THE African Birds eye chilli (Capsicum frutescens), a relative of the tabasco pepper, is among the most pungent varieties of pepper in the world. Capsaicin content (pungency) is the largest determining factor of the quality chilli.
Capsaicin content (pungency) is the largest determining factor of the quality chilli. The fruits are green when raw and turn red when ripe.
The fruit is eaten raw or in processed form as powder. It is also used for medicinal purposes and in the control of pests and diseases.
How it is grown
Fully dry seeds from ripe fruits are sown in a seedbed near a water source. After 12 weeks, transplanting is done. Watering the bed 3-4 hours before transplanting is important to reduce root damage.
Transplanting is usually done during the rainy season to avoid irrigation, especially for small scale farmers.
Chilli has to be planted in finely tilled soils, if possible on raised beds at a spacing of 2x2 feet for short term in line intercropping or 1x1m in case of monocropping.
Mulching can be done to reduce weeds, insect population, maintain water moisture, improve soil fertility and reduce soil erosion.
Chilli can be intercropped with staple and cash crops such as cassava, beans, soya, groundnuts and bananas.
However, most farmers prefer planting chilli as a monocrop.
Production peaks during June-August and November-January. For new plantings, the first harvest is approximately 5 to 7 months from the time of sowing. Application of mulch and animal manure will help boost yields
Pests/disease prevention Control of pests like insects, fungi, bacteria, weeds, and rodents using pesticides is not highly recommended. Instead, you can use the following alternatives:
Proportion of 0.5kg of dry chili fruits pounded or ground is added to 20 litres of water. Apply once every two weeks when aphids are seen in the field. Proper scouting is recommended before chemical use.
Thrips, mites and whitefly
A solution of Karate EC (30 mls/20 litres of water) applied bi-weekly during periods of high mite infestation (generally at the end of the dry season) will control mites as well as thrips and whitefly.
Use clean seed. Suspected virus-diseased plants (mottled leaves, stunted) should be removed from the fields.
In general, a solution of chili and lime tree leaves is used to spray Birds eye chilli against pests.
Using raised beds to improve drainage reduces incidences of fungal diseases like dumping off, hytophthora and leaf spots.
It takes three months from transplanting to first harvest. Only red, ripe fruits are picked. During harvesting, remove off-type plants (those with big fruits or with a yellow immature fruit colour) from the field.
Harvesting is the most labour-intensive activity in chili production. Well-managed farms should be able to yield 600 grams of fresh chili per plant per year or 200 grams of dried chilli.
Post harvest handling
Drying takes 3 to 4 days.The fruits are dried above the ground usually on a rack with free movement of air (may use jute perforated material on top of the drying rack).
This can take place while drying to save time.
The graded chili is moved to the lower shelf of the drying rack for two to three days.
Packing and storage
Use gunny bags or locally woven baskets for storage but not polyethylene.
What it takes to grow chilli