Ber has been a popular fruit of the rural India.It is not fastidious to its soil and climatic requirements, hence, is grown through out India. Ber is known as poor man’s fruit due to its wide cultivation. However, with the selection of high yielding cultivars with good quality fruits, it has become a commercial crop in some areas.India is the largest producer of ber.Ber trees are used for rearing lac insect, the leaves along with tender shoots are used as fodder, wood is used as fuel and for medicinal purposes. ‘Ber fruit is usually eaten fresh. It can be used for the preparation of murabba, candy and chutney. Squash or nectar can be prepared from the pulp. The fruits of wild varieties particularly malah ber (Z. numularia) are dried in sun and are sold during off season.
Scientific name-Ziziphus mauritiana.
Climate suitable for Plum/Ber cultivation
Though ber is said to be a sub-tropical fruit, it thrives well under varying climatic conditions. Low temperature conditions below freezing point are injurious to the fruits as well as to the young shoots. It can, however, withstand severe hot conditions, by shedding its leaves and becoming dormant during May–June. The ber prefers dry atmosphere for its ideal performance, high atmospheric humidity is disadvantageous particularly during fruiting.
Suitable soil types for plum/ber cultivation
It adapts to a wide variety of soils, varying from shallow to deep and from gravelly and sandy to clayey. Ber can also withstand alkalinity and lightly water logged conditions. It can also be grown on marginal lands which are unfit for growing other fruit crops. However, deep sandy loam soils which are neutral or slightly alkaline provide best media for its excellent growth and fruiting. The ber tree is drought hardy and grow under the most hazardous conditions of soil, water and climate.
High Yielding Varieties of plum grown in Andhra Pradesh
The fruit is greenish yellow, round, medium to large and weighs 20g on an average. It has good keeping quality. It yields about 100 kg/tree.
Fruits are large, oval with a roundish apex, and have an attractive golden yellow color which turns to chocolate brown at full maturity. The fruit weighs on an average 30–35g. It is tough and firm, surface smooth and glossy. It can withstand transporting and has good keeping quality. Umran is a prolific bearer and yields about 200 kg/tree, ripens during December-January.
Fruits are fairly large, oval with thin skin. On maturity fruits turn yellow. The fruit on an average weighs about 25g, it is regular and a prolific bearer, yields about 150 kg/tree.
The fruit is medium with an average weight of 25g. Fruit is oblong, with pointed apex, smooth surface and greenish yellow skin. It is a medium to heavy yielder, yields about 120–150 kg/tree. It has poor keeping quality and does not stand transportation. Suitable for local markets.
Fruits are oblong in shape medium sized, weighs about 14–18g. It is a medium yielder, 30–35kg/tree.
Fruits are apple shaped, each fruit weighs about 30g. Tree grows upright, yields about 40–45kg/tree.
This variety belongs to Andhra Pradesh, fruits are oblong with pointed tip small to medium sized with less pulp to stone ratio.
The popular method of propagation of ber is by budding. Though different types of budding are adopted the common methods is by shield and patch budding on suitable rootstocks.
Land preparation for Plum/Ber cultivation
The land is ploughed on both ways to uproot the stumps and stubbles and these are removed. Finally the land is leveled.
Budlings are planted either during spring (February–March) or during the rainy season (August–September) the latter being more preferable. Pits of 60×60×60 cm are dug one month before planting at a spacing of 6×6m. After a fortnight the pits are filled using a mixture of good soil plus 25kg FYM plus 1kg super-phosphate per pit. To avoid termite infestation 30g of Folidol 2% dust is mixed with the soil. After filling the pit it is watered to allow the soil to settle. Then the budlings are planted in the pit, by scooping out soil in the middle of the pit and pressing the soil round the ball of earth of the budling. Then it is watered.
The young budlings are watered regularly at weekly intervals by basin method for a couple of summers. The budlings are protected from scorching sun by erecting thatches or covering the plant all-round, leaving a gap on the south-western side with palmyra leaves. Any sprouts arising on the rootstock portions are removed promptly. The young budlings should be staked to avoid breakage at the bud union.
Training and pruning
The ber is a spreading type of tree. If left uncared it spreads and becomes unmanageable. So training and pruning of ber trees are highly desirable to build a strong frame work and to obtain regularly profitable yields.
For developing a strong frame work it is essential to train them right from the nursery stage, when the scion bud sprouts, only one upright growing shoot should be removed. Training of ber is carried out during the initial three years after planting. During the first year an upright and vigorous main trunk is developed upto a height of one meter from the ground level, by removing all the sprouts. From this trunk, 3–4 well spaced and favourably located main branches should be allowed, while the rest are removed. These laterals form the framework of the tree. During the second year, the above process should be repeated to develop the tree upto tertiary branching level. During third year, final balancing and correction of the tree framework is done, along with first pruning. All the criss crossing and week shoots should be removed.
The ber fruits are borne in the axils of leaves on the young shoots of the current season. Hence, a regular annual pruning is necessary to induce maximum number of new healthy shoots to provide maximum fruit bearing area and to produce quality fruits. Heading back of 25% growth together with removal of diseased, broken or criss-crossing branches is also necessary to avoid crowding. The best time for pruning is April–May, when the trees are in dormant condition.
Manures and Fertilizers used in Plum/Ber cultivation-
The productivity of the ber trees can be improved by proper manuring annually. The manurial schedules vary from place to place. Application of 10kg of FYM and 15 kg of Ammonium sulphate per tree of 4-5 years old is recommended. A fully grown tree should be given 20-30 kg of FYM and half kg of Nitrogen to obtain good yields. The fertilizers are applied in two equal split doses once in rainy season (July-August) and next at the time of fruit set (September-October).
Irrigation of ber
Though ber is drought resistant, it responds well to irrigation and to improve the productivity irrigation is a must. However, ber trees need not be irrigated during the most period of the year but irrigation during the period of fruit development (September–December) is very essential and is beneficial. Irrigation is given at 7-10 days interval depending upon the prevailing agro-climatic conditions.
Mostly grown as rainfed fruit crop, initial first 2 to 3 years irrigation should be provided using pitcher method where 20 liter capacity pitchers (mud pots) with drain hole plugged with cotton are arranged near tree drip circle.
Drip irrigation and fertigation also a common practice saving 50–60% water and 20–30% fertilizers. Irrigation should be regulated at the time of flowering and fruiting.
Intercultivation practices adopted in ber cultivation
One ploughing in September-October is desirable to keep the weeds under control. Ploughing in summer helps to check the insects and weeds.
The ber trees take about 5 years to occupy the interspace in the orchard. Till then, the interspaces can be profitably used by growing intercrops. Leguminous intercrops are preferable as they enrich the soil.
Harvesting of Plum/Ber
Ber trees are regular and heavy bearers. Budlings start bearing with in three years of planting. Thereafter it gives regular yields.
Under the prevailing conditions of Andhra Pradesh, ber flowers in the months of June-August and the harvesting of fruits begins by November onwards and lasts upto the end of January.
All the fruits on the tree do not ripen at one time and therefore, 4 to 5 or more pickings have to be done in the season. Fruits are harvested with hand or a pole with a hook. The fruit should be harvested at the right stage. The best index is the characteristic maturity colour and softness of a particular variety after the fruit has attained full size.
After harvesting, the fruits should be graded according to the size and colour, for getting good profits. The average yield per tree varies with the variety. However, the average yield per tree ranged from 100 to 200 kg.
Although ber is often referred as “Poor man’s fruit”, yet it is not a “Poor fruit”. It excels many important fruits in vitamins and minerals. The ber fruit are rich in nutritive value. They contain considerable amounts of protein, minerals, vitamin ‘C’ and carotene. Viramin ‘C’ content of the ber fruit is more than that or citrus fruits.
The ber fruit is mostly eaten as fresh fruit but it can also be dried and kept for use in the off season. Ber fruits can also be preserved in the form of murabba, candy and chutney.
Besides the fruits, the ber tree also yields other economic products. Leaves are used as fodder in the dry regions of Punjab and Rajasthan. Its wood is used for making agricultural implements. As fuel, the ber wood has a high calorific value and makes excellent charcoal.
The most important use of ber tree, other than providing fruits is, it gives lac, when infested by the lac insect.
Plumtree pests and their control
1.Fruit Fly (Carpomyia vesuviana)
This pest is recorded throughout the country and is the most serious pest of ber, making the ber cultivation uneconomical. Almost all the cultivated varieties are susceptible to this pest. Infestation of the pest starts with the onset of fruit setting. The adult female lays eggs singly in the developing fruit. On hatching the maggot starts feeding on the pulp inside the fruit. Infested fruits become deformed and their growth is arrested and they drop off. The maggot, when fully grown comes out of the fruit, drops to the ground and pupates inside the soil. Several generations of pest are seen in the season.
To minimize the pest infestation, orchard soil should be ploughed during March-April, May-June and August, to expose the hibernating pupae to the bright sun and birds. The dropped fruits infested with fruit fly should be collected and buried deep in the soil, to destroy the pest. During the fruiting season, spraying should be done with 0.06% dimethoate 30 EC (2ml/L) or 0.125% malathion (2.5ml/L) or dichlorovas 0.1% (1ml/L).
2.Fruit borer (Meridarchis scyodes)
Very serious pest. Eggs are laid on fruits at pea stage. On hatching caterpillars bore into fruits and feed on the pulp near seed. The extent of damage may vary from 20 – 80%.
Destroy the infected fruits. Foliar spray with polytrine @ 1ml or Endosulphan @ 2ml/L for 2-3 times at 10 days interval initiating first spray at pea size.
3. Leaf Eating Caterpillars (Euprocitis fraternal, Thaicidas postica)
Young caterpillars initially remain gregarious and scrape leaves and tender fruits. Later instar caterpillars disperse and devour leaves, fruits and tender shoots.
Foliar spray with Quinolphos or Endosulphan @ 2ml or carbaryl @ 3g/L.
Plumtree diseases and their control
1. Powdery Mildew (Oidium sp.)
The fungus attacks young developing leaves. The affected leaves drop off. It also attacks the fruits, and causes heavy fruit drop. The affected fruits become corky, cracked, misshapen and under developed. When the attack is severe, entire crop is lost through fruit drop or rendered unmarketable.
Spraying 0.25% wettable sulphur four times or 0.05% Karathane four time times or three foliar sprays with 0.1% Dinocap or 0.1% Triademorph at 20 days interval, initiating spray after the first appearance of the disease i.e.during July, September, November and December will control the disease effectively.
- Dr. Y.S.R. Horticulture University, Andhra Pradesh.