Intercultivation Covercrops

Intercultivation in pepper plantations is a point of controversy. Maintenance of grass cover and practice of minimum tillage are advocated in India mainly as an insurance against the spread of foot rot disease (Thomas and George 1992, Sarma et al. 1991). Disease spread is reported to be much faster in plantations, where clean cultivation is practiced, compared to plantations where grass or legume cover crop is retained (Sarma et al. 1991). Cover crops are reported to reduce the movement and spread of contaminated soil in a garden through surface water and rain splashes. Cover crops enhance the organic matter content of top soil and are helpful in increasing the antagonistic microflora (Ramachandran et al. 1991). Practice of minimum tillage is advocated to avoid damage to root system and disease spread.

Cover crops are not popular in India because there pepper is grown together with other crops and there is no scope for cover crops in such a crop combination. But in countries where pepper is grown as a monocrop, trials have been conducted to find out the usefulness of cover crops. In Sarawak, cover crops together with legume mulch, lallang (Imperata cylindricd) mulch, etc. were tested and found that cover-crops have no special advantage (Anon. 1979). At the same time the commonly used leguminous cover crops climb on pepper plants, often choking the young growing plants and requires additional labour to remove them periodically. In Indonesia, cover crops were shown to cause yield reduction. Clean cultivation is advocated in pepper garden in these countries.

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