10. Moringa oleifera for food and water purification - selection of clones and growing of annual short-stem.
entwicklung +l_ndlicher raum 23, 4, 1989, pp. 22-25
This paper attempts to provide a rough evaluation of Moringa oleifera germ plasm as well as an assessment of fruit yields of traditionally cultivated trees in various tropical developing countries and aims to indicate possible methods of selection and plant breeding to improve the production of high-quality Moringa fruits. The study is based on recent field observations and water treatment tests within the framework of the supra-regional water purification project with natural coagulants sponsored by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fnr Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH and on the evaluation of Moringa seed samples generously supplied by colleagues in Togo, Aruba, the Dominican Republic and the Indonesian islands Flores and Timor.
Moringa is grown throughout the tropics, most notably in the Philippines, Haiti and Hawaii. In Africa it is grown along the Nile, in Sudan and in Uganda, Zaire, Cote d'Ivoire and several other countries.
According to the ICRAF database, the tree grows well in the following conditions:
Mean annual rainfall: 366-1177(!).
Annual mean minimum temperature: 18-20ºC.
Moringa also grows at higher altitudes, as a specimen tree has grown for many years in the Harare Botanical Garden (1470 m). Echo reports that it grows in Nepal. In the Dominican Republic, it is said to withstand frost and even frozen soil.
Moringa likes light sandy and medium loamy soils with a minimum depth of 50 cm and no water-logging. It will stand some acidity.
The tree can be propagated in several ways. It will grow from stumps, seedlings, natural regeneration, coppicing, air layering, direct sowing and cuttings.
Moringa can be used in a multitude of ways. Its main deficiency compared with many leguminous trees is that it does not fix nitrogen. As it is deep-rooting, it could also be tried in alley cropping.
Moringa oleifera (horseradish or drumstick tree) is a multipurpose tree which can be propagated easily from seeds and cuttings. The tree has been introduced to most countries in the tropical belt. The quality and quantity of seeds which can be obtained from traditionally grown trees varies enormously however both in India, the country of origin and in the other countries. Unfortunately the cultivation has been neglected to a great extent and the fact that the tree has still survived in many places is only due to its admirable resistance and hardiness.
An increasing interest in the quality and yield of the fruits of the Moringa oleifera (horeseradish, drumstick tree, spinach tree) is at present shared by scientists and organisations concerned with improved nutrition, hunger-aid and water supplies in rural areas of tropical countries. Although young pods are edible whole, it seems that there are even more delicious dishes which can be prepared from green Moringa "peas" either removed from the pod when served or cooked like pulses.
In the past, the seed oil known under the trade name "ben oil" was also used for cooking, but now it is principally utilized in small amounts in the cosmetic industry to fix volatile odorous substances.
Moringa seeds, however, also contain polypeptides acting as primary coagulants which can turn turbid and contaminated surface waters into clear, and safe drinking water. For all these uses large healthy unripe or mature seeds and a high annual yield are essential.
For a peasant farmer to grow 20-30 Moringa trees on his own initiative around his compound must mean that the tree has considerable potential.
Much research is needed to find out how its obvious qualities can be used more widely. Farmers could gradually extend tree cultivation, starting with a few around the house and then expanding to a plot for feeding livestock in dry periods, and later planting it all over the farm along contours to prevent erosion or for alley cropping between annual crops.
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