by on February 13, 2020


Piper nigrum L.

Family: Piperaceae






Pepper is the most widely used spice in the world and known as “King of the Spices”. Pepper crop is native to South Asia and historical records reveal that pepper is originated in South India.  Peppercorns were a much-prized trade good often referred to also as “black gold” and used by as a form of commodity money. Until well after the Middle age, virtually all of the black pepper found in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa traveled there from India’s Malabar region. It was some part of the preciousness of these spices that led to the European efforts to find a sea route to India and consequently to the European Colonial occupation of the country as well as European discovery and colonization of America/s. Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and Brazil are the main pepper producers in the world.

Products and Uses


Pepper is largely produced as black pepper which is the dried whole fruit. White pepper is produced by removing outer pericarp and pepper is also available in crushed and ground forms. A small amount of green and ripened pepper is pickled in brine and dehydrated green pepper and preserved red pepper also traded. Pepper oil and oleoresins are also extracted marketed as value-added products.

Pepper is mainly used as a spice and flavoring agent in the food industry. It also has industrial uses in perfumery and pharmaceutical industries.

Major Growing Areas

In Sri Lanka pepper is mainly cultivated in Low and Mid country Wet and Intermediate agro-climatic zones. The total extent of pepper in Sri Lanka is about 29,378 ha and Matale, Kandy, Kegalle, Badulla, Ratnapura, Monaragala, and Kurunegala are the major districts.


Although the origin of black pepper is believed to be Malabar Coast of India, Sri Lanka too is a home to a number of wild pepper types. When considering the huge genetic variability of P. nigrum L. found in Sri Lanka and the presence of pepper wild relatives, it is believed that Sri Lanka also a place of origin of pepper.  Some commercial black pepper varieties had also been introduced to Sri Lanka since the existence of commercial black pepper trade. High yielding pepper line called “Panniyur-1” from India and “Kuchin” from Malaysia was introduced in the 1970s but MB21 and GK 49 are high yieldings and superior quality local selections which are popular among black pepper cultivators.


Soils and Climatic needs

Soil: Pepper grows best in well-drained loamy soils rich in organic matter and having a minimum depth of 60cm. Clay soil restricts root growth and creates moisture stress during short dry spells. Ill drain soils lead to many soil-borne diseases.

Altitude: from Sea level to elevation of about 800m msl.

Annual rainfall: not less than 1750mm. Areas with prolonged droughts should be avoided unless there is a facility for supplementary irrigation. There should be clear dry spell and a sufficient rainfall for flower induction and to facilitate pollination.

Temperature: Plants can tolerate 15º C – 35ºC. Growth and yield performances are better in humid tropics. Strong winds are harmful.


Crop establishment

Planting material

Pepper is usually propagated vegetatively using stem cuttings. For commercial cultivations, cuttings are selected from terminal stems or from ground runners. If cuttings are taken from lateral branches bush type pepper plants can be produced. The selected mother vine should be high yielding, healthy and with vigorous growth, produce lateral branches with short inter-nodal distances, long spikes, complete coverage of spikes with berries, bold berries and be free from pest and diseases. As pepper is grown in different climatic zones the selected line should be tolerant to the climatic conditions of the area. Cuttings are planted in poly bags filled with a mixture of equal parts of topsoil, cow dung, sand, and coir dust.

Field Planting

Spacing for both mono-crop and intercrop with coconut: 2.4m x 2.4m spacing is recommended (1700 plants/ha).

After the land preparation planting pits of 45cmx45cmx45cm are made and filled with the mixture of topsoil, cow dung or compost.

Pepper vines are trained on live or dead supports. In Sri Lanka live supports are used and commonly used support trees is Gliricidia sepium. and some may use Erythrina indica (Dadap) or Grevillea robusta. Gliricidia sticks of 3-5cm in diameter and 2.2m in length should be planted to a 20cm depth at the corner of the planting pit. Supports should be planted at least 06 months before the planting of pepper provides adequate shade.

Field planting of pepper is done with the onset of monsoon rains. About 4-6 months old potted healthy and vigorously growing plants with 5-8 leaves are planted in the pits at 15-20cm away from the support.  Immediately after the planting, the temporary shade should be provided to protect cuttings from the direct sunlight and suitable mulch should be applied to the base to conserve soil moisture.

crop management

Training and pruning pepper vines

As the new pepper plants start elongating, it must be tied on to the support so as to facilitate the adventurous roots to attach themselves to the support.

It is required to train 3-4 orthotropic (terminal) shoots over the support and a satisfactory number of plagiotropic (lateral) branches when the vine reaches to 8-10 nodes. Having 2-3 terminal shoots give a more productive columnar shape canopy and substantial numbers of lateral branches ensure the higher yield (Spikes emerge only from lateral branches) If any growing does not produce orthotropic at the 8-10 nodal stage the pruning of pepper vine from the terminal should be done to induce 3-4 orthotropic shoots.

After 3-5 years pepper vine grows to the top of the standard and make a good canopy. At the height of 3.5-4.0 m, pruning should be done to maintain the height of the pepper plant and to make a good shape canopy.

shade control and mulching

The height and number of branches of the Gliricidia support should also be regulated by pruning so as to keep a final height of about 3.5-4.0m height.  It is recommended to prune Gliricidia trees at least 3 to4 times a year. In the wet zone pruning Glyricidia four times a year is highly beneficial as it reduces the labor cost and unwanted shade and also provides adequate mulching material. Experimental evidence has shown that application of Glyricidia lopping, at the rate of 10kg/tree/year, can cut down inorganic fertilizer requirement by 50% without any yield loss.

Fertilizer application

Recommended mixture - 2380 kg/ha (without Gliricidia lopping)

Recommended mixture - 1190 kg/ha (with Gliricidia lopping)

Components of the mixture Parts by weight Nutrient in the mixture
Urea (46% N) 4 14% N
Rock phosphate ( 28% P2O5) 5 11% P2O5
Muriate of potash (60% K2O) 3 14% K2O
Kieserite (24% MgO) 1 2% MgO

Without Gliricidia Lopping

Age of Plantation Maha Season (mixture kg/ha) Yala Season (mixture kg/ha)
1st Year 250 250
2nd Year 500 500
3rd Year and onwards 700 700

With Gliricidia Lopping

Age of plantation Maha Season (mixture kg/ha) Yala Season (mixture kg/ha)
1st Year 125 125
2nd Year 250 250
3rd Year onwards 350 350

Crop Protection


Pepper Yellow Mottle Virus Disease

Pepper Yellow Mottle Virus (PYMV) disease is the most harmful disease for pepper caused by a combination of viruses. Initial yellowish spots could be seen on young leaves and subsequent stunted growth of the vine, small, irregular leaves with yellow mosaic patches, Short internodes, and small spikes with half-filled berries are visible symptoms. Gradually yield decline drastically.  The disease is spread through vectors such as Pepper lace bug, Mealybugs and infected planting material. No identified control measures except the use of healthy planting material and destroying infected plants and vector control.


Quick Wilt


The disease is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora capsisi. The base of the plant is infected first and basal parts of the vine get rotten which will spread into the root system. When infected, plants get wilt and die within 2-3 weeks. The disease can be avoided by improving drainage and keeping the shade under control. When diseased infected plant parts should be removed and Bordeaux mixture or another fungicide should be sprayed into the base of the vine.


Slow Wilt

Leaves become yellow in drought but get normal after rain. This situation exists for about a year or two and finally plant become yellow and die. About 20-30% yield decline in pepper has been observed due to slow wilt. Slow wilt of pepper caused due to the damage to the root system by mechanical damages, nematode and insect damages and fungal attacks. To avoid the nematodes 03g of carbofuran should be added into pots or 30g of carbofuran should be added into the planting hole. Experimental evidence has proved that application of Glyricidia lopping at four times a year reduces nematodes significantly. If the condition is serious, infected plants should be uprooted and destroyed. Proper soil conservation and maintain organic matter content in soil minimize the incidence. Chemical treatment should be applied after confirmation of the real cause.



Lace Bug

Lace bug is a vector of the PYMV disease. The population is rapidly increasing during the rainy season although the insect can be seen throughout the year. Adult lay eggs underneath of the leaf and nymphs suck juices from immature plant parts and spikes. Brown spots can be seen on leaves and damaged spikes produce no or fewer berries. A significant yield loss can be seen when damage occurs during the flowering stage. Agronomic practices such as shade control and weed control are important for control the insect. If the damage is serious chemical treatments can be applied.


Stem borers and leaf-eating caterpillars are other important pests.



Harvesting and Post Harvest Practices

Pepper is harvested after 7-8 months of maturity. To separate berries, peppercorns are threshed manually or by using a mechanical thresher. Pepper berries can be directly dried under the sun or can use artificial dryers. Sun drying takes 4-6 days. To get a uniform black color, blanching of raw pepper is done by immersing berries in boiling water for about 03 minutes. Blanching reduces drying time by 2-3 days and also kills any microorganism presence. To produce white pepper fully ripened berries are immersed in water for about 5-6 days until the seed coat get rotten. Then the seed coat is removed by rubbing on a wire mesh or using mechanical decorticator. Remaining pepper seeds are thoroughly washed and dried to produce white pepper.


Standard Quality Specifications

Quality standards approved by the Sri Lanka Standard Institute are given below

  Sp. Grade I Grade I


Moldy berries % 1 1 2
Other extraneous matter %( insects live or dead, stones, sand, plant parts, mammalian fecal matter etc.) 1 1 2
Light berries % Max. 4 Max. 4 Max. 10
Moisture % 12 14 14
Appearance Dark black color with surface grooves Dark black to brownish black color with surface grooves  


Medicinal and Chemical Properties

Bioperine is a standardized extract from the fruits of black pepper (Piper nigrum) or long pepper (Piper longum). Its piperine content is 95% or more, compared to only 3-9% found in raw forms of these peppers. Black pepper extract, containing Bioperine has been used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine to treat fevers, digestive disorders, urinary difficulties, rheumatism, neuralgia and boils.  Bioperine enhances the bioavailability of nutrients. Due to its ability to increase the absorption of nutrients comprising nutritional supplement formulations, Bioperine has been termed a natural thermo-nutrient and bioavailability enhancer.

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