Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) covers about two-thirds of the total geographical area of the State and and is of immense significance culturally and economically. The tree supports rural economy like no other wild vegetation does.
The fruit of the tree is eaten as sangria, cooked as a delicious vegetable and mixed with the fruits of “Kair,” another dominant vegetation across the desert region. It is rich in proteins . The dead leaves of the tree are natural fertilizers. Other parts are fed to the cattle as it increases the milk yield.
A branch or two on the top of the tree is left uncut, which helps rejuvenate the tree within a few months.
The Desert Tree, as it is also known as, was the lifeline of the people in Western Rajasthan in the earlier times. It provided firewood and even acted as a cash crop.
The root cause of decline in the Khejri cover is its excessive lopping (cutting of branches), which all farm owners do annually to procure its fruit, pods, leaves, branches and twigs.
Scientists at Jodhpur-based Arid Forest Research Institute (AFRI) have assessed that Khejri mortality ranged from “18.08 per cent to 22.67 per cent with an average mortality of 20.93 per cent” in Jodhpur, Nagaur, Churu, Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Jalore districts.
Many scientific explanations have been offered for the death of Khejri like declining water table and growth of parasite Gonoderma luciderm, but there is nothing conclusive so far.