in labour cost and time availability for investing in other agricultural crops, an shift from normal agricultural to forestry species with high commercial returns has been observed. The details of sandalwood cultivations costs, profits have been discussed in our sandal based agroforestry demo plot section.