BER (Zizyphus mauritiana Lamk)is an ancient and indigenous fruit of India, China and Malaysia region. The fruits are very nutritious and are rich in vitamin C, A & B complex. The ber is one of the most common fruit trees of India and is cultivated practically all over the country. Ber fruits can be within the reach of the poor people and hence known as poor man's fruit.
Among the fruit trees, ber cultivation requires perhaps the least inputs and care. It gives good production even without irrigation and can be grown as a rainfed crop in semi-arid and arid regions. The tree can, therefore give assured income even under marginal growing conditions and provides nutritious food at very low cost. The fruit is dried and is used as a dessert fruit. It can also be preserved as a candied fruit.
The ber is a hardy fruit and grows well all over the country under varying climatic conditions and upto an elevation of 1000 meters above sea level. For its successful cultivation, it favours a hot and dry climate. The Ber crop withstands high temperature and aridity by cessation of growth, leaf fall and dormancy phase. In high humidity conditions disease and pest problems increase especially of powdery mildew which is a serious disease.
Ber plant grows on a wide variety of soils ranging from shallow to deep and from gravelly and sandy to clayey. The ber develops a deep tap root system within a short period of its growth, and as such to adverse soil conditions. Ber can also withstand alkalinity and slightly waterlogged conditions. It can, in fact, withstand and often do better than most fruits on poor soils.
Numerous horticultural varieties of ber are grown all over India. Some of the most popular varieties are Umran, Karaka, Gola, Seb, Chhuhara, Sanaur - 2, Ilaichi and Mehrun. In Maharashtra, cv.Umran Is being grown on commercial scale. It has excellent keeping quality and transportability but flat taste.
The Ber was commonly propagated by seeds during earlier period. But main disadvantage of this method is of heterozygosity and variability in seedling progeny. Therefore, propagation of superior varieties by patch budding is recommended. For raising a budded plantation, it is considered best to sow ber seeds in the field itself at proper distances and use the seedlings thus raised for budding in situ. For early germination of ber seeds, breaking of endocarp (hard seed coat) gives quick germination.
Monsoon season offers best choice, for raising in
situ plantation in Maharashtra and arid and semi-arid parts of our country, at a
spacing of 6 x 6 m. Protective irrigation during summer months will ensure the survival
and good growth of the plants. Deheading these seedlings to ground level in the month of
May helps to give new shoots by July. Patch budding these shoots in July helps to convert
it into choice variety.
In Northern India, planting is done either in February-March or July-September at a spacing of 7-8 months.
After the layout, pits of 60x60x60 cm are dug. About 100 g of 10 per cent carbaryl or Aldrex dust is sprinkled on the bottom sides of pits to prevent termites. Pits are filled with top soil mixed with 20 kg farmyard manure and 1 kg super phosphates. Treated seeds or bud grafts are planted in these pits at the onset of Monsoon.
Area around the young plant is kept clean by
weeding and hoeing. Under irrigated conditions low growing vegetables can be grown as
inter crops until the ber plants assume (4-5 years) full grown. Under rainfed conditions
legume crops like Moong, Moth (horse gram) and cowpea can be grown as intercrop.
Stirring the soil under the tree canopy after rains provides better aeration around roots and helps in conserving soil moisture and weed control.
If left to itself ber trees would attain bushy, large unmanageable form but the production
per unit area is quite low. In order to keep the plant in manageable shape and size, trees
be trained properly during first 2-3 years to build a strong framework. By providing
support with bamboo stick to the new growth of sprout from either in situ or
transplanted seedling, vertical growth is encouraged Once the growth is about 1-1.5 meter,
the terminal growth Is pinched, allowing lower buds on main stem to sprout and form main
branches. After sufficient growth, these primary branches be pinched to develop secondary
branches. Thus plants are trained by pruning and kept in manageable shape, size with well
Pruning:Pruning is an essential operation in ber production as fruits are borne in the axil of leaves on the young shoots of current season. Pruning is therefore, done every year to induce maximum number of new healthy shoots which bear good quality fruits. The best time for pruning was observed to be 15th April to 15th May under prevailing climatic condition of Maharashtra.
Attempts to increase fruit set, fruit size and early/delayed maturity through application of growth regulators
proved to effective.
The growth regulators like GA, NAA, CCC and Ethephon were used. GA (10 ppm) and NAA (10 ppm) during fruit development and Ethephon one month before harvesting were sprayed. Application of NAA increased the yield of fruits with cost benefit ratio of 1:3:30.
Ber is mostly grown as a rainfed crop. Irrigation as a rule not advisable. But if available could increase yield. However, increase in yield also diminishes the quality of fruit.
Like other fruit trees, ber also requires regular application of manures and fertilisers for good yields. Application of 30-50 kg Farm yard manure, 250 g N per tree (split in 2 equal doses) and 250 g P2O5 per tree + 50 g K2O per tree (single dose) per year for full grown tree (5 years and thereafter) is recommend for better yield and quality of fruits.
Ber fruitfly is one of the important pests of ber, which is widely distributed throughout India. The infested
fruits turn brown, rot and smell offensively. The pest can be controlled by spraying 3 to
4 times with Carbaryl 50 WP 0.2 per cent or Dimethoate 30 EC 0.03 per cent commencing from
the attainment of fruits of the pea size.
Among the diseases powdery mildew is very common on ber fruits. Small whitish spots appear on young fruits, which later enlarge and cover the entire fruit. The affected fruits either drop off or become corky, mis-shapen and under-developed. Disease can be controlled by dusting with sulphur @ 150 to 200 g /tree and subsequent 3 dustings at an interval of 15-20 days.
Alternaria leaf spot and Cercospora leaf spot also appears in the form of grey spots on leaves. Both these diseases are effectively controlled by spraying dithane M-45 (0.25%) or Foltart (0.1%) as soon as the disease appear. Subsequent 2 to 3 sprays be given at an interval of 15 to 20 days depending upon the intensity of the disease.
In Northern India, peak period of harvesting
falls between February and April. While in Maharashtra harvesting extends from November to
January. The fruits are harvested in 4 or 5 pickings since all the fruits on the tree do
not mature at one time. The fruit picking is done by hand using a ladder. The fruits
should be harvested at proper stage of maturity. The best index of the correct picking
stage is the characteristic maturity colour and softness of particular cultivar after the
fruit has attained the full size. The fruit requires about 120 days to reach maturity.
Under dryland (rainfall) conditions, on an average 60-80 kg fruits per tree per year can be harvested. Under irrigated conditions yield will be 3-4 times higher.
The underripe, overripe and
damaged fruits are sorted out. The remaining sound fruits are graded in two grades -large
and small according to size. Fruits are packed in gunny bags, wooden boxes, cardboard
boxes or nylon knot bags.
The growers generally auction their crop to the contractors. The contracts are fixed either on the share of accruing incoming basis or on the basis of a lump sum to be paid in installments to the grower.