Red chilli is a spicy fruit and is widely used in various Indian cuisine preparations and is also known as a wonder spice. It is used both fresh as well in its dried form. Apart from using it to make food peppery and more flavourful, chillies also possess medicinal properties.
Capsacin is an alkaloid that gives chilli its pungency. Capsacin has many usage in the pharmaceutical industry specially as analgesic. Zeaxanthin extracted from chilli is an important vitamin for treatment of eye ailments. Further, the natural red colour extracted from chilli has very high commercial value.
Overall, with usage in both culinary fields and pharmaceutical, chilli is a high value crop which can give good earning to the cultivators
India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of chillies. As such, this spice is one of the most valuable crops of India.
In this blog, we will discuss regarding the climatic requirement for chilli cultivation, what soil should be used, how to avoid pests and diseases and more.
So let’s start by discussing the suitable climate for chillies.
Chilli is a tropical and subtropical type of plant, and it requires a combination of a warm and humid environment to grow.
The ideal temperature is considered 20-25°C. Temperatures above 37⁰C adversely effects chilli plant growth.
However, for fruit maturity, dry weather is ideal.
Chilli can be grown in a wide range of soils.
Black soils are suitable for rainfed cultivation as black soils can retain moisture whereas well drained soils such as deltaic soils and sandy loams are suitable for irrigated conditions
Chillies do not respond well to acidic or alkaline soils. So, the pH of the soil should be anywhere from 6.5 and 7.5 (neutral soil). This pH allows the uptake of maximum amount of nutrient by the plants
Best time for growing chillies
Chillies are popularly grown as Rabi and also as Kharif crops.
Under Rabi conditions, irrigation is a must for chilli cultivation. Most of the area cultivated under chilli is during the Rabi season.
Let’s now discuss some other important aspects of growing chillies.
Chilli Cultivation – From Seed to Fruit
Raising nurseries – For transplanting in fields, chilli plants have to first raised in nurseries. Raised nursery beds having 1m width and manageable length are prepared and seeds sown in lines. Beds are then covered with dried leaves/shade nets/gunny bags etc to provide suitable dark humid environment for the seeds to germinate. Once 80% to 90 % seeds germinate, the covers are removed. It is advisable that a suitable shade cover is provided above 2 to 3 ft above the be to protect the seedlings from heavy rains.
- Seed sources- Seeds can be hybrids or local varieties (open pollinated). Hybrid seeds are produced by many companies and depending on the end use seed selection has to be done.
- Selection of varieties based on end product desired – As mentioned above, chillis are used either as fresh or as dried. As dried, chilli can be used as a spice or used for extraction of capsasin or oleoresin or colours. Hence, selection of varieties is a must to get desired end product.
Field Preparations – Fields are prepared by deep ploughing with MB ploughs followed by rotovator to break to soil lumps. This helps in preparing beds for transplanting chilli. It is always advisable to transplant chilli on beds for better root growth and also protection from stagnant water by unseasonal rains.
Apply adequate FYM to the soil during ploughing. It improve the soil structure and maintain the soil quality.
Transplanting :- Seedlings are ready for transplanting within 35 to 40 days.
Irrigation – Chilli cannot tolerate excessive water nor water shortage. Irrigation should be done judiciously. Proper irrigation will also improve flowering and fruit setting. Advisable that irrigation is done based on the water holding capacity of the soil as well as the type of soil.
Pest & Disease Management – It is imperative that prophylactic measures are taken to control pest and diseases maximise the chilli production.
Major pest of chilli are the sucking pests (aphids, jassids, thrips, mites), leaf eating caterpillars and fruit borers. Always use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) control measures first and then proceed to chemicals.
Major disease of Chilli crop is dieback , anthracnose , powdery and downy mildew. These can be effectively controlled by using recommended medicines
Use only recommended chemicals that have less toxicity. Remember that we will only consume, so avoid usage of any highly toxic chemicals.
Flowering and fruit setting – Flowering starts approximately 50 to 60 days after transplanting and fruit setting starts within next 10 to 20 days. Chilli fruit is a berry. It attains maturity within 35 to 40 days.
If green or fresh red chilli is the end product desired, then regular harvesting has to be done as and when the fruits matures.
If dried red chilli is required, harvesting is done when approximately 80% of the fruits on the plant turns red.
Drying and Grading of Chillies
It is the most important operation to achieve quality produce. Even if a farmers has managed his field well and achieved a very good production of fresh red chilli, any mistake during the drying period can ruin the entire produce.
A clean area is required for spreading out the chilli for letting it dry in the sun. Frequent turning is required for even drying. During this process, any diseased pods/fruits, discoloured fruits, malformed fruits etc are to be removed to achieve uniform quality.
UKPL has contract farming operations in the traditional chilli growing belts of Rajura, Gondpipri, Ballarpur and Gandchandur tehsils of Chandrapur district, Maharashtra. The farmers in these areas are tribal, small & medium and have been engaged in chilli cultivation for past several decades. Chilli is grown in an average area of 1 to 2 acres per farmer as the farmers in these areas have limited sources.
UKPL became associated with these chilli growing farmers on the behalf of a corporate buyer , looking to establish a new geography to source dried red chilli as per their specifications.
UKPL promotes cultivation of desired red chilli varieties, provides the farmers with technical knowledge of the cultivation practices, especially pesticides that produce safe product for consumption in food for the Indian & export market. Once the crop is ready UKPL assists in harvest, drying techniques, grading & packing and transport of the crop. UKPL also consolidates the crop of farmers for cheaper.
The important aspect is that UKPL links the farmers directly with the buyer thereby removing the middleman from the transaction.
With the intervention of UKPL, there is a win win situation for the farmers and the Buyers. The farmer’s avail extension services on best growing practices on their doorstep from UKPL team and market linkage. The Buyer gets the crop of their specification without having to deploy their own resources in a new geography.