By Kainat Aleem (Forestry UAF), H. Kashif Ali (IHS, UAF)

Pakistan is one of the most forest deficit countries in the world. The area under forest is less than 5% in Pakistan and hardly 3% in Punjab. The natural imperatives such as dry and hot climate with meager rainfall are not conducive to natural forest. Timber and firewood have become scarce commodities despite the fact that firewood is a major source of domestic energy needs for the majority over 70% of the rural population.

Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistance tree of the family Moringaceae, native to tropical and subtropical regions of South Asia. Common names include moringa, drumstick tree] (from the long, slender, triangular seedpods), horseradish tree (from the taste of the roots, which resembles horseradish), and Ben oil tree or benzolive tree (from the oil which is derived from the seeds). It is widely cultivated for its young seed pods and leaves used as vegetables and for traditional herbal medicine. M. oleifera is considered to be an aggressive invasive species. M. oleifera is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that can reach a height of 10_12 m (32_40 ft) and a trunk diameter of 45 cm (1.5 ft). The bark has a whitish-grey color and is surrounded by thick cork. Young shoots have purplish or greenish-white, hairy bark. The flowers are fragrant and hermaphroditic, surrounded by five unequal, thinly veined, yellowish-white petals. The flowers are about 1.0_1.5 cm long and 2.0 cm broad. Flowering begins within the first six months after planting. In seasonally cool regions, flowering only occurs once a year between April and June. In more constant seasonal temperature and with constant rainfall, flowering can happen twice or even all year-round. The fruit is a hanging, three-sided brown capsule of 20_45 cm size which holds dark brown, globular seeds with a diameter around 1 cm.

Horseradish tree succeeds in warm temperate to tropical areas and can be found at elevations from sea-level to about 1,000 meters. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range of 20 -35 c but can tolerate 7 -48c. The plant is quite a cold-hardy and is not harmed by light frosts, but it can be killed back to ground level by a freeze. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 700 – 2,200mm, but tolerates 400 – 2,600mm. Easily grown in well-drained soil in a sunny position, tolerating a wide range of soil types. It grows best on fertile and well-drained sandy soil, clay, or clay loam but in general suitable for light, medium, and heavy soils through it will not withstand salinity. It has a special tolerance to shallow soil and is tolerant of low fertility. Moringa is an extremely fast-growing tree, and within 1-3 months trees can reach 2.5 meters in height. The growth rates of 3-4 meters per year are not unusual for young plants. Young trees raised from seed start flowering after 2 years. In trees grown from cuttings, the first fruits may be expected 6-12 months after planting. Flowering often precedes or coincides with the formation of new leaves, and can occur throughout the year in non-seasonal climates. Constant pruning of up to 1.5 meters per year is suggested to obtain a thick-limbed and multi-branched shrub. It coppices and pollards well. The sweet-smelling flowers are produced throughout the year. In the warmer parts of its range, the plant can produce a second crop of seeds each year. There is at least one named variety. Flowering Time: Late Spring/Early Summer. Bloom Color; White/Near White. Spacing; 8-10 ft.

Uses/ Benefits of Moringa

Moringa oleifera is the most nutrient-rich plant yet discovered. This humble plant has been making strides in less-developed societies for thousands of years, and significant nutritional. Moringa provides a rich and rare combination of nutrients, amino acids, antioxidants, antiaging and anti-inflammatory properties used for nutrition and healing. Moringa is sometimes called Mother’s Best Friend and Miracle Tree.

Nutritional Uses

Moringa has been in use for centuries for nutritional as well as medicinal purposes. These include vitamin C, which fights a host of illness including colds and flu; vitamin A, which acts as a shield against eye disease, skin disease, heart ailments, diarrhea, and many other diseases; Calcium, which builds strong bones and teeth and helps prevent osteoporosis; Potassium, which is essential for the functioning of the brain and nerves, and Proteins, the basic building blocks of all our body cells. Another important point is that Moringa leaves contain all of the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. It is very rare for a vegetable to contain all of these amino acids. And Moringa contains these amino acids in a good proportion so that they are very useful to our bodies. These leaves could be a great boon to people who do not get protein from meat. Moringa even contains arginine and histidine, which are especially important for infants who are unable to make enough protein for their growth requirements.

Given its nutritional value, it can be utilized in fortifying sauces, juices, spices, milk, bread, and most importantly, instant noodles. Many commercial products like Zija soft drink, tea, and neutroceuticals are available all over the globe. A comparative study of Moringa fresh leaves gram for gram with other foodstuffs puts Moringa on top. It contains seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the vitamin A of carrots, four times the calcium of milk, three times the potassium of banana and two times the protein of yogurt. But the micro-nutrient contents is even more in dried leaves; ten time the vitamin A of carrots, 17 times the calcium of milk, 15times the potassium of banana, 25 times the iron of spinach and nine times the protein of yogurt.

Plant Growth Enhancer

Lab experimentation had shown that Moringa spray had a wide range of beneficial effects on plant crops. Effects of spray indicated accelerated growth of young plants. Plants were firmer, more resistant to pests and disease. Longer life-span, heavier roots, stems, and leaves, produced more fruit, larger fruit, increase in yield 20-35% if even a fraction of these results could be reproduced in the field, it could be a great help in increasing food supplies for millions of hungry people.

Water Purification;

 Powdered seeds act as a natural flocculent, able to clarify even the most turbid water Seed powder can be used as a quick and simple method for cleaning dirty water. The powder joins with the solids in the water and sinks to the bottom. This treatment also removes 90-99% of bacteria contained in water, water purification by flocculation, sedimentation, antibiosis, and even reduction of Schistosome cercariae titer. Using Moringa to purify water replaces chemicals such as aluminum sulfate, which are dangerous to people and the environment, and are expensive. Twenty liters of water may be purified by adding 2 grams of powder to one cup of clean water, pour into a bottle, and shake for 5 minutes. Filter the solution through a clean cloth into the bucket of dirty water that is to be treated. Stir the water quickly for 2 minutes and slowly for 10 to 15 minutes. Leave the bucket undisturbed for one hour or until the water becomes clear and the impurities have sunk to the bottom. Filter the water through a clean cloth Boil the water before drinking.

 Conclusion

The Moringa olifera plant is the most inexpensive and credible alternative to not only providing good nutrition, but also cure and prevention of a lot of diseases.Moringa tree could easily and cheaply be cultivated and grown in Pakistan.

 We need to design and develop a strategy on a war footing in order to explore and utilize the full benefits of this miracle tree. The research project should be made for commercial production of food product, neutraceuticals, Moringa oil {edible as well as cosmetics}, fortified feed for cattle, biogas, and plant fertilizer. The plants for water purification by moringa should be designed.

The poor countries should promote planting and use of Moringa instead of waiting for bounties of food relief from the rich west.

Pakistan could easily fight against the problems of malnutrition, hunger, poverty, diseases, unemployment, and edible oil export by utilizing its full benefits. The lot foreign exchange could be earned by exporting product of Moringa instead spending foreign exchange on imports.

Moringa truly appears to be a Miracle plant having countless benefits for humanity and thus should be taken as a high-quality gift of nature at a very low price.

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