Black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) (Family: Piperaceae) is a perennial vine grown for its berries extensively used as a spice and in medicine. India is one of the major producer, consumer, and exporter of black pepper in the world. During 2013-14, 21250 tons of black pepper products worth Rs. 94,002 lakhs were exported to various countries. Black pepper is cultivated to a large extent in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and to a limited extent in Maharashtra, Northeastern states and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The crop is grown in about 201381 hectares with a production of 55000 tons annually (2012–13). Kerala and Karnataka account for a major portion of the production of black pepper in the country.
Climate and soil requirements for black pepper cultivation
Black pepper is a plant of humid tropics requiring high rainfall and humidity. The hot and humid climate of sub-mountainous tracts of Western Ghats is ideal for its cultivation. It grows successfully between 20° North and South latitudes, and, up to 1500 m above sea level. The crop tolerates temperatures between 10o and 40°C. The favorable temperature range is 23 – 32oC and the ideal temperature is around 28oC. Optimum soil temperature for root growth is 26 – 28oC. The ideal range of relative humidity for the crop is 75-80%. A well distributed annual rainfall of 1250-2000 mm is considered ideal for black pepper. Black pepper can be grown in a wide range of soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, though in its natural habitat it thrives well in red laterite soils.
The black pepper growing tracts in the West Coast of India include (1) coastal areas where black pepper is grown in homesteads (2) Midlands where black pepper is extensively cultivated on a plantation scale and hills at an elevation of 800-1500 m above sea level, where the crop is mostly grown on shade trees in coffee, cardamom, and tea plantations.
Varieties of Black pepper
A majority of the cultivated types are monoecious (male and female flowers found in the same spike) though variation in sex expression ranging from complete male to complete female is found. Over 75 cultivars of black pepper are being cultivated in India. Karimunda is the most popular cultivar in Kerala. The other important cultivars are Kottanadan (South Kerala), Narayakodi (Central Kerala), Aimpiriyan (Wayanad), Neelamundi (Idukki), Kuthiravally (Kozhikode and Idukki), Balancotta, Kalluvally (North Kerala), Malligesara and Uddagare (Karnataka). Kuthiravally and Balancotta exhibit alternate bearing habit. Regarding quality, Kottanadan has the highest oleoresin (17.8%) content followed by Aimpiriyan (15.7%).
Eighteen improved varieties of black pepper have been released for cultivation (Table 1). Panniyur-1, Panniyur-3, and Panniyur-8 are hybrids evolved at the Pepper Research Station, Panniyur (Kerala Agricultural University). IISR Girimunda and IISR Malabar Excel are the two hybrids released from ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kozhikode, Kerala.
Improved varieties of black pepper and their characteristic features
|Dry recovery(%)||Quality attributes||Features|
|Essential oil (%)|
|Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), PRS, Panniyur, Kerala|
|Panniyur -1||Hybrid, Uthirankotta × Cheriyakaniakadan||1242||35.3||5.3||11.8||3.5||High yielding, not suited to heavily shaded areas|
|Panniyur -2||Selection (Cul. 141) from cv. Balancotta||2570||35.7||6.6||10.9||–||Shade tolerant|
|Panniyur -3||Hybrid (Cul. 331), Uthirankotta × Cheriyakaniakadan||1953||27.8||5.2||12.7||–||Late maturing|
|Panniyur -4||Selection from Kuthiravally type||1277||34.7||–||9.2||–||Stable yielder|
|Panniyur -5||Open pollinated progeny selection from Perumkodi||1098||–||5.5||12.3||3.8||Tolerant to shade|
|Panniyur -6||Clonal selection from Karimunda||2127||32.9||4.9||8.3||1.3||Suited to all black pepper tracts|
|Panniyur -7||Open pollinated progeny selection from Kuthiravally||1410||33.6||5.6||10.6||1.5||Suited to all black pepper tracts|
|Panniyur -8||Hybrid (HB 20052), Panniyur 6 × Panniyur 5||1365||39.0||5.7||12.2||1.2||High yielding, field tolerant to Phytophthora foot rot and drought|
|ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kozhikode, Kerala|
|Subhakara||Selection from Karimunda (KS-27)||2352||35.5||4.0||10.0||6.0||Suited to all black pepper tracts|
|Sreekara||Selection from Karimunda (KS-14)||2677||35.0||4.2||13.0||4.0||Suited to all black pepper tracts|
|Panchami||Selection from Aimpiriyan (Coll. 856)||2828||34.0||4.7||12.5||3.4||Late maturing|
|Pournami||Selection from Ottaplackal (Coll. 812)||2333||31.0||4.1||13.8||3.4||Tolerant to root knot nematode|
|PLD -2||Clonal selection from Kottanadan||2475||–||3.3||15.5||3.5||Suited to Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts of Kerala|
|IISR Shakthi||Open pollinated progeny of Perambramundi||2253||43.0||3.3||10.2||3.7||Tolerant to Phytophthora foot rot.|
|IISR Thevam||Clonal selection of Thevamundi||2481||32.0||1.7||8.2||3.1||Tolerant to Phytophthora foot rot; suited to high altitudes and plains|
|IISR Girimunda||Hybrid, Narayakodi x Neelamundi||2880||32.0||2.2||9.7||3.4||Suited to high altitudes|
|IISR Malabar Excel||Hybrid, Cholamundi x Panniyur-1||1440||32.0||4.9||14.6||4.1||Suited to high altitudes; rich in oleoresin|
|ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, CHES, Chettali, and ICAR- Indian Institute of Spices Research, Regional Station, Appangala, Karnataka|
|Arka Coorg Excel||Seedling selection||3267||37.8||2.1||6.9||1.6||High yielding, with long spikes and bold berries|
Black pepper vines produce three types of shoot, namely (1) Primary climbing shoot with long internodes having adventitious roots at nodes which cling to the supports/ standards; (2) Runner shoots which originate from the base of the vine and creep on the ground, have long internodes which strike roots at each node and (3) Fruit bearing lateral shoots. Cuttings are raised mainly from runner shoots, though terminal shoots can also be used. Cuttings from lateral branches develop a bushy habit. Rooted lateral branches are used for raising bush pepper. Though seeds (berries) are fully viable, they are not used for raising plantations as seedlings will not be genetically uniform.
Production of rooted cuttings of Black pepper
1. Traditional method
Runner shoots from high yielding and healthy vines are kept coiled on wooden pegs fixed at the base of the vine to prevent the shoots from coming in contact with soil and striking roots. The runner shoots are separated from the vine during February-March, and after trimming the leaves, cuttings of 2-3 nodes are planted either in nursery beds or polythene bags filled with potting mixture (soil, sand and farm yard manure in 2:1:1 ratio). Adequate shade has to be provided, and the polythene bags are to be frequently irrigated. The cuttings become ready for planting during May-June.
2. Rapid multiplication method
A propagation technique developed in Sri Lanka has been modified for adoption in India for quick and easy multiplication of black pepper vines. In this method, a trench of 45 cm depth, 30 cm width and of convenient length is made.
The trench is filled with rooting medium comprising of forest soil, sand and farm yard manure in 1:1:1 ratio. Split halves of bamboo or split halves of PVC pipes are fixed at 45° angle by keeping split portion facing upward on a strong support on one side of the trench. Rooted cuttings are planted in the trench at the rate of one cutting for each bamboo split. The lower portions of the bamboo splits are filled with rooting medium (preferably weathered coir dust-farm yard manure mixture in 1:1 ratio) and the growing vine is tied to the bamboo split in such a way to keep the nodes pressed to the rooting medium.
Each single nodded cutting with the bunch of roots intact is cut and planted in polythene bags filled with fumigated potting mixture. Trichoderma @ 1g and VAM @ 100 cc/kg of soil can be added to the potting mixture. The buds start developing in about three weeks, and the poly bags can then be removed and kept in the shade till main field planting. The advantages of this method of propagation are (i) rapid multiplication rate (1:40), (ii) well-developed root system, (iii) higher field establishment and (iv) vigorous growth as a result of a better root system.
3. Trench method
A simple, cheap and efficient technique for propagating black pepper from single nodes of runner shoots taken from field-grown vines has been developed at the Institute. A pit of 2.0 m × 1.0 m × 0.5 m size is dug under a cool and shaded area. Single nodes of 8-10 cm length and with their leaf intact are, taken from runner shoots of field-grown vines. They are planted in polythene bags (25 cm × 15 cm, 200 gauge) filled with a mixture of sand, soil, coir dust and cow dung in equal proportions with their leaf axil exposed above the potting mixture. After keeping the bags in the pit, the pit should be covered with a polythene sheet. The cuttings should be irrigated at least five times a day with a rose can. Cuttings in the poly bag are drenched 2-3 times with copper oxychloride (2 g/liter).
After about one month, new shoots start emerging from the leaf axil. The cuttings can be taken out of the pit after two months of planting and kept in a shaded place and watered twice a day. These cuttings will be ready for field planting after about 2 ½ months. By this method, 80-85% success rate can be obtained.
Serpentine layering technique can be used for the production of rooted cuttings of black pepper in a cheap and effective manner. In a nursery shed with roofing sheet or shade net, rooted black pepper cuttings are planted in polythene bags holding about 500 g potting mixture, which will serve as mother plants. As the plant grows and produces few nodes, small polythene bags (20 ×10 cm) filled with potting mixture may be kept under each node. The node may be kept gently pressed into the mixture assuring contact with the potting mixture with the help of a flexible twig such as midrib of a coconut leaflet. Roots start growing from the nodes, and the cuttings keep on growing further.
The process of keeping potting mixture filled polythene bags at every node junction to induce rooting at each node is repeated. In three months the first 10 to 12 nodes (from the mother plants) would have rooted profusely and will be ready for harvest. Each node with the polythene bag is cut just below the rooted node. The cut end is also buried into the mixture to induce more roots.
Polythene bags used are filled with solarized potting mixture fortified with biocontrol agent. The Potting mixture is prepared by mixing two parts of fertile topsoil, one part of river sand/granite powder and one part of FYM (2:1:1). The rooted nodes will produce new sprouts in a week time and will be ready for field planting in 2-3 months. The growing vines are to be irrigated every day with a rose can or sprinklers. By this method, on an average, 60 cuttings can be harvested per mother plant in a year
5. Soil-less nursery mixture
Partially composted coir pith and vermicompost (75:25) enriched with Trichoderma (in talc formulation, 107 CFU/g at the rate of 10 g/kg) is an ideal potting medium for black pepper nursery for healthy planting material production using plug trays compared to conventional multiplication.
The plug tray nursery technique involves initial multiplication of black pepper runners in a modified serpentine method, i.e., By allowing runners to strike roots in the partially decomposed coir pith and vermicompost (75:25) bed of convenient dimension (1.5 m width, 10 cm height, and convenient length). The vines trail on rooting medium and strike roots at every node. After 45-60 days, leaving the terminal 5 nodes, about 15-20 node rooted runner is cut into single node rooted cuttings and transferred to plug trays (cell dimension of 7.5 × 7.5 × 10.0 cm) filled with soil-less nursery mixture [composted coir pith and vermicompost (75:25) enriched with Trichoderma]. Better rooting and the establishment is recorded under humidity controlled greenhouse (27±2oC) with intermittent mist.
The cuttings are retained in the trays for about 45-60 days (4-5 leaf stage) for initial establishment. The established cuttings are then transferred to shade net/ naturally ventilated greenhouse for hardening (45-60 days). Healthy black pepper rooted cuttings are ready for field planting after 120-150 days.
6. Vertical column method
A novel method of intensifying quality planting material production has been standardized using vertical columns with soil-less media. The technique involves growing orthotropic on a vertical column (2 m height, 0.3 m diameter) made of half an inch plastic coated welded wire mesh. The column is filled with partially decomposed coir pith and vermicompost @ 3:1 ratio fortified with biocontrol agent Trichoderma harzianum. Growing the vine on the vertical column can be effectively utilized for the production of three types of planting material, i.e., single node cuttings, top shoots with lateral branch and laterals or plagiotropic which can be used for the production of bush pepper.
The hi-tech poly house (temperature of 25-28°C and relative humidity 75-80% with intermittent misting) is advisable for the above production system. Eight to ten cuttings can be planted around each vertical column. The cuttings are allowed to trail on the column ensuring that each node comes in contact with the medium. It takes about four to five months for the cuttings to reach the top of the column. At this stage, each vine will have around 20 nodes with few lateral branches (at the 12th-15th node). The top 5-7 nodes with lateral branches can be used as orthotropic shoots for field planting.
In four to five months time, about 150 single node cuttings, 10 – 15 laterals and 10 top shots can be produced in this method. Two hundred such columns can be accommodated in a poly house size of 320 m2. In a year, three harvesting cycles can be made. These cuttings can be rooted further for field planting using pro-trays.
Establishment of plantations
1. Selection of site
For planting black pepper in slopes, the lower half of northern and northeastern slopes are preferred. This will save the vines from sun scorching from the southern side during summer.
2. Preparation of land and planting standards
With the receipt of first rains in May-June, primary stem cuttings of standard trees such as Erythrina spp., Garuga pinnata, Grevillea robusta
(silver oak), seedlings of Alianthus malabarica (Matti) are planted in pits of 50 cm × 50 cm × 50 cm size filled with cow dung and top soil. The planting is done at a spacing of 3 m × 3 m which would accommodate about 1110 standards per hectare. The black pepper vines can be trailed on the standards after three years when they attain sufficient height. Whenever E. indica is used as a standard, application of phorate 10 G* @ 30 g may be done twice a year (May/June and September/October) to control nematodes and stem and root borer. When E. indica and G. pin-nata are used, the primary stems are cut in March/April and stacked in the shade till the stems start sprouting in May.
Pits of 50 cubic centimeters at a distance of 30 cm away from the base, on the north, eastern or northeastern side of supporting tree are taken with the onset of monsoon. The pits are filled with a mixture of topsoil, farmyard manure @ 5 kg/pit and 150 g rock phosphate. Neem cake @ 1 kg, Trichoderma harzianum @ 50 g also may also be mixed with the mixture at the time of planting. With the onset of monsoon, 2-3 rooted cuttings of black pepper are planted individually in the pits.
Lowering of the vines is a practice followed by many peppers growing regions. In this method, the vines are allowed to trail on support trees up to 1.5 m. Subsequently, the vines are carefully separated from the standard and buried in the soil around the base of the standard ensuring that the growing tip is of the vine is kept above the soil. This practice induces more leader shoots covering the entire standard and production of laterals from the base of the standard regions.
In this method, the vines are allowed to trail on support trees up to 1.5 m. Subsequently, the vines are carefully separated from the standard and buried in the soil around the base of the standard ensuring that the growing tip is of the vine is kept above the soil. This practice induces more leader shoots covering the entire standard and production of laterals from the base of the standard.
4. Cultural practices
As the plants grow, shoots are tied to the standard as often as required. The young vines should be protected from the hot sun during summer by providing artificial shade. Regulation of shade by lopping the branches of standards is necessary not only for providing optimum light to the vines but also for enabling the standards to grow straight. Adequate mulch with a green leaf or organic matter should be applied towards the end of north east monsoon. The base of the vines should not be disturbed to avoid root damage.
During the second year, the same cultural practices are repeated. However, lopping of standards should be done carefully from the fourth year onwards, not only to regulate the height of the standards but also to shade the black pepper vines optimally. Lopping may be done twice (during June and September) in a year. Excessive shading during flowering and fruiting encourages pest infestations.
Growing cover crops like Calapogonium mucunoides and Mimosa in-visa are also recommended under West Coast conditions as an effective soil cover to prevent soil erosion during a rainy season. During summer the cover crops dry up leaving thick organic mulch.
Manuring and fertilizer application for Black pepper
Manuring and fertilizer application is critical for proper establishment and growth of plants. Application of lime or dolomite @ 500 g/vine in April-May during alternate years is recommended under highly acid soil conditions. Organic manures in the form of cattle manure or compost can be given @ 10 kg/vine during May. Neem cake @ 1 kg/vine can also be applied.
Recommended blanket nutrient dosage for black pepper vines (3 years and above) are as follows:
- General recommendation- NPK 50: 50: 150 g/vine/year.
- For Panniyur and Kannur district in Kerala- NPK 50: 50: 200 g/vine/year
- For Kozhikode district in Kerala- NPK 140: 55: 270 g/vine/year
Only one-third of this dosage should be applied during the first year which is increased to two-thirds in the second year. The full dose is given from the third year onwards. As the soil fertility will be varying with the agro-ecological conditions or management systems, site-specific nutrient management for yielding gardens based on their soil test results for a major nutrient is advocated. The recommended dose of nutrients for varying soil test values of N, P and K, is given in Table 2.
The fertilizers are to be applied in two split doses, one in May-June and the other in August-September and sufficient soil moisture must be ensured. The fertilizers are applied at a distance of about 30 cm all around the vine and covered with a thick layer of soil. Care should be taken to avoid direct contact of fertilizers with roots of black pepper. When biofertilizer like Azospirillum is applied @ 50 g/vine, the recommended nitrogen dose may be reduced by half. In soils that are deficient in zinc or magnesium, foliar application of 0.25% zinc sulfate twice a year (May-June and September-October) and soil application of 200 g/vine magnesium sulfate, respectively is recommended. Foliar application of micronutrient mixture specific to black pepper is also recommended (dosage @ 5 g/L) twice, starting at flowering and followed at monthly intervals for higher yield.
Soil test based fertilizer recommendations for dry yield target levels of 3 and six t/ha
|Soil test value for available nutrients||Fertilizer nutrient recommended (kg/ha)|
|(kg/ha)||for yield targets|
|3.0 t/ha||6.0 t/ha|
Rooted lateral branches grown as bushes are known as bush pepper. Bush pepper can be raised as potted bushes or field grown bushes. Bush pepper yields green pepper throughout the year, and the fresh yield per bush can be up to 1 kg after three years of planting.
A talc based formulation (IISR Biomix) consisting of a consortium of Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria [Micrococcus luteus (BRB 3)] + [Enterobacter aerogenes (BRB 13)] + [Micrococcus sp. (BRB 23)] is also applied to black pepper in the nursery and main field for enhanced growth and yield. During application, 20 g of talc formulation is mixed in one liter of water and is applied at the rate of 250 mL per vine in the field and the rate of 100 mL per bag in the nursery. Alternatively, 1 kg of talc formulation can be mixed with 100 kg of farmyard manure (or well-decomposed cow dung) and applied at the rate of 1 kg per vine in the basin i.e. around the root zone. It can be applied twice a year (during May-June and September-October).
Irrigating black pepper vines during summer (March 15th to May 15th) at fortnightly interval enhances productivity by 90 to 100% compared to unirrigated crop. Vines are irrigated at the basin through the hose, and 50 liters per vine is recommended (15 years and above). This can be reduced to 40 liters per vine for 11-15 years age group and 30 liters for vines aged between 5 – 10 years. The spiking will be uniform in the irrigated crop as most of the spikes (> 90%) emerge by July while in rain-fed crop only around 60% of spikes emerge in July and may extend until September. Spike length will be comparatively more in irrigated crop.
Organic production of Black pepper
For certified organic production of black pepper, at least 18 months the crop should be under organic management, i.e., in the new plantations, the first crop of pepper can be sold as organic, as the yielding starts from the third year. To convert an existing plantation to organic, a conversion period of 36 months is set for the perennial crops. The conversion period may be relaxed if the organic farm is being established on a land where chemicals were not previously used, provided sufficient proof of history of the area is available. It is desirable that organic method of production is followed in the entire farm; but in the case of a large extent of area, the transition can be done in a phased manner for which a conversion plan has to be prepared.
The entire pepper holding can be converted to organic production when the pepper is grown as a sole crop. When grown in a mixed cultivation system, it is essential that all the crops in the field are also subjected to organic methods of production. Black pepper as the best component crop in agri-horti and silvi-horti systems, recycling of farm waste can be effectively done when grown with coconut, areca nut, coffee, etc. As a mixed crop, it can also be intercropped with green manure/ legumes crops enabling effective nutrient built up.
To avoid contamination of organically cultivated plots from neighboring non-organic farms, a suitable buffer zone with definite border is to be maintained. In smallholder groups, where the pepper holdings are contiguous, the isolation belt is needed at the outer periphery of the entire group of holdings. Pepper grown on this isolation belt cannot be treated as organic. In sloppy lands adequate precaution should be taken to avoid the entry of run-off water and chemical drift from the neighboring farms.
2. Management practices
For organic production, traditional varieties adapted to the local soil and climatic conditions that are resistant or tolerant to diseases, pests and nematode infection should be used. All crop residues and farm wastes like green loppings, crop residues, grasses, cow dung slurry, poultry droppings, etc. available on the farm can be recycled through composting, including vermicomposting so that soil fertility is maintained at high level. No synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides are allowed under organic system. Farmyard manure may be applied @ 5-10 kg/vine along with vermi/ leaf compost @ 5-10 kg/ vine based on the age of the vine. Further, supplementation of oil cakes like neem cake (1 kg/vine), composted coir pith (2.5 kg/vine) or composted coffee pulp rich in potassium and suitable microbial cultures of Azospirillum and phosphate solubilizing bacteria will improve the fertility. Based on
Based on a soil test, application of lime/dolomite to correct the pH, rock phosphate/ bone meal and wood ash or sulphate of potash (mineral potassium) may be done to get required quantity of phosphorus and potassium. When the deficient conditions of trace elements become yield limiting, restricted use of mineral/chemical sources of micronutrients and magnesium sulphate are allowed as per the limits of standard setting or certifying organizations.
Use of biopesticides, biocontrol agents, cultural and phytosanitary measures for the management of insect pests and diseases forms the main strategy under organic system. Management of pollu beetle by shade regulation and Neemgold (0.6%) spray at 21-day intervals during July-October, and that of scale insects by removing severely infected branches and spraying Neemgold (0.6%) or fish oil rosin (3%) are recommended.
Application of biocontrol agents like Trichoderma or Pseudomonas multiplied in suitable carrier media such as coffee husk/ coir pith compost, well rotten cow dung or quality neem cake may be done regularly to keep the foot rot disease in check. To control fungal pollu and other foliar diseases spraying of 1% Bordeaux mixture may be done restricting the quantity to 8 kg copper per hectare per annum. Application of quality neem cake mentioned earlier along with the bioagents Pochonia chlamydosporia will be useful to check the nematode population and thereby slow decline disease.
Certification and labeling are usually done by an independent body to provide a guarantee that the production standards are met. Govt. of India has taken steps to have indigenous certification system to help small and marginal growers and to issue valid organic certificates through certifying agencies accredited by APEDA. The inspectors appointed by the certification agencies will carry out an inspection of the farm operations through records maintained and by periodic site inspections. The grower has to document all the details on the field map, field history sheet, activity register, input record, output record, harvest record, storage record, pest control records, movement record, equipment cleaning record and labeling records, etc. Documentation of farm activities is must for acquiring
Documentation of farm activities is must for acquiring the certification, especially when both conventional and organic crops are raised. Group certification programs are also available for an organized group of producers and processors with similar production systems located in geographical proximity.
Harvest and post harvest management
1. Harvesting of Black pepper
Black pepper takes about 7-8 months after flowering to reach full maturity. In India, the crop is harvested during December –January in plains and January-April in the high ranges of Western Ghats. It is important to harvest pepper at the proper stage of maturity to achieve a dried product of good color and appearance. Harvest starts when one or two berries turn yellow. The spikes are nipped off by hand and collected in bags. Normally, single pole bamboo ladder is used as a support for harvesting. If the berries are allowed to over ripe, there is heavy loss due to berry drop and damage by birds. Harvested spikes are collected in clean gunny bags. Spikes which are fallen onto the ground may be collected separately, cleaned and then pooled to the general lot.
Recent advances in product diversification have necessitated harvesting of the berries at different stages of maturity. The level of maturity required at harvest for processing into different pepper products is given below.
Stage of maturity at harvest
|Canned pepper||4-5 months|
|Dehydrated green pepper||10-15 days before maturity|
|Oleoresin and essential oil||15-20 days before maturity|
|Black pepper||Fully mature and 1-2 berries start turning from yellow to red|
|in each spike|
|Pepper powder||Fully mature|
|White pepper||Fully ripe|
2. Post-harvest processing
Post-harvest processing operations followed for black pepper involves threshing, blanching, drying, cleaning, grading, and packaging. During processing, care should be taken to maintain the quality at each step of the operation.
Threshers with capacities varying from 50 kg/h to 2500 kg/h are avail-able which can thresh quickly and provide the clean product.
The quality of the black pepper can be improved by a simple treatment of dipping the mature berries taken in a perforated vessel in boiling water for a minute before drying. This processing technique has several advantages:
- Uniform coloured black pepper is obtained after drying.
- Reduces the microbial load.
- Pepper can be dried in 3-4 days as against 5-6 days required when following the traditional practice.
- Removes the extraneous impurities like dust from the berries.
Pepper has a moisture content of 65% to 70% at harvest, which should be brought to safer levels of 10% by adequate drying. The green colour of matured pepper is due to the presence of chlorophyll pigment. During drying, enzymatic browning sets in and the phenolic compounds are oxidized by atmospheric oxygen under the catalytic influence of the enzyme phenolase and eventually turn black.
Sun drying is the conventional method followed for drying of black pepper. The despiked berries are spread on the concrete floor and dried under the sun for 3-5 days to bring the moisture content below 10%. Dried black pepper with high moisture content (>12%) is susceptible to fungal attack. Mycotoxins produced by the fungal attack render the pepper unfit for human consumption. To achieve a quality dry product, pepper berries are spread on clean, dry concrete floor/bamboo mats/ PVC sheets and dried in the sun for 4 – 6 days. The average dry recovery varies between 33-37% depending on the varieties and cultivars.
Mechanical dryers developed by various agencies are also used to dry black pepper. Models of varying capacities operated either electrically or by burning agricultural wastes are available for drying of black pepper by maintaining the temperature below 550C.
6. Cleaning and grading
The threshed and dried black pepper has extraneous matter like spent spikes, pinheads, stones, soil particles, etc. mixed with it. Cleaning and grading are basic operations that enhance the value of the produce and help to get higher returns. Cleaning on a small scale is done by winnowing and hand picking which removes most of the impurities. Such units consist of a fan/ blower and a feeding assembly. The fan is placed at the rear end of the hopper.
Cleaning is achieved by feeding the material through the hopper into a stream of air blowing in the perpendicular direction. The lighter fractions (dust, immature berries, pin heads and spent spikes) are blown away. Grading of black pepper is done by us-ing sieves and shifting black pepper into different grades based on size. The major grades of black pepper are Tellicherry Garbled Special Extra Bold (TGSEB) (4.8 mm); Tellicherry Garbled Extra Bold (TGEB) (4.2 mm); Tellicherry Garbled (TG) (4.0 mm); Malabar Garbled (MG grades 1 and 2) and Malabar Ungarbled (MUG grades 1 and 2).
7. White pepper
It is prepared by retting (with frequently changing of water) fully ripened red berries for 7-8 days followed by removal of outer skin, washing and drying to a moisture level of 12%. White pepper is also prepared by fermentation using matured green pepper and black pepper.
Organically grown black pepper should be packaged separately and labeled. Mixing different types of pepper is not good from a commercial point of view. Eco-friendly packaging materials such as clean gunny bags or paper bags may be adopted, and the use of polythene bags may be minimized. Recyclable/ reusable packaging materials shall be used wherever possible.
Black pepper is hygroscopic in nature and absorption of moisture from the air, during the rainy season when there is high humidity may result in mould and insect infestation. Before storage, it is to be dried to less than 10 percent moisture. The graded produce is bulk packed separately in multi-layer paper bags or woven polypropylene bags provided with food grade liners or in jute bags. The bags are arranged one over the other on wooden pallets after laying polypropylene sheets on the floor.
A state of the art spice processing unit adhering to latest quality standards is operational at ICAR- IISR experimental farm, Peruvan-namuzhi., which caters to the training and processing requirements in the spice processing sector.
“black pepper – Indian Institute of Spices Research.” ICAR-Indian Research Institute of Spices. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May. 2017 <http://spices.res.in/pdf/package/pepper.pdf>.
black pepper – Indian Institute of Spices Research. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://spices.res.in/pdf/package/pepper.pdf
- ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kozhikode, Kerala