The native home of chilli is considered to be Mexico with secondary origin of Gautemala. It is also called as hot pepper, cayenne pepper, sweet pepper etc. Chilli belongs to the genus Capsicum under Solanaceae family. Five species of Capsicum are under cultivation, through number of wild species have been identified recently. In India, only two species viz. Capsicum annum and Capsicum frutescens are known and most of the cultivated varieties belong to the species Capsicum annum. Chilli was introduced in India by the Portugese in Goa in the middle of 17th century and since then it had rapidly spread throguhout the country.
Chilli besides imparting pungency and red colour to the dishes, is a rich source of vitamin A, C and E and assits digestion. Recently Russian scientists have identified Vitamin P in green chillies which is considered to be important as it protects from secondary irradiation injury. The pungency in chillies is due to an alkaloid capsaicin which has high medicinal value. It also prevents the heart diseases by dilating blood vessels. Chilli is an important ingredient in day to day curries, pickles and chatnies. Oleoresins, sauce and essence are prepared from chillies.
Climate and soil
Chilli requires a warm and humid climate for its best growth and dry weather during the maturation of fruits. Chilli crop comes up well in tropical and sub-tropical regions, but it has -a wide range of adaptability and can withstand heat and moderate cold to some extent. The crop can be grown over a wide range of altitudes from sea level upto nearly 2 100 meters. It is generally a cold weather crop, but can be grown throughout the year under irrigation. Black soils which retain mositure for long periods are suitable for rainfed crop whereas well drained chalka soils, deltaic soils and sandy loams are good under irrigated condition.
Maintenance of buffer zone
In order to cultivate chillies organically, a buffer zone of 25 to 50 feet is to be left all around from the conventional farm, depending upon the location of the farm. The produce from this buffer zone belt shall not be treated as organic. Chilli can be cultivated organically as an inter or mixed crop provided all the other crops are grown following organic methods. It is desirable to include a leguminous crop in rotation with chilli.
Sources of planting material
For raising nurseries, seeds of high yielding varieties with tolerance to pests and diseases may be used. They should be carefully selected from certified organic farms or from own seed plot which is raised organically. To start with , chemically untreated seeds from local high yielding varieties could also be used, in the absence of organically produced seeds. Seeds should not be treated with any chemical fungicides or pesticides. However, it is always beneficial to adopt indigenous practices for seed treatment, wherever possible. The seeds may be treated with Trichoderma @ 10 9/kg of seed to prevent incidence of seedling rot in the nursery.
Normally chilli is grown under rain-fed condition. However, under irrigated condition, care should be taken to avoid using water contaminated with fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. Irrigation should be done judiciously. Stagnation of water should not be allowed in nursery beds and fields in order to avoid fungal infection. Weeds which attract pests should be allowed to grow in the field to act as trap and removed before flowering.
Organic manures such as farmyard manure is applied @ 4 to 5 t./ha. However, it is always advisable to use compost/farmyard manure from own farm rather than from outside the farm. It is desirable to give sheep manure @ 3-5 quintals and neern cake @ 3-4 quitals per hectare at the time of land preparation. Restricted use of permitted mineral fertilizers under organic system can be done depending on requirement, on the basis of soil analysis. Application of soil amendments such as tank silt, basic slag and gypsum is also allowed in a limited manner. Use of bio-fertilizers can also be resorted to the combination with organic inputs.
To avoid infestation of root grub, only well rotten farmyard manure should be applied in the field. Application of neern cake @ 250 kg/ha. is also advisable for control of root grubs. Change in the agronimic practices to distrub the life cycle of the grub is also found useful. Application of neem seed kernel extract (NSKE 3%) can be done for control of thrips, aphids and mites. Release of larvae of Chrysoperla cornea, a biocontrol agent, once in 15 days is also helpful in controlling thrips and mites. Fruit (pod) borers are the major pests which cause considerable damage to the crop. They can be managed to a certain extent by adoption of biocontrol measures. Restricted instalation of pheromone traps in the field @ 5 nos. per acre helps to monitor the adult moths. Ten days after spotting the moths in the traps, spraying with Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus (NPV) @ 500 LE (larval equivalent)/ha 4-5 rounds is beneficial to control the early larval stage of the pod borers. The egg mosses of Spocloptera borer can be mechanically collected and destroyed. Trichogramma an egg parasite, may be released two days after appearance of moths. Spraying of neem products like neem oil, neem seed kernel extract and restricted use of Bacillus thuringenisis @ I kg/ha are beneficial. All the shed fruits and inflorescence parts should be collected and destroyed at regular intervals.
Rot and Die back caused by Colletotrichurn capsici and bacterial wilt are the two major diseases of chillies. Careful seed selection and adoption of phytosanitary measures will check the diseases of chillies. Early removal of affected plants will control the spread of the diseases. Seed treatment with Trichoderma takes care of seedling rot in nursery. Varieties tolerant to diseases should be used wherever the disease is severe. Rouging and clestrutction of affected plants help in checking the mosaic virus.
Harvesting and post harvest operations
Harvesting should be done at the right stage of maturity. Ripe fruits are to be harvested at frequent intervals. Retaining fruits for a long period on the plants causes wrinkles and colour fading. Soon after the harvest, the produce is to heaped or kept in clean gunnies for one day for uniform colour development for the pods. Sun-drying is the common practice in India. The preparation of drying floor differs from tract to tract. Levelled and compacted floor is to be made for drying. Fruits are spread on drying yards in layers of 81 Ocm. From the fifth day onwards, the produce is inverted on alternate days so that the pods in the lower layers are brought up to ensure quick and uniform drying. To avoid microbial activity and aflatoxin production, moisture in the dried pods should be brought down to 10%.
Since the produce is exposed to sun for 10-15 days on the open yards, it is likely to get contaminated with foreign matter. This also results in poor colour for the product due to bleaching effect of the sun rays. The produce can be dried within a period of 18 hours using air blown drier keeping temperature at 44-460C. This method not only saves time, avoids the drying operations for 10-15 days but also imparts deep red colour and glossy texture to the fruits. Solar drier and tray drier can be used. While drying, the produce can be covered with polythene sheets during night time to avoid dew deposition and resultant colour fading.
Grading is to be done to remove defective and discoloured pods. Packing is done in gunny bags, or jute boras. Chillies should be properly stored to avoid infestation of pests. It is preferable to store dried chilli in refrigerated condition (cold storage) to retain colour.