Indonesian Cassia (Indonesian Cinnamon): Production

Light, rich sandy loam soil is best suited for the cultivation of Indonesian cinnamon for the production of the high quality bark. Growth is reported to be good in andosol, latosol and organosol soil types. But many small holders’ plantations are on steep hillsides where the soil is stony, lateritie and less suitable for the production of high quality bark. The annual rainfall of the hilly regions of Padang is about 2000–2500 mm with short dry periods in May and September. The growth is slower at higher altitudes, while at low elevations the trees grow faster, but the bark is thinner and of lower quality and value.

Indonesian cassia is cultivated very similarly to that of Sri Lankan cinnamon except in the matter of harvesting ). Cassia plants are raised from seeds. Vegetative propagation is possible through cutting and layering but it is not practiced as such plants produce thinner bark of lesser quality. Ripe fruits are collected from selected mother trees having thick bark and good aroma. Such trees are covered with nets in order to protect the fruits from birds, which are attracted to cinnamon fruits. Fruits are harvested at full ripening (when they become bluish black in colour), heaped for two or three days to allow the pericarp to rot, and are then washed in water to remove the fruit wall. Seeds, freed from the pericarp, are dried in the shade and sown immediately in seedbeds. The viability of seeds is lost rapidly, and storing even for a few days may result in drastic reduction in germination.

However, seeds stored at 15–20 °C maintain viability a little longer. By this treatment the seed moisture content decreases slowly, reducing pathogen activity and slowing down the metabolic processes. Osmoconditioning of seeds is one way to increase seed viability by soaking seeds in an osmoticum solution (KNO3, H2O, PEG 6000) before planting. Darwati and Hasanah carried out seed germination studies and reported that fruits harvested when their pericarps turned black produced seeds with higher dry weight and gave higher germination percentage, greater seedling vigour and more uniformity in growth.

Nursery and planting

Raised nursery beds, 1 m wide are prepared in fertile, shaded areas. Artificial shade is provided if necessary, for which plaited palm leaves can be used. Seeds are sown at a spacing of 5 X 5 cm and at a depth of 1 cm. Seeds germinate in 5–15 days and when seedlings are about two-months old they are transplanted to polybags in a soil and dung mixture. Alternatively seeds can be sown at a wider spacing of 20–25 cm and plants can be left in the bed until they are ready for field planting after 10–12 months. Seedlings are hardened by the gradual removal of shade. The polybag seedlings have a definite advantage and give much higher field establishment.

Spacing adopted in field planting varies, but the common practice is to leave 1 m spacing between plants. Spacing is a compromise between two factors. Plants should be close enough to encourage formation of tall, straight trunks with as few branches as possible. At the same time, planting too close may lead to reduction in bark thickness, and hence spacing should be wide enough to encourage thicker bark formation. Pits of 30 X 30 X 30 cm are usually used, in which the polybag seedlings are planted. Seedlings growing on beds should be lifted with a ball of earth around the roots and planted in pits. Damage to the root system predisposes plants to infection by Phytophthora cinnamomi. In the Sumatera region Tephrosia Candida is recommended as a nurse crop. This may be sown six months ahead of planting cassia in rows about 1 m apart. Cassia seedlings are planted in Tephrosia rows after digging pits. Tephrosia is cut later and spread in the inter spaces. Intercropping with groundnut, ginger etc. is practiced during the first one or two years.

Table Mean height and girth sizes as affected by spacing and fertilizers with the peel method

Height (m)Girth (cm)Height (m)Girth (cm)Girth (cm)
Spacing (m ) 2.5 X 3.34.23 a24.0 a8.86 a52.3 a76.3 a
4.11 a23.9 a8.29 a48.7 a70.6 ab
4.21 a23.8 a8.39 a49.2 a68.5 b
Fertilizer control4.19 a23.6 a8.19 a46.4 a68.3 a
4.30 a24.5 a8.53 a50.9 b72.5 a
NPK (15 X 15 X 15) + 12.5 g urea4.04 a23.7 a8.41 a52.3 b74.5 a

Note: Values followed by the same letters are not statistically significant.

Studies carried out by Usman indicated that spacing treatments had little effect on the yield of bark except in one particular year when wider spacing produced a higher bark yield (Table Mean height and girth sizes as affected by spacing and fertilizers with the peel method). This was consistent with girth size that was increased by wider spacing. The highest total yield per plant was 1.21 and 3.40 kg per tree, respectively, by employing the cut and peel methods of bark extraction. This yield was equivalent to 1.45 and 4.14 t dry bark/ha (population base of 1200 trees/ha) obtained from the cut and peel methods, respectively. There is no significant effect due to fertilizer treatments on yield. The addition of higher rates of fertilizer tended to reduce bark yields (peel method).

Plantations of Indonesian cassia are maintained like forest plantations, without any cultural operations or fertilizer applications. The only operation is the removal of the lower branches from the main shoots, which are removed by cutting close to the trunk. The recommended fertilizer ratio is a 15:15:15 mixture of urea, rock phosphate and potash (40–100 kg/ha depending on the age), but, as mentioned above, growers seldom apply fertilizer.

Bark yields obtained from the peel method are about three-fold higher than that of the cut method. The total yield of bark obtained from the cut and peel methods varies from 1.04 to 1.25 and 3.02 to 3.65 kg/tree, respectively. Rusli and Hamid reported a yield of 2.9 kg and 1.45 kg dry bark, respectively, from the main trunk and branches per tree.

Ridwansyah carried out an economic analysis of cinnamon cultivation in the Kerinci National Park region of Jambi Province, Indonesia. Here, cinnamon farming is the only source of income for about half the farming community, and more than 40% have less than 1 ha of land. The mean cultivated area is around 1.8 ha per household.

The mean number of cinnamon trees per farm unit is 2443 with a mean stand age of eight years. The government has introduced a cinnamon protection programme for protecting the crop and its sustainable exploitation.

Little crop improvement work has been developed for this important crop. Preliminary studies on collection and evaluation were carried out at the Bukit Gompong Research Station, west Sumatera. High variability was observed for stem diameter and eight groups of trees have since been identified based on their stem diameter but their oil content remained almost the same.

Oil cells in the leaves are always present in both the palisade and the spongy parenchyma. They are oblong-ovoid in the palisade parenchyma and more or less globular in spongy parenchyma. The oil content from the leaves is 1.12%, less than that from the stem’s bark (3.45%) and than from the branch bark (2.38%).


Selections from the book: “Cinnamon and Cassia. The genus Cinnamomum”. Edited by P.N. Ravindran, K. Nirmal Babu, and M. Shylaja. Series: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants — Industrial Profiles”. 2003.