A farmer in Mohpur tehsil of Nanded district of Maharashtra, Bomanna Linge, has reduced the cost of barbed-wire fencing by using using live, hardwood stumps of the salai tree (Boswelia serrata) as poles for the barbed wire.
Salai is a a hardy, drought- and heat- tolerant tree commonly found in the forests of Central India. It is easily propogated by stumps. The stumps can be about 2m to 2.5m tall and about 15cm in diameter. The bottom portion of 0.5m is buried in a narrow pit. The stumps need to be planted in late May or early June. They develop roots soon after rains start. They get firm grip in the soil and, after about two years, develop straight branches, which can be regularly harvested for stumps/poles.
Bomanna purchased 100 live stumps of salai from a farmer in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh at the rate of Rs 30 per stump and planted the stumps along the fence of his plot in May 2004. Bomanna could start harvesting poles by May 2007. His entire plot is protected by a fence of around 400 salai stumps, including some stumps of dead wood, which will be gradually replaced by live stumps as they become available.
As Bomanna has established, salai poles are better than cement poles for barbed wire fencing due to the following reasons:
- Compared to cement poles, Salai poles are cost-effective as they can be naturally multiplied on the farm with minimum inputs.
- Cement poles need to be firmly grouted in the soil with use of a concrete mixture. The cement poles get dislodged due to shrinkage of surrounding soil in summer. On the other hand, salai stumps are firmly fixed in the soil by the tree’s root system and stand erect even in cracking soils.
- As salai stumps contain a resin, it is avoided by termites and live poles for fencing have a long life.
Salai is naturally strong and demands no extra water and care. Its plantation will not divert a farmer’s resources.
In many areas, salai trees are tapped for an aromatic gum, which is used for incense sticks and other perfume-based products. Salai can be repeatedly pruned/pollarded to avoid any shade on neighbouring crops.