Origin and distribution
Pine nut or Chigoza belongs to the family Pinaceae and is native to the trans-Himalayan region of India, Afghanistan, Pakistan where it is growing natural at an elevation between 2500-3300 m. It is distributed in the dry temperate region of north-west Himalayas in Kinnaur, Pangi of Himachal Pradesh, Indus valley, Gilgit, Dachhin area in the Marwah valley of Doda (J&K) and Malari and Bampa area of Garhwal (Uttarakhand). It is called by various vernacular names viz. Ri, Rhi, Shangti, Neja, Neje, Neoja, Noosa
The chilgoza pine is a moderate-sized evergreen tree, it attains the maximum stature in nearly 100 years to reach a height of about 15 to 20 m and girth about 2 to 3 m. It starts bearing fruit after 20 to 30 years. The trunk has rounded and grey coloured bark, which peels off in large flakes. The leaves are needle-like in fascicles of three, 6-10 cm long, spreading stiff, glossy green on the outer surface, with blue-green on the inner surface.
The male flowers appear in June-July, which shed the yellow pollen in abundance. The cones in a young stage known as catkins are borne on stout scaly peduncles. The cones ripen in the second year by September-October. The seeds are cylindrical with a short perishable wing, 2-3 cm long and 10-12 cm in diameter. Each cone produces 50-100 seeds. The cones are plucked before they open and heated to make scales expand and release the seeds.
Nutritional value and uses
Chilgoza kernels have high nutritional value and are a rich source of protein, fat and phosphorus. The dry seeds are sold in the market under the name of chilgoza. Woods are used for timber purposes
Chilgoza pine can withstand severe cold and drought conditions. The tree grows in loose, light and barren soils, metamorphosed crystalline rocks, granites and quartzite formations and virtually regarded as the champion of rocky mountains. Chilgoza forests often grow on steep slopes sometimes mixed with deodar, kail, spruce, Betula (bhojpatra) and Quercus species. The total precipitation in its zone varies from 35 to 90 cm per annum, most of which occur in the form of heavy snow during winter months.
The propagation in chilgoza is done through seeds but have low germination. Vegetative propagation is difficult but can be done by cutting, air layering and in-vitro clonal micro propagation. Cuttings are taken in June July months, it should be treated with 1.25% IBA + 10% captan + 10% sucrose talc and planted in the field. Besides, natural regeneration is generally followed for forest management. The crops resulting from natural regeneration are usually more resistant to the attacks by insects, pests and diseases. Since chilgoza is highly priced nut it natural populations are shrinking in distribution due to over extraction, unsystematic cutting of cones, devoured or eaten of seeds by a large number of pests, birds, squirrels, rodents and cone borers etc.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla