Multiple Cropping

Multiple cropping in pepper garden is an age-old practice followed in India. Multiple cropping is a system in which two or more crops are grown in the same field in a year, at the same time, or one after the other, or a combination of both. The average size of holdings, in majority of the pepper growing countries, is not adequate enough to sustain an average family. The pepper crop is very much prone to the vagaries of monsoon, incidence of pests and diseases, drought etc. The price fluctuation is so much, that the returns from monoculture of pepper do not compare favourably with those from other commercial crops like coffee, tea etc. Such observations emphasize the urgent necessity for optimum utilization of pepper holdings to enhance the level of income per unit cropped area. In this context, it is important to utilize effectively the available space of the pepper holdings for raising additional crops to augment the income from unit area.

A systematically planted pepper garden would provide adequate interspace for cultivation of annual crops especially during the pre-bearing period because of the negligible shade effect. The factors that assume significance in inter/multiple cropping are the probable competition for nutrients, moisture and sunlight between pepper and inter or multiple crops and its effect on pepper yield.

Pepper roots extend only up to about 90 cm from the base and so ample space will be available for the intercrop without affecting the pepper. In pepper gardens receiving well distributed mean rainfall of not less than 1500 mm-1 per year, the competition for soil moisture is unlikely and in such areas, cultivation of annual crops like ginger, turmeric, elephant foot yam and perennial crops like fodder grass, banana, coffee, etc. can be very well accommodated as intercrops.

In any multiple or inter-cropping programme, competition for soil nutrients is a potential danger and inter-cropping without adequate manuring will adversely affect the yield of pepper and the competition is usually for N, K, Ca and Mg. Studies conducted at the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), showed that growing Congo-signal grass (Brachiaria muziziensis) and manuring with NPK fertilizers at the rate of 50 kg ha-1 in the interspace in pepper garden, where plants are spaced at 2.7 m, increased the physical, physico-chemical properties and soil fertility besides increased yield of pepper. Growing Congo signal grass in pepper garden, increased the organic matter status and nutrient status of soil, reduced soil erosion, bulk density, soil temperature and aluminium toxicity (Sadanandan 1992) and also reduced nematode population of soil. In yet another study in India at IISR, Sadanandan (1994) showed that growing banana cv. Mysore Poovan, as an intercrop during the initial three years, in between rows of pepper spaced at 2.7x2.7 m, and fertilizing at the recommended dose of NPK increased the growth and establishment of pepper, enhanced soil productivity, reduced ambient temperature in the plantation, besides fetching an additional return of Rs. 23,000 ha-1. In similar studies conducted at the Pepper Research Station at Panniyur in India, Pillai et al. (1987) showed that banana can be grown very profitably as an intercrop in pepper garden in the initial three years. In India, inter-crop, multiple crop, multi-storeyed cropping utilizing an array of crops of different growth habits, were under trial at different Research Institutions. In these trials, pepper was trained on adult coconut or arecanut trees and the results are encouraging (Fig. 4.1.5).

Areca Nut And Pepper
Figure 4.1.5 Pepper arecanut system, where pepper is grown on arecanut palms, the main crop. Here also pepper grows to heights of 8-10 m.

Inter or mixed cropping in pepper garden is a routine practice in Kerala. A variety of crops are grown mixed in most areas, but often without any logic or scientific basis and as a result, the pepper yield becomes negligible. The most important intercrops are elephant foot yam, colacasia and ginger. Studies carried out at CPCRI, Kasaragod (CPCRI 1977), India, showed that ginger is one of the most profitable inter-crops in pepper garden. Sadanandan (1974) on the basis of inter-cropping experiment in a bearing arecanut garden observed that there was no adverse effect on the yield of pepper when grown as a mixed crop and raising elephant foot yam as an inter-crop. The results of inter-cropping experiment at Hirehalli in Karnataka showed more or less similar results. Mixed cropping studies in coconut gardens with pepper as one of the crops was undertaken at CPCRI, Kasaragod. Pepper is usually trailed on old coconut palm trunk as a standard. In this case rooted pepper plants are planted away from the coconut base. As and when the vines grow, they are trailed along the ground and taken on to the trunk of the coconut.

As the vines climb up the trunk, the pepper canopy is restricted to about 4-5 m height from the ground so that climbing on the palm for harvesting may not be hindered. At CPCRI, Kasaragod (1977), pepper plants of the hybrid Panniyur-1 planted in 1971-72 and trailed on coconut palms of 60 years old in one ha plot gave a mean yield of 2 kg dry pepper vine-1. All pepper cultivars are not suitable for inter or mixed cropping. For example, the hybrid Panniyur-1 requires bright sunlight for proper flowering and fruiting. Varieties like Sreekara or Subhakara (selections from cv. Karimunda) are more tolerant to shade and hence are useful for mixed cropping. Ibrahim et al. (1996) reported that Panniyur-5 (culture 239) gave the highest yield in a mixed cropping trial with arecanut, followed by Karimunda. Unfortunately improved Karimunda lines were not included in this trial.

Sadanandan et al. (1991) in a study in the laterite soil in farmers' fields for four years in 162 locations reported an increase in almost all the nutrients and yield (Table 4.1.5) due to the adoption of integrated nutrient management, where in farmers' recycled FYM obtained from the animals into the soil. Nair and Gopalasundaram (1993) in a review on high density multi cropping system practiced with arecanut as a base crop with pepper as one of the components, reported that the arecanut-pepper system gave 3832 kg of arecanut chali (dried dehusked arecanut) and 1418 kg dry pepper ha-1, from a population of 1000 vines ha-1.

Mixed cropping is also practiced in Brazil, where in the Para State pepper-rubber mixed cropping is common, in Bahia state pepper-clove mixed cropping is extensive. Other crops inter-cropped are cocoa, papaya, orange, lemon, guarana (Paullinia cupana var. sorbilis). It has been reported that inter cropping has reduced Fusarium disease incidence in pepper (Duarte and Albuquerque 1991).

(Note: Published results are not available on the impact of inter and mixed cropping on disease incidence and development. In a mixed/inter cropping system, the possibility of pest and disease development is more and so is the possibility of the longer survival of the pathogens. The long term benefits of such cropping

Table 4.1.5 Nutrient status of soils of major pepper growing tracts*.





CV (%)

Soil pH





O.C g 100 g-1





Bray-P mg kg-1





Exch K "





Exch Ca "





Exch Mg"















Zn "





Cu "




* 196 locations.

systems need critical study. Even the usefulness of maintaining grass cover or growing grasses like congosignal grass has not been analysed critically. Mimosa invisa, a commonly used cover crop, is known to produce root exudates that show strong suppressive effect on other plants—Ed.)

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  • Joe Newsom
    How to mulity crop between areca tree and black papper?
    2 years ago

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