Chilli (Capsicum annum) is highly regarded for its wide commercial use. India is a chief exporter, producer, & consumer of chilli. States like Andhra Pradesh & Punjab rank as the top producers in india as it is totally cultivated under irrigated systems unlike other parts where it is mostly cultivated under rainfall irrigation.
Climate and Soil
Chilli prefers warm and humid climate. Higher temperatures will result in shedding of flowers & fruit buds. Also too much rainfall is not suited for its cultivation as it will result in rotting of the plants. Prolonged rainfall in November will result in the powdery mildew & the growth and yield are greatly affected.
Soils which are basically light & well drained are best suited. It does not grow well in heavy soils. Poor and medium quality soils will result in early & good yield in the initial stages provided its managed properly. It thrives well around pH of 6 to 7. In higher acid soils, reclamation with lime is done. It cannot tolerate water stagnation for more than 24 hours, and hence choosing soils with good drainage & pore space is a priority.
Since the seeds of chilli are very small it has to be first sown in raised nursery beds. The soil of the beds prepared are mixed well with decomposed farm yard manure & weed free condition is done. The seeds are then mixed with sand & directly sown or broadcast. Paddy straw, coconut palms & other green materials are used to cover the beds. This is done mainly to preserve the moisture level. The selection of the nursery bed is an important factor determining germination. Direct sunlight places must be avoided. Partial shade plots are suitable. Very light irrigation must be given immediately after broadcast. In many cases, copper oxy chloride is also sprayed at timely intervals to prevent damping off. 1 percent urea as foliar spray ensures quick & robust growth of the seedlings. Germination takes place within a week, & it is ready to transplant only after 40 days.
Transplanting, irrigation & fertilizer management.
Transplanting has to be done when the plant reaches a height of 15 to 20 cm. transplanting is always done in pairs, to maintain plant population & density. During transplantation the soil must be ploughed repeatedly to achieve fine tilth. Adding fresh decomposed manures & mixing the soil well is done.
maintaining spacing between rows
Shade should be provided after transplanting as the intense heat may damage the soft plant tissues & cause wilting.
Spacing of 45 * 45 cm is generally practiced in many places. Also 75*75 & 90*90 cm spacing can be maintained. Ridge and furrow method is adopted for its cultivation. While in monsoons, it has to be planted on the ridges. Furrows around 50 cm wide is generally recommended, maintaining up to 75 cm between rows.
weed free condition
Since it is a long duration crop, inter culture operation must be done on a timely basis. Every 30 days, earthing up of the soil is done, to prevent crust formation & also to manage weeds.
45 days after transplant
Plant responds well to foliar sprays & Biovita organic manure must be used @ 1 ml per litre every 20 days.
Irrigation must be provided everyday for up to 15 days after transplantation. Subsequently irrigation can be given on alternate days or twice weekly when the plant has established itself. During monsoons irrigation is not needed but bunds must be formed such that water does not stagnate at the base of the plant or it will cause rotting. Application of complex NPK should also be done every 25 days.
To prevent loss of soil water , mulching with paddy straw, dried leaves & plant residue, etc must be done.
green tender fruits
Flowering starts 45 to 60 days after transplanting & yielding continues for about 3 months depending on cultivar & beneficial conditionsHarvesting tender green fruits for vegetable use should be done at initial stages to allow better flush. Ripe red fruits used mainly as spice can be plucked after 1 to 2 weeks after first harvest. Dried chilli can be stored longer than the tender green ones.
Photos and content by Pritham 'Heavy metal farmer' denzil dsouza