Black Pepper production in Pakistan (In open field & Under high tunnels)

, posted in Greenhouse

By Sajid Iqbal Sandhu & Subramaniam Saravana Pragash

Black pepper is popularly known as the “king of spices” and mainly cultivated in the southern parts of India, Srilanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

In Pakistan, it can be produced in open field and under high tunnels.

1. Production in Open field:

Climatic Requirements:

Being a crop of warm humid tropics, black pepper requires approximately 250 rainy days with a total annual rainfall of 2,000–3,000 mm for its vigorous growth.

A dry spell of 30–45 days before flowering is required for successful fruit set. Black pepper also requires a high humidity i.e. 75–95% for its healthy plant growth. The hot and humid climate of Northern hills is ideal for the cultivation of black pepper. Black pepper grows successfully up to 1,500 m above MSL (mean sea level). It tolerates temperature between 10°C and 40°C.

Soil Requirements:

Virgin soils are ideal for black pepper cultivation. Black pepper thrives best in soils that are well-drained and rich in humus. The pH of 4.5–6.0 is ideal.

Commercial Varieties of Black Pepper:

Panniyur 1: Suited to all regions. Not suited to heavily shaded areas. Average yield is 1242 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 11.8 %. Piperine is 5.3 %. Essential oil is 3.5 %.

Panniyur 2: Shade-tolerant variety of black pepper. Average yield is 2570 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 10.9 %. Piperine is 6.6 %. Essential oil is 3.4 %.

Panniyur 3: Late-maturing variety of black pepper, suited to all pepper-growing regions. Average yield is 1953 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 12.7 %. Piperine is 5.2 %. Essential oil is 3.1 %.

Panniyur 4: Performs well under a variety of conditions. Stable yielder. Average yield is 1277 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 9.2 %. Piperine is 4.4 %. Essential oil is 2.1 %.

Panniyur 5: Tolerant to nursery diseases and shade. Average yield is 1098 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 12.33 %. Piperine is 5.5 %. Essential oil is 3.8 %.

Subhakara: Suited to all pepper- growing regions. Average yield is 2352 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 12.4 %. Piperine is 3.4 %. Essential oil is 6.0 %.

Sreekara: Suited to all pepper- growing regions. Average yield is 2677 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 13.0 %. Piperine is 5.1 %. Essential oil is 7.0 %.

Panchami: Late-maturing, suited to all pepper-growing regions. Average yield is 2828 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 12.5 %. Piperine is 4.7 %. Essential oil is 3.4 %.

Pournami: Tolerant to root-knot nematode. Average yield is 2333 Kg/ha. Oleoresin is 13.8 %. Piperine is 4.1 %. Essential oil is 3.4 %. 

Propagation of Black pepper:

Propagation of Black pepper is through shoot cuttings. Black pepper has three types of aerial shoots—terminal shoots, runner shoots originating from base of vines and fruit-bearing lateral branches with limited growth. Out of these, runner shoots are used for raising shoot cuttings. Runner shoots from high-yielding and healthy vines are kept coiled on wooden pegs fixed at the base of the vine to prevent shoots from coming in contact with soil and striking roots. Then runner shoots are separated from vines during February–March and after trimming leaves, cuttings of 2–3 nodes each are planted either in nursery beds or in polythene bags filled with fertile soil. Adequate shade should be provided and watering be done frequently. The cuttings strike roots and become ready for planting in April-May.

Recently micro-propagation of black pepper using tissue culture technique has also become quite popular.

Cultivation Practices:

Black pepper can be cultivated either as a mono crop or as a mixed crop. Being a climber, black pepper needs support for its growth and it is not an issue in a mixed cropping system as the growing vines can be trained on other crops. But in a mono-cropping system, live standards should be raised before planting the cuttings in the main field.

Planting of Cuttings:

Ideal time for black pepper planting is at the onset of monsoons. Rooted cuttings, lifted from the nursery beds or poly bags are transplanted in the main field during morning hours. Two or three rooted cuttings are planted together on the northern side of the standard or the support tree. Recommended spacing is 2.7 × 2.7 meters (row-to-row x plant-to-plant). Plant density in a mono cropping system is 1,100 vines/ha but in a mixed cropping system, it is 540–560 vines/ha.

Training and Pruning of Vines:

Training of growing vines is a general practice in black pepper cultivation. Training of vines on the support trees is highly recommended as it facilitates the vigorous growth of the fruit-yielding branches. Removal of unwanted terminal shoot growth and hanging shoots should be done as and when necessary.

Pruning of the Standards:

Pruning of the standards is also a general practice carried out in a commercial black pepper garden. This is normally done in March–April every year. Major purpose of this practice is to remove excessive over-growth of the live standards and to give them a proper shape. The effective height of the standards is to be limited to 6 meters.

Fertilizer Schedule:

An application of 140gN, 55g P2O5 and 270g K2O/vine/year is optimum for major pepper growing tracts of Pakistan. One-third of the recommended dose is applied during the first year which is increased to two-thirds in the second year. Full dose is given third year onwards. The fertilizers are applied in 2 doses, the first half in August with the onset of monsoon and the second half in Feb-March. The fertilizers are applied at a distance of about 30cm all around the vine and at a depth of about 15cm and the soil is forked in after application. Besides, organic manure in the form of cattle manure or compost is given @ 10kg/vine in July. Application of lime @ 500g/vine during April–May in alternate years is also recommended.


Carry out digging around the standards and vines at 1m radius from the base or in the entire plantation, twice during the year, the first at the onset of monsoon and the second towards the end of north-east monsoon. Frequent weeding around the plants is also recommended. After digging and weeding. The base should be covered with mulch. Mulching during summer months is essential. In commercial cultivation of black pepper, cover cropping and intercropping are highly recommended. Lowering of vines after first year’s growth promotes lateral branch production. Shading is a must for young plants. Frequent watering of young plants is necessary for the first three years of the plants’ growth.


Frequent irrigation from November-December till the end of March is recommended and afterwards, irrigation must be withheld till monsoon break. This may increase pepper yield by about 50%. Basin irrigation at a depth of 10mm @ 100 liters of water/irrigation at 8–10 days interval is highly recommended. Basins should be mulched soon after irrigation to prevent moisture loss.

Harvesting and Postharvest management: Pepper berries are ready for harvesting in 180–200 days of planting in the main field. Spikes are harvested when almost 90 % of berries are mature. Then the mature berries are separated from spikes by threshing.

Major Products:

The major products are: a) Black pepper, b) White pepper, c) Canned tender green pepper, d) Bottled green pepper in brine, e) Dehydrated green pepper, f) Pepper oleoresin and g) Pepper oil.

Black pepper (dried):

Black pepper is produced by sun-drying the mature pepper berries for 3–5 days. A heat treatment is recommended to give a uniformly lustrous black colour to the finished product and to prevent moldiness of the berries.

Heat Treatment of Pepper Berries:

Collect suitable quantity of separated berries in a perforated basket/vessel or clean gunny bag. Dip the berries along with the container in boiling water for one minute, take out, drain and spread on a clean surface for sun-drying.

Production of White Pepper:

White pepper is produced by collecting fully mature berries (yellow or orange), retting them in clear water for 5–7 days, removing the outer skin completely and drying the seed after thorough washing and cleaning.


2. Production under High Tunnels:

As you Read from the preview on Pepper , we know that the climber is maintained at 13 Ft height, the structure we propose are 18 ft high in the centre and 14 ft at the corners allowing us to have uniform 13 ft height for the plants.

We shall have 6 high tunnels in one acre, for which 190 ft long and 30 ft wide tunnel structure would be required in total.

The cultivar  we are looking forward for the Lahore lands; as a PILOT PROJECT of THE GREEN CIRCLE will be a special tissue cultured variety of Black pepper vine MK 140, which has an economical life span of twenty years and resistant to many known common diseases and has a recorded yield of 2500 kgs per hectare. (Cultivar = variety)

We will accommodate approx 2100 vines in one acre which is almost twice the standing strength in a hectare on open field cropping. (One hectare = 2.47 acres)

The plants will be rooted on a special growth medium of  compost, coco peat, sand, soil and coconut husk to avoid any problems related to soil , like pH, porosity of the soil, fertility of the soil, pest problems like nematodes etc.., this will ensure that the plants are  on well set medium during the rooting and early stages.

The tunnels will be set with rain guns and misters for acclimatization inside the tunnel, misters will be used to bring down summer temperatures to desirable temperatures around 36 C to 40 C, when outside temperatures are above 45°C. Green Crop nets will be used in summer for shade and semi permeable polythenes will used as tunnel cover during winter. In winter ZEON lights will be administered into the tunnel to keep tunnel warm and to maintain temperature above 10°C. rain guys will be used to rain in regular intervals and the plants feel natural tropical habitat inside the tunnel.

Concrete poles will be used as supporters with rough edge for long term benefits and strong support. Concrete poles will need less maintenance and are resistant to all weather conditions and will stand for longer period of time and as you know no termite problem. WE WILL GO FOR INTERPLANTATION OF OFF SEASON VEGETABLE AS A SECONDARY CROP UNTIL THE MAIN REVENUE COMES FROM PEPPER TO RECOVER RUNNING COST AND DEPRECIATION ON  CAPEX OF PEPPER.

Black Pepper cultivar will come into maturity by three years and starts regular fruiting , there will be false fruiting within this period  but the real revenue will come by three years and can sustain peak production up to twenty years.

The entire related info and On Farm consultancy is available. For details please visit and contact .


Reference and Special Thanks:

 For Further Reading:

• Black Pepper Chemical List (Dr. Duke's Databases)

• "Black Pepper" from Plant Cultures, a collaboration between NYKRIS and Kew Gardens

• Ravindran, P.N. (2000). Black pepper: piper nigrum. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, CRC. ISBN 978-90-5702-453-5

ABout Authors: 

1) Sajid Iqbal Sandhu is CEO of The Green Circle Pakistan (Innovative Agriculture Technologies). Besides this, he is a Tunnel Expert, Importer, Distributor, Seed Acclimitizer, Agri Consultant and Freelance writer. Email:

2) Subramaniam Saravana Pragash is the co-author of this article.

 Copyright Hortist, 2013

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Hortist is a sustainable source for landscape horticulture news, solutions and resources, managed by a Landscape horticulturist from Pakistan. Hortist reports on importance of this very unique niche and how it improves the landscape of this world and lives of its inhabitants.