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CULTIVATION

The vanilla plant can only survive between 10 and 20 degrees latitude North and South at an altitude of less than 700 metres. Average temperature should be between 21°C and 31°C. The soil should be well drained and rich in organic matter, with moderate rainfall, and between sun and shade.

Vanilla plants need a support on which to climb and find shade. Vanilla plantations generally plant small trees capable of supporting the weight of the vanilla plant later beforehand. These trees are generally physic nut, coffee, avocado, cashew, or mango trees.

The term "under crop" is specifically reserved for Indian plantations which have widely developed the combine cultivation of peppers, cashews, or coconuts with vanilla.
India also has intensive "undershade" vanilla plantations which produce a high yield of green vanilla.

Vanilla plants generally flower three years after planting.  Artificial pollination requires plants to be inspected every day for two or three months. Once successfully pollinated, vanilla fruit reaches its adult size in six weeks but is only harvested at maturity seven or eight months later.

Artificial pollination is performed by women ("marriers") or children using a bevelled sliver of bamboo. A good worker can pollinate between 1,000 and 1,500 flowers a day. One plant produces between 4 to 10 raceme representing between 40 and 120 pods.

With an average yield of 5 kg of green vanilla for 1 kg of cured vanilla (see curing-conditioning) a good vanilla plantation produces between 500 and 800 kg of cured vanilla per hectare for an average of 8-9 years (Madagascan standards).

Reproduction is generally made by planting cuttings of around 1 - 1.5 metres in length.


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