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Phytophthora Infections

Phytophthora infections are noticed on leaves, stems and roots of cuttings in the nursery. Dark spots with fimbriate margins appear on the leaves, which spread rapidly resulting in defoliation. The infections on the stem are seen as black lesions which result in  blight. The symptoms on the roots appear as rotting of the entire root system. Spraying Bordeaux mixture 1 per cent and drenching with copper oxychloride 0.2 per cent at monthly intervals prevents the disease. Alternatively, metalaxyl 0.01 per cent (1.25 g/litre water) or potassium phosphonate 0.3 per cent could also be used. The potting mixture may be sterilized through solarization. To the sterilized mixture, biocontrol agents such as VAM @ 100 cc/kg of mixture and trichoderma @ 1g/kg of soil (Trichoderma population @ 1010  cfu/g) may be added at the time of filling of nursery mixture in polythene bags and at regular intervals. Pseudomonas fluorescens (IISR-6) may be added to the potting mixture @ 1 g of product containing 1010  cfu/g to enhance growth and to suppress root pathogens. Application of Trichoderma and IISR-6 in the potting mixture at the time of planting and drenching IISR-6 at 1st  and 2nd  months after planting is recommended for producing disease free cuttings. Since the biocontrol agents mainly protect the root system, the aerial portion may be protected with chemicals. If Bordeaux mixture is used care must be taken to prevent dripping of fungicide to the soil. Alternatively,
systemic fungicides such as metalaxyl (1.25 g/L) and potassium phosphonate (3 ml/L) which are compatible with Trichoderma may be used.


The disease is caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. The fungus infects the leaves causing yellowish brown to dark brown irregular leaf spots with a chlorotic halo. Spraying Bordeaux mixture one per cent alternating with carbendazim 0.1 per  cent is effective against the disease.

Leaf rot and Blight

The disease is caused by Rhizoctonia solani and is often serious in nurseries during April-May when warm humid conditions prevail. The fungus infects both leaves and stems. Grey sunken spots and mycelia threads appear on the leaves and the infected leaves are attached to one another with the mycelia threads. On stems, the infection occurs as dark brown lesions which spread both upwards and downwards. The new flushes subtending the points of infection gradually droop and dry up. Leaf spots caused by Colletotrichum sp. are characterized by yellow halo surrounding the necrotic spots. A prophylactic spray with Bordeaux mixture one per cent prevents both the diseases.

Basal Wilt

The disease is mainly noticed in nurseries during June-September and is caused by Sclerotium rolfsii. Grey lesions appear on stems and leaves. On the leaves white mycelium are seen at the advancing edges of the lesions. The mycelia threads later girdle the stem resulting in drooping of leaves beyond the point of infection and in advanced stages the rooted cuttings dry up. Small whitish to cream coloured grain like sclerotia bodies appear on the mature lesions. The disease can be controlled, if noticed early, by adopting phytosanitary measures. The affected cuttings along with defoliated leaves should be removed and destroyed. Later all the cuttings should be sprayed with carbendazim 0.2 per cent or Bordeaux mixture 1 per cent.

Viral Infections

Vein clearing, mosaic, yellow specks, mottling and small leaf   are the most obvious symptoms for identifying viral infections in the nursery.  As viruses are systematic in nature, primary spread occurs through planting material since black pepper is vegetatively propagated.  When infected plants are used as source of planting material, the cuttings will also be infected.  Hence selection of virus free healthy mother plants is very important.  Secondary spread of the disease occurs through insects such as aphids and mealybugs. Because of closed placing of seedlings in the nursery, chances of spread through these insects are more.  Hence regular monitoring of the nursery for insects and spraying with insecticide like dimethoate 0.05 per cent should be resorted to whenever they are seen.  Besides, regular inspection and removal of infected plants should also be done.

Nematode Infestation

Root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) and the burrowing nematode, Radopholus  similis are the two important nematode species infesting rooted cuttings in the nursery. The damage caused to roots by nematode infestations result in poor growth, foliar yellowing and some times interveinal chlorosis of leaves. The establishment of nematode infected cuttings will be poor when planted in the field and such cuttings develop slow decline symptoms at a later date. Nematode infestations tend to be more in rapid multiplication nurseries. Soil solarization can be done for sterilizing the nursery mixture. The solarized nursery mixture may be fortified with biocontrol agents such as Pochonia chlamydosporia or Trichoderma harzianum @ 1-2 g/kg of soil, the product containing 106  cfu fungus/gm of substrate. Alternately, rhizobacteria like IISR 853 can be applied @ 1 g/bag (formulations containing 108  ñ 1010 cfu/g) at monthly intervals. A prophylactic application of nematicide is also necessary to check the nematode infestation. For this, make three equidistant holes of 2-3 cm depth in the bag around the cuttings and place phorate 10 G @ 1g/bag or carbofuran 3 G @ 3g/bag in these holes and cover with soil. A light irrigation may also be given to ensure adequate soil moisture. In rapid multiplication nurseries where the rooted cuttings are retained for a longer duration nematicides may be applied at 45 days intervals as described above.

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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 each are planted either in nursery beds or in polythene bags filled with fertile soil. Adequate shade has to be provided and the polythene bags are to be irrigated frequently. The cuttings become ready for planting during May-June.


Rapid multiplication method :

An efficient propagation technique developed at 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 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 with septa or split halves of PVC pipes of 1.25-1.50 meter length and 8-10 cm diameter provided with plastic septa at 30 cm intervals are fixed at 458 angle on a strong support. 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 so as to keep the nodes pressed to the rooting medium. The tying can be done with dried banana leaf sheath fibers or coir rope. The cuttings are irrigated regularly. As the cuttings grow, the bamboo splits are filled with rooting medium and each node is pressed down to the rooting medium and tied. For rapid growth, a nutrient solution of urea (1kg), super phosphate (0.75 kg), muriate of potash (0.5 kg) and magnesium sulphate (0.25 kg) in 250 litres of water is to be applied @ 0.25 litre per vine at monthly intervals. When the vine reaches the top (3-4 months after planting of the cutting) the terminal bud is nipped off and the vine is crushed at about three nodes above the base, in order to activate the axillary buds.

After about 10 days, the vine is cut at the crushed point and removed from the rooting medium and cut between each node. Each cutting with the bunch of roots intact is planted in polythene bags filled with fumigated potting mixture. Trichoderma @ one gram and VAM @ 100 cc/kg of soil can be added to the potting mixture. Care should be taken to keep the leaf axil above the soil. The polythene bags should be kept in a cool and humid place, or should be covered with thin polythene (200 gauge) sheet to retain humidity. The buds start developing in about 3 weeks and the polybags can then be removed and kept in shade. The advantages of this method of propagation are rapid multiplication (1:40), well developed root system, higher field establishment and vigorous growth as a result of better root system. 

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 meter x 1.0 meter x 0.5 meter size is dug under a cool and shaded area. Single nodes of 8-10 cm length and with their leaf intact, taken from runner shoots of field grown vines are planted in polythene bags (25 cm x15 cm, 200 gauge) filled at the lower half with a mixture of sand, soil, coir dust and cow dung in equal proportion. The single nodes are to be planted in the bags in such a way that their leaf axil is above the potting mixture. The polythene bags with the planted single nodes are arranged in the pit. After keeping the bags in the pit, the pit should be covered with a polythene sheet. This sheet may be secured in position by placing weights on the corners. The cuttings should be watered at least five times a day with a rose can and the pit should be covered with the polythene sheet immediately after watering. It is advisable to drench the cuttings two-three times with copper oxychloride (2g/litre). After two-three weeks of planting, the cuttings will start producing roots which are visible through the polythene bags. After the initiation of roots the frequency of watering may be reduced to three-four times a day. After about one month, new shoots start emerging from the leaf axil. At this stage it is advisable to keep the pit open for about one hour per day so that the cuttings would harden and will not dry when they are taken out of the pit. 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? months. By this method 80-85 per cent success can be obtained. Foliar application of nutrient solution will also enhance the growth of the cuttings. Serpentine method Cheaper propagation technique for production of rooted cuttings of black pepper is serpentine   layering.  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 (20x10 cm) filled with potting mixture may be kept under each node.  The node may be kept gently pressed in to the mixture assuring contact with the potting mixture with the help of a flexible twig such as mid rib of a coconut leaflet to enable rooting at that junction. 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 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 ploythene bag is cut just below the rooted node and the cut end is also buried into the mixture to induce more roots.

Polythene bags filled with solarized potting mixture or soil, granite powder and farmyard manure in 2:1:1 proportion is recommended for producing disease free rooted cuttings. The rooted nodes will produce new sprouts in a week time and will be ready for field planting in two-three months time. Daily irrigation can be given with a rose can.  On an average, 60 cuttings can be harvested per mother plant in a year by this method.

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Black pepper vines develop three types of aerial shoots, namely:

(a) Primary stem with long internodes, with adventitious roots which cling to the standards
(b) Runner shoots which originate from the base of the vine and have long internodes which strike roots at each node and 
(c) Fruit bearing lateral branches.

Cuttings are raised mainly from runner shoots, though terminal shoots can also be used. Cuttings from lateral branches are seldom used since they develop a bushy habit. However, rooted lateral branches are useful for raising bush pepper.

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Selection of site

When black pepper is grown in slopes, the slopes facing south should be avoided and the lower half of northern and north eastern slopes preferred for planting so that the vines are not subjected to the scorching effect of the southern sun during summer. Preparation of land and planting standards With the receipt of the first rain in May-June, primary stem cuttings of Erythina sp.(Murukku) or Garuga pinnata (kilinjil)  or Grevillea robusta (silver oak) are planted in pits of 50 cm x 50 cm x 50 cm size filled with cow dung and top soil, at a spacing of 3 m x 3 m which would accommodate about 1110 standards per hectare (Seedlings of Alianthus malabarica  (Matti) can also be planted and the black pepper vines can be trailed on it after 3 years when they attain sufficient height). Whenever E. indica is used as 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. pinnata are used, the primary stems are cut in March/April and stacked in shade in groups. The stacked stems start sprouting in May. The stems are planted in the edge of the pits dug for planting black pepper vines.


Pits of 50 cm3  at a distance of 30 cm away from the base, on the northern side of supporting tree are taken with the onset of monsoon. The pits are filled with a mixture of top soil, farmyard manure @ five kg/pit and 150 g rock phosphate. Neem cake @ one kg and Trichoderma harzianum @ 50 g also may be mixed with the mixture at the time of planting. With the onset of monsoon, two-three rooted cuttings of black pepper are planted individually in the pits on the northern side of each standard. At least one node of the cutting should be kept below the soil for better anchorage.

Cultural practices

As the cuttings grow, the shoots are tied to the standards as often as required. The young vines should be protected from 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 green leaf or organic matter should be applied towards the end of North East monsoon. The base of the vines should not be disturbed so as 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 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. From the fourth year, two diggings are usually given, one during May-June, and the other towards the end of south-west monsoon in October-November. Growing cover crops like  Calapogonium mucunoides and Mimosa invisa are also recommended under West Coast conditions as an effective soil cover to prevent soil erosion during rainy season. Further, they dry during summer, leaving thick organic mulch. Manuring and fertilizer application Manuring and fertilizer application for pepper vines is to be done for black proper establishment and growth of plants.  Recommended nutrient dosage for black pepper vines (3 years and above) are as follows.
NPK 50:50: 150 grams/vine/year (General recommendation)
NPK 50:50: 200 grams/vine/year (for Panniyur and similar areas)
NPK 140:55: 270 grams/vine/year (for Kozhikode and similar areas)
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. It is better to apply the fertilizers in two split doses, one in May-June and the other in August- September. 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. 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. Application of lime @ 500 g/vine in April-May during alternate years is also recommended. When biofertilizer like Azospirillum is applied @ 100 grams/vine, the recommended nitrogen dose may be reduced by half to 70 g/vine. In soils that are deficient in zinc or magnesium, foliar application of 0.25 per cent  zinc sulphate twice a year (May-June and September-October) and soil application of 150 grams/vine magnesium sulphate, respectively is recommended.