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Agriculture > Spices > Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)

Crop Management

 

Flowering and pollination

Normally vanilla flowers during the third year of planting. The flowering period varies from December to April depending on the altitude.

The following practices may induce more flowering in vines that have reached sufficient growth.

  1. Stop watering the mature plants ready for flowering after North East monsoon.
  2. Clip off the shoot tip
  3. Lopping of shade to let in sunlight.
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Flower bunches are produced in the axils of leaves. Normally it takes 45 - 60 days from flower initiation to opening of flower. Only one or two flowers open in a day. Due to the peculiar structure of the flower, natural pollination is not possible. Flowers are large, pale greenish yellow and bisexual. Sepals and petals look alike. The lower petal is short, broad and modified in to a ' labellum'. The lower part of the labellum envelops a central structure called 'column' which is formed by the fusion of pistil and stamen. The tip of the column bears a single stamen with pollinia separated from the stigma by a cap like structure called ' rostellum' which prevents natural pollination.

Pollination has to be done on the same day of the opening of the flower, preferably between 6 am- 11 am. It is a very simple process once we understand the technique. Pollination is carried out by hand with the help of a pointed bamboo splinter or a tooth pick. The flower is held in the left hand facing us and the thumb is let free. The rostellum of the flower is lifted up using the bamboo splinter held on the right hand to open the stigma and with the help of the left hand thumb the pollinia is pressed on to the stigma so that pollen grains fall on it. Now the pollination process is over.

If the pollination process is not successful the flower will fall off the next day. For commercial production pollinate only 10 to 12 flowers in a bunch to get quality beans. Be careful not to damage the parts, which develop in to the beans while carrying out pollination. It is found that one man can pollinate on an average 1500 flowers a day.

 

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