Santalum album. Linn commonly known as East Indian sandalwood or chandan belongs to the family Santalaceae. It is highly valuable and becoming endangered species. It is distributed all over the country and more than 90% lies in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu covering 8300 sq kms. Sandalwood plays an important role in the religious life of Indians. The essential oil obtained from this wood has occupied significant place in perfumery industries/market. Although it is available in some other countries still the Indian Sandalwood has retained its dominance over other sources because of its quality.
Sandalwood is light demanding and can be easily suppressed by faster-growing species. Cultivation of sandal in India has had limited success. Sandal trees freely produce seed and natural regeneration occurs both via seedlings and through root suckers after trees have been uprooted and the stump removed from the ground.
Sandalwood oil also known as fragrance oil, perfume oil, body oil. The oil has a woody, exotic smell, subtle and lingering and the colour is pale yellow to pale gold. The essential oil contains Alpha-santalol and beta-santalol amount to more than 90 % of the oil - making it very superior sandalwood oil. The main chemical components are santalol, santyl acetate and santalene (Bo Jensen, Denmark)
The price of Sandalwood in India is everyday increasing price Rs. 20,000 per tonne in 1980, Rs. 200,000 per tonne in 1990; Rs. 4000,000 per tonne in 2004 and 7500,000 per tonne in 2014. India uses all S. album domestically and export is prohibited (USDA, 1990). Export of timber from India is totally banned except for handicraft pieces of sandalwood up to 50g weight. FAO, 1984 notes that it is a priority species for in setup conservation. Since then, sandalwood oil and handicrafts have become more important. International demand for sandalwood is estimated to the 10,000 mt per year. USA and France are the two largest importers of Indian sandalwood oil. Imports into the Middle are increasing.
Sandal Research Centre (SRC) was carried out on wide-ranging aspects of genetics, silviculture and management of sandal, properties and utilisation. Renamed SRC as Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), Bangalore and it has made impressive contribution. IWST has carried out extensive research on various aspects of S. album like; survey, morphology, tree improvement, soils, silviculture, physiology, biotechnology, diseases and pests, chemistry and utilization, Production and export management, etc. In Indian sandalwood, all research related materiel is in print form but not in the electronic media, which is very essential.
To encourage sandalwood cultivation, the Karnataka Forests Act, Tamil Nadu Forests Act, Kerala Forests Act and Andhra Pradesh forests Act have been amended. The ownership of sandalwood trees grown on private lands now vests with the landowners. The rules governing felling, transport, conservation and disposal of sandalwood have been liberalized. Provision has been made for payment of market value to owner of sandalwood trees.
Conservation action for economically important sandalwood of India needs to be guided by an authentic knowledge base on such plant species. Such a knowledge base is visualized as a well-designed computerized web database providing quick access to some of the most important basic information relating to S. album tree e.g. distribution, morphology, tree improvement, soils, silviculture, physiology, biotechnology, diseases and pests, chemistry and utilization, Production and export management, etc. Such a database needs to be developed to incorporate proper description of each of these valuable properties of S. album. This Monograph database forms promoting informed conservation action for prioritized sandalwood yielding and also act as a platform for initiating other focused research projects relating to the management of this valuable endanger species.