How to Grow Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

Betel Nut or Supari or Areca catechu is a species of palm which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of East Africa. The palm is believed to have originated in the Philippines, but is widespread in cultivation and is considered naturalized in southern China (Guangxi, Hainan, Yunnan), Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Ceylon, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea, many of the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and also in the West Indies.

The species has many common names including the areca palm, areca nut palm, betel palm, Indian nut, Pinang palm. It is also known as puga in Sanskrit, “puwak” in Sinhala and supari in Marathi and Gujarati. Normally it is known as the pinang tree in Malaysia. In English, this palm is called the betel tree because its fruit, the areca nut, is often chewed along with the betel leaf, a leaf from a vine of the family Piperaceae.

Areca is derived from a local name from the Malabar Coast of India, and catechu is from another Malay name for this palm, caccu.

Areca catechu is a medium-sized palm tree, growing straight to 20 m (66 ft) tall, with a trunk 10–15 cm (4–6 in) in diameter. The leaves are 1.5–2 m (4.9–6.6 ft) long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets.

In India, it is extensively used by large sections of people and is very much linked with religious practices. India is the largest producer of areca nut and at the same time, the largest consumer also Major states cultivating this crop are Karnataka (40%), Kerala (25%), Assam (20%), Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and West Bengal.

How to Grow Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

Climate to grow for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

The cultivation of arecanut is mostly confined to 28º north and south of the equator. It grows well within the temperature range of 14ºC and 36ºC and is adversely affected by temperatures below 10ºC and above 40ºC. Extremes of temperature and wide diurnal variations are not conducive for the healthy growth of the palms. Arecanut can be grown in areas receiving an annual rainfall of 750 mm in Maidan parts of Karnataka to 4,500 mm in Malnad areas of Karnataka.

In areas where there is prolonged dry spell, the palms are irrigated. Due to its susceptibility to low temperature, a good crop of arecanut cannot be obtained at an altitude of more than 1000 m MSL.

Soil to grow for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

The largest area under the crop is found in gravelly lateritic soils of red clay type. It can also be grown on fertile clay loam soils. Sticky clay, sandy, alluvial, brackish and calcareous soils are not suitable for arecanut cultivation.

Varieties of Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

Local Varieties

Theerthahally Local
  • Tall Variety
  • Takes 6 – 7 years for bearing
  • Medium sized oblong nuts
  • Drooping bunches
  • Suitable for tender processing
  • Suitable for malnad and maidan area
  • Average yield/palm 2.6 kg/palm
  • Susceptible to hidimundige disorder in Maidan area
  • Tall variety
Maidan Local
  • Medium-sized round nuts
  • Erect bunches
  • Takes 5 – 6 years for bearing
  • Suitable for maidan area
  • Suitable for tender processing
  • Average yield/palm 2.6 kg/palm
  • Less susceptible to the hidimundige disorder
South Kenra Local
  • Tall variety
  • Big size round shaped nuts
  • Suitable for chali preparation
  • Average yield 2.0 kg/palm
  • Suitable for the coastal area
Mohith Nagar
  • Tall variety
  • Local variety from West Bengal
  • Round to oblong medium size nuts
  • Suitable for chali preparation
  • Average yield 3.60 kg/palm
  • Spouse setting of nuts in bunches
  • Suitable for coastal and maidan belt
  • Tall variety
  • Grown in Maharastra State
  • Medium size round nuts
  • Average yield 2.0 kg/palm
  • Suitable for tender processing
  • Very good quality nuts fetch the highest market price

Improved Varieties

  • Medium sized tree
  • Starts bearing in 4 – 5 years
  • Medium sized round nuts
  • Average yield 3.0 kg/palm
  • Suitable for chali preparation
  • Recommended for coastal belt
  • Tall variety
  • Medium sized oblong nuts
  • Takes 5 – 6 years for bearing
  • Average yield 3.18 kg/palm
  • Suitable for chalii preparation
  • Recommended for coastal belt
  • Tall variety
  • Big sized round nuts
  • Suitable for chali preparation
  • Recommend for coastal belt
  • Average yield 3.28 kg/palm
Sarwamangala (VTL-12)
  • Regular bearer, consistent yielder with a homogeneous population
  • Trees are semi tall to tall, stem sturdy with shorter internodes
  • Having partially drooping crown with well-placed bunches
  • Average no. of bunches/palm/year – 3.90
  • The colour of ripe nuts – Orange to deep yellow
  • The shape of ripe nuts – Oblong to round and bold
  • Bearing – By 4th-year Potential yield (kg chali/palm/year) – 6.28
  • Average yield (kg chali/palm/year) – 3.88
  • Recovery – High recovery with 26.52% of chali from the fresh nut
  • Recommended regions/areas for cultivation – Irrigated areas of Karnataka and Kerala
  • Tall type released by UAS, Dharwad
  • Medium sized round nuts
  • Average yield 4.60 kg/palm
  • Suitable for both tender processing and chali type
  • Recommended for North Kenara and Malnad area
Vittal Areca Hybrid – 1 (VTLAH – 1)
  • The hybrid between Hirehalli Dwarf x Sumangala
  • Dwarf type with reduced canopy and very sturdy stem
  • Superimposition of nodes on the stem gives mechanical support to palms
  • Partially drooping crown with well-spread leaves
  • Moderate yielder but early stabilization in nut yield
  • Medium sized oval, yellow to orange nuts
  • Average yield (kg chali/palm/year) – 2.54
  • Yield (kg/ha) – 5248
  • Recovery over fresh nut – 26.45 %
  • A specific recommendation for seed production – Artificial crossing is suggested between Hirehalli Dwarf and Sumangala for hybrid seed production. Only sprouts/seedlings will be supplied after sorting and selection in the nursery
  • Recommended regions/areas for cultivation – Coastal Karnataka and Kerala
  • Harvesting and spraying easy because of the dwarfing nature and lesser cost of cultivation
  • Sun scorching and wind damage is minimal due to dwarfing nature
Vittal Areca Hybrid – 2 (VTLAH-II)
  • Dwarf variety released by CPCRI Vittal
  • Medium sized round nut
  • Suitable for chali preparation
  • Average yield 2.64 kg/palm
  • Recommended for coastal belt

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How to Grow Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree


Raising of Seedlings

Arecanut is propagated only by seeds. There are four steps in selection and raising of arecanut seedlings viz., selection of mother palms, selection of seed nuts, germination and raising the seedlings and selection of seedlings.

Selection of mother palm

The criteria for the selection of mother palm are; early bearing, regular bearing habit, a large number of leaves on the crown, shorter internodes and high fruit set. Middle-aged palms of 15-30 years should be selected as mother palms in a garden of medium management.

Selection of seed nut

Fully ripened nuts having the weight of above 35 g should be selected. The weight of seed nuts for red varieties should be 20-25 gms. The middle bunches should be selected for seed purpose leaving the first and the last bunch. The nuts selected should float vertically with calyx-end pointing upwards when allowed to float on water. These nuts produce the seedlings of greater vigour.

Primary and secondary nurseries

For obtaining good germination, the seed nuts should be sown as whole fruits. The nuts should be sown immediately after the harvest in soil or sand and watered daily to get early and good germination. The nuts should be sown at 15 cm distance in a vertical position with calyx end just covered. The beds may be mulched lightly using areca leaf or paddy straw.

After six months in the primary nursery, the seedlings are to be transplanted to secondary nursery beds of 150 cm width, 15 cm height and convenient length. A spacing of 30 cm between the seedlings is considered to be optimum for a growth period of one year in the nursery. Polythene bags (25x15cm, 150 gauge) filled with potting mixture (topsoil:FYM: sand = 7:3:2) can also be used to raise secondary nursery. Sprouts of 3 months old should be used for transplanting in poly bags.

The secondary nursery should be given a basal dose of decomposed farm yard manure@ 5 tonnes per ha. Areca sprouts and seedlings are very delicate and do not withstand exposure to direct sunlight.

Hence, the proper shade should be provided to the nursery. The nursery should be watered regularly in the summer and proper drainage should be provided in the rainy season. The nursery should be kept clean by periodical weeding.

Selection of seedlings

Twelve to eighteen-month-old seedlings are to be selected and transplanted in the main field. Seedlings with a maximum number of leaves (five or above), minimum height and maximum girth are to be selected for planting.

The selected seedlings should be removed with a ball of earth adhering to the roots for planting. Poly bags raised seedlings to establish very well in the main plantation.

Selection of site and layout for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

The crop thrives well in humid areas protected well against hot sun and heavy wind. Since the areca palm does not withstand either waterlogging or drought, the site selected should have proper drainage and adequate source of water for irrigation. Arecanut palm cannot withstand extreme temperature and exposure to direct sun. So the site selected should have protection from southern and western sides.

The soil depth and the depth of water table are the other two parameters to be considered while selecting the site. The soil should be deep (preferably not less than two meters) and the water table should be sufficiently low for better root development.

Aligning the rows in a north-south direction with a deviation of 35º towards south-west lowers the incidence of sun-scorch. A row of quick growing shade trees should be planted at a spacing of 5-6’, 10-12’ away from the last row on the southern and western side to prevent sun scorching during the winter season.

Spacing for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

This depends on the rooting pattern of the crop along with the fertility and depth of the soil. The studies conducted at different places with different spacing have revealed that a spacing of 2.7 m X 2.7 m is optimum for arecanut.

Depth of planting for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

In well-drained soils and in the fields where proper drainage can be provided, deep planting is preferred. Deeper planting provides a firm anchorage and a larger volume of space for root development. In areas where the water table is high, shallow planting is preferred. Thus in well-drained soils, planting at a depth of 90 cm is recommended and in heavy soils planting at a depth of 60 cm is recommended.

Season of planting for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

In areas where South-West monsoon is severe, planting in the month of September-October is recommended. In other areas planting can also be done in the months of May-June after on set of monsoon. In low laying areas where water logging is a common planting during September–October after south west monsoon is of the crops. Planting should be followed by provision of irrigation immediately after planting if there are no rains.

Method of planting for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

The pits should be opened 2-3 months in advance of planting season. The pits are filled up with a mixture of topsoil and FYM / Compost in equal proportion to half portion of the pit and planting is taken up in the centre of the pit and properly staked. The remaining half portion of the pit is filled up gradually during the first 2-3 years manuring with soil and farm yard manure. This method of planting helps in better anchorage of roots and better roots spread and development.

Drainage for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

For better growth and development of the plants proper drainage is essential. The number of drainage channels depend upon the soil type. In light soils the number of channels may be less and in heavy soils the channels should be dug in each row for proper draining of the excess water.

The channels should be at least 15–30 cm deeper than the depth at which the seedlings are planted. Provision of drainage not only helps in draining out of excess rain water but also root aeration and development of feeding roots particularly in heavy soils. Maidan belts which receives less rain fall annually also require drainage whenever arecanut is grown in heavy soils and paddy converted soils.

The sub drainage channels should have a width of 30cm and a depth of 60-75 cm depending up on the depth of planting and type of soil. All around the garden a main drainage with a width of 60cm and a depth of 75-90 cm depending up on the soil should be provided for easy movement of excess water.

The drainage channel should be opened across the slopes to prevent soil erosion. In case of heavy soils the depth of the drainage should be increased step by step to prevent the soil caving in to the drains. Every year the drainage channels should cleaned twice before and after south west rains, to facilitate easy movement of water.

Shading for Betel Nut (Supari/ Areca) Tree

The palms are highly susceptible for sun scorching. The seedlings should be given protection against the direct exposure to sun. This may be done either covering the plants with areca or coconut leaves or by raising crops like banana in between two rows of arecanut. Sun scorching is mostly seen during October– January. During this period even the stems of young palms have to be protected. For this a quick growing shade plant can be planted on Southern and Western sides of the garden.

Planting of banana along with arecanut is a very good practice where banana provides shade to young arecanut plants at the same time giving additional revenue to the farmer in the farm of bunches.

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