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Agriculture > Spices > Pepper (Piper nigrum)

Crop Management

Cultivation Practices

Selection of site

Sites with slight to moderate slope are ideal for pepper cultivation, as they promote drainage. Slopes facing south are to be avoided as far as possible. When such slopes are to be used for cultivation, the young plants may be sufficiently protected from the scorching sun during summer.

Planting of standards

Planting of standards is to be taken up in April-May with the onset of pre-monsoon showers. Murukku (Erythrina indica) karayam or killingil (Garuga pinnata), Ailanthus sp., subabul (Leucaenea leucocephala) etc. are suitable standards for growing pepper. In high altitude areas, dadap (E. lithosperma) and silver oak (Grevillea robusta) can be successfully used as standards for pepper. Seedlings of subabul and silver oak are to be planted 2-3 years before planting pepper. The cuttings of standards are to be planted in narrow holes of 40 to 50 cm depth. The spacing recommended is 3 x 3 m on plain lands and 2 m between plants in rows across the slope and 4 m between rows on sloppy lands. The soil should be well pressed around the standards to avoid air pockets and keep the standards firm in the soil.

Planting of pepper

For planting pepper, prepare pits on the northern side of standards, 15 cm away from it. The pit size should be 50 x 50 x 50 cm. Fill the pits with a mixture of topsoil and compost or well rotten cattle manure @ 5 kg/pit and 50 g Trichoderma. With the onset of southwest monsoon in June-July, plant 2-3 rooted cuttings in the pits at a distance of about 30 cm away from the standards. Press the soil around the cuttings to form a small mound slopping outward and away from the cuttings, to prevent water stagnation around the plants. The growing portions of the cuttings are to be trailed and tied to the standards. Provide shade to the plants if the land is exposed and if there is a break in the rainfall.

When pepper is grown on coconut or arecanut trees, the pepper cuttings are to be planted 1.0 - 1.5 m away from the trunk of the trees. Trail the pepper vines on a temporary stake for 1-2 years. When they attain sufficient length to reach the tree trunk, remove the stake without causing damage to the vines and tie the pepper plants on to the tree trunk and trail them on it.

Management after planting

If the terrain of the land is sloppy or uneven, carry out contour bunding or terracing to prevent soil erosion. Carry out digging around the standards and vines at a radius of about 1 m from the base or in the entire plantation, twice during the year, the first at the onset of southwest monsoon and the second towards the end of northeast monsoon.

Weeding around the plants is to be done according to the necessity. However, in foot rot affected gardens, digging should be avoided and weeds removed by slashing. In the early stages, tie the vines to the standards, if found necessary.

Where pepper is grown on a plantation scale, growing of cover crops like Calapagonium muconoides is recommended. When such cover crops are grown, they are to be cut back regularly from the base of the plants to prevent them from twining along with the pepper vines. Lowering of vines after one year's growth will promote lateral branch production.

Intercropping of pepper gardens with ginger, turmeric, colocasia and elephant foot yam is advantageous. Banana as an intercrop in yielding gardens reduces pepper yield. Therefore, this is not recommended beyond three to four years after planting of pepper vines. However, in the early years, banana provides shade to the young plants and protects them from drying up during summer months.

When pepper is grown in open places, shading and watering of the young seedlings may be done during summer months for the first 1 to 3 years according to necessity. The young plants may be completely covered with dry arecanut leaves, coconut leaves or twigs of trees until summer months are over. Mulching the basins of pepper vines during summer months is highly advantageous. Saw dust, arecanut husk and dry leaves are suitable mulching materials. Removal of unwanted terminal shoot growths and hanging shoots should be done as and when necessary.

Prune and train the standards in March-April every year to remove excessive overgrowth and to give them a proper shape. The effective height of the standard is to be limited to about 6 m. A second pruning of the standards may be done in July-August, if there is excessive shade in the garden.


After regular bearing for about 20 years, the vines of most varieties start declining in yield. The age of decline in yield varies with variety, agroclimatic conditions and management factors. So underplanting should be attempted at about 20 years after planting or when a regular declining trend in the yield appears. The old and senile vines can be removed 3-5 years after underplanting depending upon the growth of the young vines.


Irrigating pepper plants of Panniyur-1 variety at IW/CPE ratio of 0.25 from November / December till the end of March and withholding irrigation thereafter till monsoon break, increases pepper yield by about 50%. The depth of irrigation recommended is 10 mm (100 litres of water per irrigation at an interval of about 8-10 days under Panniyur conditions). The water is to be applied in basins taken around the plants at a radius of 75 cm. The basins may be mulched with dry leaves or other suitable materials.The irrigation schedule for AEUs of Wayanad district is given below:


Agro Ecological Units of Waynad District

AEU-15 Northern high hills (sandy clay loam)

AEU-20 Waynad Central plateau (clay loam to clay)

AEU-21 Waynad Eastern plateau (sandy to sandy loam)

Quantity of water/irrigation/ vine in liters in a basin of 0.75m radius




Irrigation interval in days




Farming systems

Intercrop in coconut gardens

Pepper is an ideal intercrop for raising in the coconut garden to get additional returns. Coconut tree itself can be used as a standard for raising pepper and also on live standards such as gliricidia, murikku, silveroak, subabul, etc.

Planting of pepper cuttings in coconut gardens

The pits are filled with a mixture of 10 kg farm yard manure or compost and top soil. The rooted cuttings of pepper plants (the height of the vine may be restricted to 4 meter by pruning) are to be planted in pits of 50 x 50 x 50 cm size, taken at a distance of 1 to 1.5 m away from the trunk, at the north eastern side of the palm in order to protect the young vines from sun scorching and allowed to trail along the ground and, then on the palms by tying to the trunk.

The pepper vines can also be trailed on a temporary stake for some time and when they attain sufficient length to reach the tree trunk, remove the stake without causing damage to the vines. Make a furrow, from the base of the pepper plant to the bole of the coconut palm. Then remove the leaves from the vine, except a few at the growing portion, and place the vine in the furrow in a such a way that the growing portion is above the soil at the basal portion of the coconut palm, so that it can easily trail on the palm. The rest of the vine in the furrow is then covered with soil. A small bund, 5 cm wide, should be made in the basin to demarcate the region under which the pepper vine is placed, so as to avoid injury to the vine while carrying out cultural operations.

In order to avoid mutual competition for nutrients separate manuring should be done for each crop. The manures and fertilizers for the pepper vines can be applied in channels taken on either side of the bund made in the basins. The fertilizer maybe applied in two split doses first in May-June with the receipt of summer rains and second in August - September. Organic manures like cattle manure, compost, wood ash, coir pith compost, etc. should be added as per the availability in addition to fertilizer application.


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