Organic cultivation of Chilli

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Indian Chilli is mainly exported to Bangladesh, Bahrain, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, USA and UAE.

Even though exact area and production details on organic chilli in the country is not available, it is known that organic chilli is cultivated in some areas of tribal region of Khandamal Orissa, hills of Uttarakhand and in some parts of Tamilnadu as well as Maharashtra. In Uttarakhand, organic chilli is being grown in the bio villages identified by the Directorate of Agriculture in various districts. Even though the area under certified organic chilli at present is small, the same is likely to go up due to preference by the farmers.

Climate

Chilli requires a warm and humid climate for its best growth and dry weather during the maturation of fruits. Chilli crop comes up well in tropical and sub-tropical regions, but it has a wide range of adaptability and can withstand heat and moderate cold to some extent. The crop can be grown over a wide range of altitudes from sea level upto nearly 2100 m above MSL. It can be grown throughout the year under irrigation. It can be grown successfully as a rain-fed crop in areas receiving an annual rainfall of 850-1200 mm. Heavy rainfall leads to poor fruit set and in association with high humidity leads to rotting of fruits. Pungent chilli are susceptible to frost. A temperature ranging from 20-25°C is ideal for chilli. In chilli fruit development was found to be adversely affected at temperatures of 37°C or more. High temperature associated with low relative humidity at flowering increases the transpiration resulting in shedding of buds, flowers and small fruits.

Soil

Chilli can be grown in a range of soils, but black soils which retain moisture for long periods are suitable for rainfed crop whereas well drained soils, deltaic soils and sandy loams are good under irrigated condition. However, in hills of Uttarakhand, chilli are grown in a wide range of soils ranging from sandy to clay loam mixed with gravel and coarse sand.

Maintenance of buffer zone

For organic cultivation of chilli, a buffer zone of 7.5 - 15 m is to be left all around the conventional farm, depending upon the location of the farm. The produce from this buffer zone shall not be treated as organic.

Land Preparation

Land is prepared to a fine tilth by thorough ploughing / digging. Two to three ploughings are done to bring the soil to fine tilth. Stones and gravel are to be removed. In case of direct sowing, three to four ploughings are undertaken and sowing is done along with the last ploughing. The soil can be treated with azatobacter or azospirillum @ 1-1.25 kg mixed with 50 kg of farm yard manure and the same may be broadcast in the field. Farm Yard manure @ 4-6 t and 1-2 t of vermicompost can be added per acre.

Planting material

Chilli is propagated by seeds. For raising nurseries, seeds of high yielding varieties with tolerance to pests and diseases may be used. They should be carefully selected from certified organic farms or from own seed plot which is raised organically. To start with, chemically untreated seeds from local high yielding varieties could also be used, in the absence of organically produced seeds.

Varieties 

Pusa Sadabahar, Pusa Jwala and Pant C-1 are the chilli varieties for cultivation in Uttarakhand. However, many of the farmers are growing varieties procured from Pantnagar for long and even using their own seeds.

Seed Treatment

Seeds should not be treated with any chemical fungicides or pesticides. However, it is always beneficial to adopt indigenous practices for seed treatment, wherever possible. The seeds may be treated with Trichoderma and Psuedomonas sp. @ 10 g per kg of seed to prevent incidence of seedling rot in the nursery. The ideal time for raising nursery is February - March in the hills of Uttarakhand. Transplanting would be done during the months of April - May. 400 g of seeds would be sufficient for raising nursery for transplantation in an area of acre.

Nursery Raising

Fresh seeds are sown in well prepared nursery beds. Although it can be sown by broadcast method in the main field, transplanting method is preferred for better quality and survival. The nursery bed is usually raised from ground level and is prepared by thorough mixing with compost and sand. Seeds treated withTrichoderma are sown and covered thinly using sand. The seeds germinate in 5 to 7 days. About 40 - 45 days old seedlings are transplanted in the main field.

Transplanting

40-45 days old seedlings are used for transplantation. Transplanting is generally done during the April-May in the hills of Uttarakhand. Seedlings are transplanted in shallow trenches / pits or on ridges / level lands. In some places, 60 cm x 60 cm or 45 cm x 30 cm or 30 cm x 30 cm spacing is also followed. However, a spacing of 60 cm x 30 cm with a plant population of about 22200 seedlings per acre or 45 cm x 45 cm with a plant population of 19750 per acre are considered optimum.

Direct Sowing

Direct sowing is practiced under rainfed conditions. For direct sown crop, the seeds are drilled by the end of March or first week of April. Seed rate is 2.5-3.0 kg per acre. After 30-40 days of sowing, thinning and gap filling is done on a cloudy day.

Irrigation

Chilli cannot withstand heavy moisture. Hence irrigation should be given only when necessary. Frequent and heavy irrigation induces lanky vegetative growth and cause flower shedding. Plant growth, branching and dry matter accumulation are adversely affected by excess irrigation. The number of irrigation and interval between irrigation depends on soil and climatic conditions. If the plants show drooping of leaves at 4 p.m., it is an indication that irrigation is needed. Flowering and fruit development in chilli are the most critical stages of water requirement. Normally chilli is grown under rain-fed condition. However, under irrigated condition, care should be taken to avoid using water contaminated with fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. Irrigation should be done judiciously. Stagnation of water should not be allowed in nursery beds and fields in order to avoid fungal infection.

Inter culture operations 

Grown up seedlings raised by sowing through broadcasting method or in line in ridges should be thinned out by hand 25 to 30 days after sowing the seeds to maintain a plant population of about 30 to 60 plants/m2. The plant density to be maintained finally may depend on the nature and fertility of the soil. On marginal soil, the population is maintained high. Generally two weedings/hoeings are required to keep the field free from weeds, the first within 20-25 days of sowing and the other after 20-25 days of the first weeding/hoeing. Wherever needed, depending on the weed growth one or two more weedings may be taken up. Weeds which attract pests should be allowed to grow in the field to act as trap and removed before flowering. Earthing up is carried out as and when necessary. Chilli can be cultivated organically as an inter or mixed crop provided all the other crops are grown under organic methods. It is desirable to include a leguminous crop in rotation with chilli. 

 Manuring

Organic manures such as farmyard manure is applied @ 4 t/acre. However, it is always advisable to use compost/farmyard manure from own farm rather than from outside the farm. Restricted use of permitted mineral fertilizers under organic system can be done depending on requirement, on the basis of soil analysis. Use of bio-fertilizers can also be resorted to in combination with organic inputs.

Plant protection

Pests

Thrips, mites, aphids, root grubs and pod borers are the major pests in chilli. To avoid infestation of root grub, only well rotten farmyard manure should be applied in the field. Application of neem cake @ 100 kg/acre is advisable for control of root grubs. Change in the agronomic practices to disturb the life cycle of the grub is also found useful. To control the infestation of root grub, light traps can be laid out from March. Grass can be heaped at different places in the field and the grubs which accumulate in these heaps may be collected in the early morning and destroyed. 400 g/acre of Beauvaria bassiana may be broadcast in the field. Transplanting before first fortnight of April also helps in reducing the incidence of root grub. 

Application of neem seed kernel extract (NSKE) can be done for control of thrips, aphids and mites. 10 kg of neem seed kernels may be boiled in 15 l of water. 200 ml of this extract may be mixed in 15 l of water and four to five sprays may be given to control sucking pests. Farmers also use seed extracts of Bakaine (Melia azadirach) along with Bichoo Grass (Urtica dioica) for control of pests. Release of larvae of Chrysoperla cornea, a bio control agent, once in 15 days is also helpful in controlling thrips and mites. Fruit (pod) borers are the major pests which cause considerable damage to the crop. They can be managed to a certain extent by adoption of bio control measures. Restricted installation of pheromone traps in the field @ 5 no. per acre helps to monitor the adult moths. Ten days after spotting the moths in the traps, 4-5 spraying with Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus (NPV) @ 200 LE (larval equivalent)/acre is beneficial to control the early larval stage of the pod borers. The egg masses of Spodoptera borer can be mechanically collected and destroyed. Trichogramma, an egg parasite, may be released two days after appearance of moths. Spraying of neem products like neem oil, neem seed kernel extract and restricted use of Bacillus thuringiensis @ 0.4 kg/acre are beneficial. All the shed fruits and part of inflorescence should be collected and destroyed at regular intervals.

Diseases 

Fruit rot & Die back caused by Colletotrichum capsici and bacterial wilt are the two major diseases of chilli. Bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew and mosaic disease (caused by virus) are the major diseases of chilli. Careful seed selection and adoption of phytosanitary measures will check the diseases of chilli. Early removal of affected plants will control the spread of the diseases. Seed treatment with Trichoderma takes care of seedling rot in nursery. Varieties tolerant to diseases should be used wherever the disease is severe. Rouging and destruction of affected plants help in checking the mosaic virus. For effective disease control, 10 g of Trichoderma or Pseduomonas sp. per litre of water should be used for spraying. 

Harvesting

Chilli is highly perishable in nature. It requires more attention during harvest, storage and transportation. Harvesting should be done at the right stage of maturity. Dark green fruit should be plucked for preparing chilli pickle. For dry chilli and for making chilli powder, picking should be done when the fruit is dark red. Ripe fruits are to be harvested at frequent intervals. Retaining fruits for a long period on the plants causes wrinkles and colour fading. Crop is ready for harvesting in about 90 days after transplanting. About 5-6 pickings are made for dry chilli and 8-10 pickings for green chilli.

Growth Phases in Chilli

The crop duration of chilli is about 150-180 days depending on variety, season and climate, fertility and water management. The growth of chilli comprises of vegetative and reproductive phases. In general , the vegetative phase in chilli extends to 75-85 days followed by 75-95 days of reproductive phase. The vegetative phase is characterised by increase in plant height with profuse branching. Heavy branching is preferred for better aeration and sunlight infiltration into the canopy over compact varieties. This also helps in preventing fruit rot. Flowering starts from 80-85 days of the crop or 40-45 days after transplanting. Chilli plant is an often cross pollinated crop with 50% of natural crossing. For fruit development and maturity about 40 days time is required after anthesis and pollination.

Yield

The yield of fresh chilli varies from 30-40 q/acre depending on variety and growing conditions. Out of 100 kg of fresh fruits 25-35 kg of dried fruits may be obtained. The yield of dry chilli is expected to be in the range of 7.5 to 10 q/acre. However, in the present model, yield of 8 q/acre has been assumed.

 

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