Organic Vanilla Cultivation – Part 3


Correct way of growing vanilla in an ORCHARD setting, which is more efficient than a “Plantation”. In a plantation the production is only ½ kilo to ¾ kg per guide tree in optimal conditions. In this orchard the producing is in a carousel pattern. Note how the internal circle is beginning to fill up and we are moving into the 2nd circle. (Note installed irrigation system).. The tree top acts both as a rain protector for the flowers and “umbrella” shade. The tree top creates the mini climate necessary for the fast development of the vine’s also there is enough air to flow around/inside the vines so there is no grow of diseases. In this type of environment you will have flowers/orquids in 18 months. This orange tree is half way to its potential production capabilities adding the 2nd circle you can easily get 25+ kilos of green beans. If you had a “plantation” you will need 45 to 50 GUIDE TREES TO GET THE SAME PRODUCTION. Big plantation is NOT necessarily better a well managed orchard can produce 45 to 50 times more and you do not have to cut the forest.

This orange tree gave 26kg of green beans; it is full carousel production with inner rows and an outside row of vines. There are 800 orange trees; only 47 trees are producing vanilla beans and they gave 700 kg of green beans, an average of 14 kilos per tree (production potential could easily double to 1400 kilos). So this “OLD” orange grove of 800 trees could produce 20,800 kg of green beans at 26 kg per tree or 4 tm of cured beans, at $150 per kg =$60,000.00 US, that is if your cure your own production of green beans. To get this same production in a “Plantation setting with guide trees” you will need at average yield 1/2kg of green beans per guide 41,600 trees. It is IMPOSSIBLE for you (and family) to tend to all the trees. Even if you have 1000 trees per hectare you still have to walk 41 hectares a day to check all the vines. Irrigation will be impossible and too costly. Never mind the destruction of habitat that you have to do in order to clear the rain forest to plant so many trees. Well manage small vanilla/orchard is more productive and LESS costly to operate and you can use the rain forest without destroying it and that is what we are about, CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES.

Please note that this prices are for 2002/2003 season

This is how much money this farmer made with his small production of 700 kg. It take 5 kg of green to make 1 kg of cured beans. 700 kg green divided by -5 kg = 140 kg cured. At today’s prices (Jan 03) he would made 140 kg x $100.00 per kg he made $14,00.00 USD. When his whole 800 orange trees go into production at a CONSERVATIVE estimate 14 . In general the price per kg of vanilla is $40.00 as rule. The reason vanilla beans are so high is because of the typhoons that devastated Madagascar’s vanilla fields in the year 2,000. Had the farmers there had done production in small plots or the trees around the rain forest and use the forest canopy to protect their crop this catastrophe would had been avoided. The lesson is if you protect the rain forest or any forest it will reward you by protecting your crops, as simple as that (Prices based on 2002 crop).

Here we have a a vine that has already produced beans ready to be re-planted upside down . Note the 3 leaves between my hands (black shirt) with 4 roots which have already produced vanilla beans. You bury the section I am holding between my hands and you leave out of the ground the part that has not flower (hold by the man in white shirt). That part will be your new source of flower and vanilla. By burying 3 or 4 roots you increase the chances of the survival of the vine by 98% as well its fast development. If you burry only one root you increase the chance of failure by 60%.

Note the thickness of this vine and its dark green color (grown under shade) this is a sign of good ground nutrients (compost) and moisture in ground. This vine will take on roots right away and will be resistant to diseases.

If your vines are thick and green like the one in the picture it will be more resistant to plague, it will root right away and your beans will be plentiful.

Flower/Orchid: Coming up on top of the leafs. Under the leaf's you will find the ROOT.

This vanilla farmer tagged the date in which this vine was planted and was able to measure the grown of the vine day by day.

Here we see a good sample of replanting 2/3 meters without cutting the original vine. The nutrients only “travel” 1.5 to 2 meters where the vine is replanted again. The vine takes the nutrients right from the replant and not from 20 meters away where the mother vine started . Without cutting the vine you have continuous growth and no interruption “shock” . Even thought the replanted part of the vine its still attached to the original “mother vine” it gets its nourishment as an independent vine and if you cut behind it the replanted part will NOT go into “shock”. By replanting the vine continues reproducing itself without stopping. A vanilla vine grows at a rate of 14 mm per day or about 5 + meters per year so by replanting you could easily get 1 kilo per 1.5 to 2 meters. Note how lush and dark green are the replanted vines and leaves. On the 2nd picture the vine grew at the rate of 6 meters per year.