Khejri (खेजडी) or Prosopis cineraria is a small to medium size tree, found mainly 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. Since all the parts of the tree are useful, it is called kalp taru. It is 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......
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. 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 characterised by extremes in temprature. 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 sacrification 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.
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.
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.
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 wood is reported to contain high calorific value and provide high quality fuel wood. The lopped branches are good as fencing material.''
Khejari flower is pounded, mixed with sugar and used during pregnancy as safeguard against miscarriage. Water-soluble extract of the residue from methanal 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 anthelmintic; 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.
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.150 per kg in market). Many Rajasthani families use the green and unripe pods (sangri) in preparation of curries and pickles.
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.