Cultivation of different varieties of black pepper is a passion for this farmer from Ulickal (around 50 km from Kannur) in northern Kerala. Biju Narayanan, who cultivates 33 varieties of pepper, returned to farming 10 years ago after working as a mechanical engineer for some years.

Speaking to BusinessLine at his farm at Ulickal in Kannur district recently, he said he has a total of 33 varieties of pepper – both bush pepper and vine pepper -- at his farm at Kalanki (around 10 km from Ulickal ) and in Wayanad district of Kerala put together. His target is to take the total number of varieties to 50 in the next two years, he said.

In his pursuit of collecting different varieties of pepper, he travelled to various pepper-growing locations in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and also collected varieties from the Indian Institute of Spices Research and the Kerala Agricultural University.

The seven acres farm at Ulickal has become an experimental and demonstration plot for him. Showing the pepper varieties, he said Kumbukkal (which is a farmer’s selection) variety and Vijay variety developed by Kerala Agriculture University are most-favoured varieties among farmers. Biju Narayanan, who has a pepper nursery at his Ulickal farm, said that he gets good number of queries from farmers for these two varieties.

On the productivity of various varieties, he said Manjamunda variety, one of the 33 varieties he cultivates, gives good productivity. In a normal case, 100 kg of green berries produce around 33 kg (33 per cent) of dry black pepper in other varieties. However, the yield in Manjamunda variety is around 41 kg of dry pepper, he said.


Apart from collecting and cultivating different varieties of pepper, Biju Narayanan also likes experimenting in cultivation methods. He said he has been experimenting the vertical column cultivation method with around eight vine varieties at his Ulickal farm now.

Highlighting the advantage of this cultivation model, he said a farmer with a small holding can also get good productivity from his land.

He said he is also experimenting with multi-level integrated cropping pattern in his farm at Kalanki to get maximum productivity from the land. For this, he has preferred Kuttiadi variety of coconut (around 40-ft-high) for the first level in his multi-level cropping pattern. This is followed by mangostene plants, and shade-tolerant pepper vines. Banana plants and tapioca are the other crops that he cultivates in that farm.

“With this multi-level integrated farming model, you can earn the productivity of a two-acre land from half-an-acre of area,” he said, cautioning that the farmer has to be careful while selecting the varieties of crops when taking up such an initiative. It is essential to choose shade-tolerant pepper and banana varieties while following such models, he said.