GANDHARI, COMMONLY known as bird's eye chilli is a wild form of chilli, whose small fruits are dispersed by birds. All small highly pungent chillies belong to Capsicum frutescens.
Unlike other chillies, these chillies are rich in B carotene (Pro-Vitamin A), ascorbic acid and tocopherol (Vitamin E).
Gandhari plants are much branched, growing to a height of four feet or more with a productive life of two or three years. The flowers are usually greenish with two or three upward pedicels.
Fruits are upright until maturity, thus appearing above the foliage. The plants thrive well where temperature is around 22-28 degrees Celsius. Soil should be rich in organic matter and acidic to strongly acidic in nature (pH 4.5 to 5.0).
For commercial cultivation, seeds should be sown in January in seedbeds.
After sowing, seeds are covered with well-decomposed farmyard manure and the seedbeds are covered with poly sheets to protect against rain. The seed rate of the crop is 400-500g/ha.
Since it is believed that reduction in pungency facilitates germination and reduces the menace of ants attacking the seeds, rubbing the seeds between the palms and washing with water is normally recommended.
To break seed dormancy, seeds should be treated with 0.1 per cent potassium iodide solution for 1-1/2 hrs.
About 8 to 10 days before transplanting, seedlings should be topped in the nursery bed in the morning, which produces better and thicker seedlings and keeps off the leaf curl caused by chilli thrips on tender top leaves.
To avoid damping draining the nursery bed and drenching with captan at 0.1 per cent is followed. The seedlings are transplanted in the main field during late March.
The spacing recommended for mono crop/pure stand production is 1m x 1m and it is 2m x 2m for intercrop in banana, tapioca and other crops.
To reduce flower drop and to increase fruit set, two sprays of NAA 10 ppm at flower initiation stage and another one 15 days later is recommended. Harvesting is done during April to June and October to December.
& M. Jayasekhar
Horticultural Research Station
Pechiparai, Tamil Nadu