Shramajeevi Wiki
  The Agricultural Information Archive


Pomegranate Cultivation

By DR. Venkatramana Hegde, Hosagadde. Director, Shramajeevi Television Pvt. Ltd. Bengaluru

Introduction

Area under horticulture is increasing rapidly in recent years. Certainty of yield and income, lesser labour requirement, government support, export potential etc. are the main reasons for this expansion. Perennial plantation crops like mango, banana, grape and pomegranate are the favorite crops of our farmers. Availability of irrigation water and power influence the choice of crops a lot in these days. Hence pomegranate, which needs very less water, is the main attraction for our farmers. Commercial cultivation of pomegranate has spread from Maharashtra to Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and to many other states in last 2-3 decades. Even the employed people of the cities entered pomegranate cultivation looking to its high returns. Even though pomegranate is proved to be a high value crop there are some problems and challenges too. This extensive article explains everything on pomegranate cultivation.

Pomegranate originates from Iran or Persia region. This crop has a history of some 5000 years there. The taxonomical name of pomegranate is Punica granatum. It is regarded as Fruit of Paradise due to its attractive arils, refreshing juice and fruit skin rich in medicinal properties. It adapts very well to very low fertility soils and comes up well in dry lands. Pomegranate stands at 18th place in world fruit consumption. In India too pomegranate is not such a favorite fruit like banana, mango etc. Even then the cultivation and trade of this fruit is on a large scale. Pomegranate is a popular fruit in European countries. It is mostly consumed as fresh arils. On a small scale it is used for juice, syrup, jelly, processed arils, wine etc. Pomegranate fruit skin and roots are extensively used in Ayurvedic and Ethno medicines.

Pomegranate export earns a handsome foreign exchange for our country. India stands 1st and Iran in 2nd position in pomegranate production. It is vice versa in export trade. China, Afghanistan, Turkey, Spain, Israel and USA are the other major producers of pomegranate. In India it is cultivated in 1,13,000 hector area with around 7,50,000 metric tons of production. This is almost 50% of the worlds production. In India Maharashtra stands 1st and Karnataka in 2nd position in pomegranate cultivation. Other major states producing pomegranate are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Almost 50% of Indias production comes from Maharashtra alone. Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalakote, Koppala, Ballary and Chitradurga are the major districts of Karnataka producing pomegranate. This crop has spread to Tumakur, Kolar and Bengaluru rural districts in recent years.

Suitable soil and climate

Basically pomegranate is a crop of arid zone. It is very successful in dry lands of tropics and subtropics. Well drained deep sandy soil with medium fertility is good for pomegranate. Deep clay soil with poor drainage is not advisable. Pomegranate cultivation is possible even in shallow rocky soil with poor fertility. pH range of 6 to 8 is good. However, pomegranate tolerates acidic and saline soils. Altitude more than 1800 meters from sea level is not suitable. Pomegranate is comfortable with a rainfall of 500 to 750 mm. Commercial cultivation is not possible in heavy rainfall areas with high relative humidity. Here pest and disease infestation will be more reducing yield and fruit quality. Marshy land is not suitable for pomegranate. Root rot fungi, wilt and nematodes kill the plant in water logged soils. Dry weather is most important at the time of fruit ripening. Pomegranate is a sun loving plant. However, there are success stories in old coconut gardens with pomegranate as an intercrop.

Commercial varieties

Excellent commercial varieties of pomegranate are released in India after selection and hybridization of various varieties from across the globe. Colour of the fruit and the arils, size of the fruit, yield, shelf life, sweetness of the juice, softness of the seeds etc. are the criteria for variety selection. However, we do not have any commercial variety resistant against bacterial blight and fungal wilt diseases. Ganesh, Jyoti, Bhagwa or Kesar, Ruby, Arakta and Mrudula are the popular varieties of pomegranate available in India. All these varieties are technically soft seeded and seedless in common language. We find only Bhagwa variety in most of the plantations across India. It is called Kesar in some regions. Shiny saffron-red colored skin and deep red colored arils are very attractive. Sweetness or TSS and the shelf life is excellent. Medium sized fruits of Bhagwa variety ripens bit late at 170-day stage. Yield is also good. This variety fruit has become very popular in the European markets. Edges on the raw fruit disappears and the fruit becomes round at ripening. Thick skin, weight, size and the shelf life makes it suitable for exports. Hence most of the farmers of India grow only Bhagwa variety.

Propagation

Pomegranate plant can be propagated by stem cuttings, air layering and by tissue culture methods. Stem cutting method is not very successful in India and hence it is not in use. Tissue culture plants have become popular in recent years. One can produce disease free plants on a large scale in this method. Each TC plant costs around INR 45 now. However, these plants do not have any resistance against major bacterial and fungal diseases. It may get infested in the field after planting. The most common method of multiplication of pomegranate plant is air layering. Roots are induced on the stem on the mother plant itself. Select the plant of required variety with satisfactory yield for last 2-3 years. The plant and the whole garden should be free from bacterial blight and fungal wilt diseases. Select a twig of pencil thickness for air layering. Cut off side growths and spines on the stem. Put two cuts on the bark of the stem at 1-inch distance. Remove the ring of the bark and scrape the green cell layer on the white stem. Applying rooting hormone IBA at 1000 ppm concentration induces more roots. Some farmers put commercial hormone solution to the rooting media itself. Sphagnum moss, coconut coir pith or saw dust can be used as rooting medium. Soak the media and squeeze it to drain excess water. Stem may rot instead of producing roots with excess water. Put handful of the soaked medium in a transparent smooth plastic sheet. Put it around the cut portion of the stem like this and tie with a gunny thread. Tying tightly will retain moisture in the layer till it roots well. Farmers producing layers on a large number put layers at 6-inch distance all along the length of the twig. Each medium sized plant can accommodate around 200 to 300 layers.

Rainy season between July and October is the best time for layering. It produces sufficient roots in 25 to 30 days. The roots are visible through the plastic. The success rate is around 80%. Separate the layer from the mother plant at 45 days when the roots mature and turn to brown colour. Cut off the leaves and tender growth on the stem of the layer plant. Remove the plastic sheet and plant the layer in a poly bag filled with potting mixture of soil, sand and manure. Keep the plant in a poly house or under shade. Water the plant regularly and give more attention till it sprouts well. It gets ready for planting in the main field in 3 months. Major diseases of pomegranate spread easily to new areas through these layer plants. Hence strictly avoid layering in disease infested gardens.

Planting

Pomegranate can be planted in any season with assured irrigation. But June-July is the best season for fresh planting. Farmers targeting very high yield are adapting high density planting with 6x8 feet or even 6x6 feet spacing. But the canopies of the plants overlap within 2 years and become difficult to manage. High density plantations get infested with bacterial blight and fungal wilt very easily. Hence the best recommended spacing is 15 feet from row to row and 10 feet from plant to plant or 12x12 feet. These spacing accommodates around 300 plants per acre. Let the rows be in North-South direction in length to avoid shading each other. Dig 2 cubic feet pit and expose it to sun for one month. Dust the pit with 100 grams of bleaching powder. Then fill the pit with sand, fertile clay soil and top soil one part each. Add 10 kilograms of cow dung manure, 1 kilogram of vermi-compost, 1 kilogram of neem cake and 500 grams of super phosphate to each pit. Adding 25 grams each of PSB, Trichoderma and other bio-control microorganisms is also recommended. Then take up shallow planting. Press the soil around the plant gently. Water the plant regularly and take enough care till it puts out new growth. Stalking may also be given. Recently trench system of planting is practiced by many farmers to save labour cost on digging pits. First the land is ploughed thoroughly and deeply. Then shallow trenches are made by tractor driven implement at 12 feet or required spacing. Planting is done in these trenches at 12 feet distance after installing drip irrigation system. Most of the farmers put manures after one month instead of at the time of planting.

It is better to provide sufficient quantity of cow dung manure, vermi-compost, neem cake and other organic inputs. It ensures good growth and enhances disease resistance of the plant. Put recommended quantity of balanced chemical fertilizers as well. For a first year plant put 10 kilograms of farm yard manure, 100 grams of Nitrogen, 150 grams of phosphorus and 50 grams of potash. For a second year plant 20 kilograms of farm yard manure, 200 grams of nitrogen, 100 grams each of phosphorus and potash are recommended. Later on follow recommended schedule as the plants are put for flowering. Take up foliar spray if the deficiency symptoms of micro-nutrients are seen. Spraying cow urine, vermi-wash and Panchagavya produce good results.

Training, Pruning and Flowering

Pomegranate plant is basically bushy in nature. Many shoots emerge from ground level. Retain 3 to 4 shoots and cut off the remaining ones. Pinch the tip of the shoots at 2 feet height to induce branching. Encourage 5 to 6 lateral branches on each shoot at 1 feet height to get well spread canopy. Many farmers put the plants for flowering at the age of 10 months itself to get early crop. This is not a good practice. Take up pruning after 18 months. The best practice is pruning at 24th month. This is very important for the good health of plant and the garden in the long run. Keep on removing sprouts from ground level and flowers on these small plants. Otherwise it disturbs the vegetative growth. Intercrops are possible between the plant rows for 2 years. But it is not practiced in commercial pomegranate gardens. Farmers concentrate on nourishing pomegranate plants to get good growth and early crop.

Pomegranate flowers only once in the spring in cool climate of north India. But in the tropical climate of central and south India it gives out more flowers in 3 seasons a year. Flowering in June-July is called as Mrig Bahar, September-October is Hasta Bahar and flowering in January-February is Ambe Bahar. Complete rest for the pomegranate plants is possible in April-May months and hence it flowers profusely in June. This Mrig Bahar is the rainy season and hence the crop needs less water. But the insect and disease infestation is more. It brings down the quality of the produce. This is not a good season for cropping in areas with high rainfall and with bacterial blight disease. Hasta Bahar comes just after the rainy season and hence it is difficult to give proper rest for the plants. It results in poor flowering. But the fruits grow under full sunshine and hence the yield and the quality of the fruit will be excellent. Pest and disease problem will also be less. These fruits are best suited for exports. Ambe Bahar is in hot summer. Hence we get heavy flowering and more yield. Pest and disease will be less. But the fruits ripen at the end of summer season. The crop may suffer with water shortage resulting in poor quality. If the pruning is delayed crop may be affected with early monsoon showers and hailstorms. But the demand and price for pomegranate fruits will be better in Indian and export markets in this season. Decide the cropping season depending on prevailing pest and disease situation in your region, availability of irrigation water and market demand for the fruits. The rest for the plants before pruning is most important.

Pruning is necessary once in a year for pomegranate plants to get flowering at a time. It helps to reduce pest and disease incidence as well. Disease spreads very easily if the branches of adjacent plants overlap each other. Limited number of main and sub branches allow light penetration in to the plant canopy and improves the health of the plant. Management will be easy. Pomegranate has both terminal and axillary flowering. Fruit developing at the tip of the shoot will be small in size and gets scorched by direct sun. This loses market value. The fruits developing inside the plant canopy get shade and hence the quality will be excellent.

Pomegranate plant needs a complete rest period of 45 days before pruning and flowering. It is a deciduous plant shedding leaves naturally in cold winter season in the temperate regions. But in the tropics pomegranate is an evergreen plant. We have to force the plant to shed leaves to enter rest period. In the rainy season spray Ethereal at 1000 ppm or 2.5 ml per liter of water concentration 15 to 20 days before pruning. The leaves turn yellow and drop down. In black soils put 5 ml ethereal in 1 liter of water. Otherwise the leaves may not drop. Stop watering during the rest period. Spray 1% Bordeaux mixture at this stage to bring down pathogen population on the plant. Pruning is an important work to be attended by experienced workers. Remove disease affected, dried, weak and closely grown shoots on the plant. Water shoots grow straight from the base of the plant without flowering. Cut them off at the bottom itself. Matured thicker stems bear bigger fruits of better quality. Prune them retaining 1-foot length so that it flowers in the leaf axils. Approximately 25 to 50% of the canopy is removed in this pruning process. Cut off all shoots bending towards the ground. This thinning of the canopy improves the health of the plant and helps to regulate the crop. Pruning is done in such a way that all shoots and stems in the inner whorl of the plant get sufficient sunlight and ventilation. Spray ethereal 1000 ppm concentration after pruning. It sheds remaining leaves reducing pathogen load on the plant. It also facilitates new sprouts and flowers. Collect all the twigs and leaves on the ground. Heap it outside the garden and destroy by burning. This is most important to check bacterial blight disease.

Management of the garden and crop

Put manures and fertilizers after pruning and irrigate regularly. Pomegranate plants produce fresh growth and flowers in one month. If vegetative growth is more and flowers are less spray 1000 ppm Lihocin or 500 ppm Maleic hydrazide. It suppresses vegetative growth and encourages flowering. Flowers are seen on large number on the whole plant. But male and intermediate flowers drop down and only bisexual flowers produce fruit. Too many fruits on the plant result in poor quality. Very heavy crop exhausts the plant leading to pests and diseases. Hence crop regulation is practiced to have optimum and good quality crop. Retain 50 to 70 fruits on a healthy plant of 2 to 3 years age. Remove all excess fruits and flowers. Keep 100 to 120 fruits on a big plant of 3 to 4 years age. Increase the crop load as and when the canopy of the plant grows bigger over the years. If you retain more number of fruits exceeding the nourishment capacity of the plant the fruits become small. It gets rejected for exports and sells at very less price in the local market. Hence flower regulation is most important. Sometimes we may notice dropping of flower and young fruit. Excess soil moisture and nitrogen or deficiency of those two creates this problem. Otherwise insufficient rest for the plant or delayed harvest of crop in the last season resulting in the deficiency of phosphorus, calcium and boron or increase in pest and disease leads to flower and fruit drop. Spray 100 ppm NAA solution to solve this problem.

Pinch the growing tip of the shoot bearing fruits. It induces branching which protects the growing fruits from direct sun. A plant with good canopy produces good quality fruits. Open plant exposes the fruits to direct sun leading to sun burning. Keep on removing flowers on the plant and sprouts at the base during cropping period. This minimizes the wastage of nutrients and water. This is a continuous and inevitable work on a pomegranate farm. Weak shoots bearing fruits may bow down. Put poles all along the length of the plant row and put GI wire. Tie the branches upward to the GI wire with a gunny thread. Spray 10 to 20 ppm Gibberellic acid or 1 ml Cytozyme in 1 liter of water to improve the size of the fruit and thickness of the skin when 80% of the fruits are at lemon size.

Nutrition for cropping plant

Now let us understand the nutrient requirement for bearing pomegranate plants. Put sufficient quantity of organic manures. Dig a ring around the plant base at 1 feet distance to put manures and fertilizers. The basal doze per plant after pruning is cow dung manure 30 kilograms, neem cake 1 kilogram, castor cake 500 grams, vermi-compost 2 kilograms, super phosphate 1 kilogram, DAP 500 grams, magnesium sulphate 200 grams, Borax 20 grams and Phorate granules 25 grams. After one month or at flowering apply ammonium sulphate 250 grams and 19:19:19 complex fertilizer 750 grams to each plant. Next doze at lemon size of the fruit is ammonium sulphate 250 grams, DAP 250 grams and potash 250 grams per plant. The last doze of fertilizer at 3 months after flowering is DAP 500 grams and potash 500 grams per plant. This is the dosage and the schedule if you opt for solid fertilizer application to the soil. Cover the manures and fertilizers with soil and irrigate regularly.

Supplying fertilizers through irrigation water or fertigation is practiced widely in commercial pomegranate plantations now. Water soluble fertilizers are mixed in a plastic tank. The solution is injected in to irrigation pipe with the help of a venturi. Fertigation improves the efficiency of fertilizer supply and absorption. Hence it reduces total quantity of the fertilizers used. It also saves the labour on fertilizer application to the soil. Phase wise application and liquid form of the fertilizer minimizes the wastage and improves plant growth and yield. Schedule of fertigation is like this-

Fertigation schedule

- Per Hector/ Per Day

10 to 20th days after pruning 12:61:0 (mono ammonium phosphate) - 1.5 kilogram.

21st to 30th day - Calcium Nitrate - 2 kilograms.

31st to 40th day 19:19:19 complex fertilizer 500 grams.

41st to 50th day 0:52:34 (potassium di-hydrogen orthophosphate) - 1 kilogram.

Foliar spray at 50th day Zinc sulphate 2 grams, Borax 1 gram and calcium nitrate 2 grams in 1 liter of water.

Fertigation 51st to 60th day 13:0:45 (potassium nitrate) 1 kilogram.

61st to 70th day 0:52:34 1kilogram.

71st to 80th day 0:0:50 (Sulphate of potash) 1 kilogram.

Foliar spray at 80th day - Zinc sulphate 2 grams, Borax 1 gram and calcium nitrate 2 grams in 1 liter of water.

Fertigation 81st to 90th day 13:0:45 1 kilogram.

91st to 100th day 0:52:34 1 kilogram.

101st to 110th day 0:0:50 1 kilogram.

111th to 120th day 0:52:34 1 kilogram.

121st to 130th day 0:0:50 1 kilogram.

131st to 140th day 0:52:34 1 kilogram. 141st to 150th day 0:0:50 1 kilogram.

Use of chemicals in pomegranate has reached its peak. This is not good for the health of plant, soil and the consumers. Pomegranate plants have lost resistance already and became easily susceptible for many pests and diseases. Many more chemicals are used for plant protection again. European countries impose ban on imports of vegetables and fruits from India again and again alleging chemical residues. We should take it seriously. We have to adapt organic methods at least to the extent possible. We must practice using rich organic manures, Panchagavya, cow urine, vermi-compost etc. Organic farming makes the export safe and fetches higher price. Few farms keep cows for this purpose. Cow urine and shed washing is collected in this pit. This is lifted by a slurry pump, filtered through the sand filter and injected in to the irrigation water line. The plants get organic nutrients at least to some extent. Cow dung and waste fodder is put in above ground tanks to produce vermi-compost. This is supplied to the plants. These organic initiatives help the farmer to keep a check on bacterial blight disease. But it is very difficult to find any farm practicing systematic and complete organic farming for commercial pomegranate garden anywhere.

Irrigation

Pomegranate is a dry land crop. However, assured irrigation is necessary for commercial crop production. Drip irrigation method is most suitable and is very popular in pomegranate. It is useful to save water, to maintain uniform soil moisture level, to avoid spread of diseases and for fertigation. Water requirement of the plant depends on the type of soil, climate, stage of crop, size of the plant canopy etc. A fruit bearing plant of this size needs 50 liters of water in April-May. In other months 20 to 25 liters is sufficient. Maintain uniform soil moisture at fruit ripening stage especially in hot summer months. Frequent and drastic variation in soil moisture leads to cracking of fruits amounting to heavy economic loss.

Weed control

Digging around the plant and inter-cultivation between the rows is better for the control of weeds. Minimize the application of herbicide as it is again a chemical. Weeds not only compete for nutrients, but also harbor many pests and diseases. Hence timely and effective weed control is most important.

Insect pests of pomegranate

Thrips

Thrips is a very common pest on pomegranate. Sucking by thrips on the flower and tender fruits creates mark. It remains on the matured fruit also leading to the rejection of fruit for exports. Leaves and tender shoots curl affecting the growth of the plant and hence the yield. Flowers infested with thrips may drop. Spray systemic insecticide Dimethoate 2 ml in 1 liter of water before flowering. If thrips infestation is very severe spray 1 ml monocrotophos or 4 grams of carbaryl in 1 liter of water once at flowering and once again at fruit setting. Keep the plant base free from weeds.

Mealy bug

Mealy bug is another major pest on pomegranate. It colonizes and sucks sap from shoots, flowers and fruits. Black sooty mould grows affecting the look of the fruit. Severely infested fruit may drop down before maturity. Mealy bug takes shelter if the fruits grow in bunches. So retain one fruit at a point. Severe infestation of mealy bug on the shoot results in yellowing and drying of the twig. Remove affected leaves, shoots and fruits and destroy by burning. Loosen the soil surface once in a while around the plant base. Spray 2 grams of Verticillium lecanii fungi in 1 liter of water. If the infestation is severe spray 2 ml Dichlorvos or 1 gram Acephate with 5 grams of fish oil soap in 1 liter of water. Do not use Pyrethroid insecticide to pomegranate which increases mealy bug.

Aphids

Young and adult aphids suck sap from tender shoots, leaves and flowers. It results in curling of leaves and shoots. Black sooty mould grows on the sweet material secreted by the aphid. Spray systemic insecticides like Oxydemeton methyl 2 ml or Dimethoate 1.7 ml in 1 liter of water on fresh sprouts. Releasing Lady Bird beetle, a predator is also effective.

Likewise, mites and white flies do infest pomegranate plant. The scar due to mite affects the look of the fruit leading to rejection for exports. Spray 2.5 ml Dicofol or 2 ml water dispersible Sulphur in 1 liter of water at flowering and tender fruit stage for the control of mites. White flies suck sap from leaves leading to yellowing, curling and wilting of the leaves. Keeping yellow sticky trap is effective. If the infestation is severe spray 3% neem oil or 5% neem seed extract. 1.5 ml Triazophos in 1 liter of water may also be sprayed.

Fruit borer

Fruit borer is another major pest of pomegranate. The adult female lays eggs on 30 to 40 day old fruits. The larva bores through the skin and feeds on the pulp and seeds. Fruit gets destroyed inside and the excreta of the larva comes out of the entry hole with foul smell. Damaged fruit may drop down. Fruit borer infestation is more between August and October months. Collect damaged fruits and destroy by burning. Keep the garden free from weeds. Releasing Trichogramma parasitoid at the rate of 1 lakh per acre 4 times at 10 days interval is very effective. Spraying BT bacteria once a week is also useful for the control of fruit borer. If the problem is severe spray 4 grams of Carbaryl or 0.5 ml Dichlorvos in 1 liter of water once in 15 days from fruit set to fruit ripening.

Fruit sucking moth

Another major insect pest of pomegranate is fruit sucking moth. Female insect lays eggs on the weeds. Larvae grow by feeding weeds. Adult moth has elongated pipe like mouth with which it pears the fruit and sucks the juice. Gradually the pierced portion of the fruit decays. This moth is active during night hours. Keep the garden free from weeds. Light trap can be used to attract and kill the moth. Put fire to an old tyre and walk across the garden. This smoke repels the moth. Destroy the damaged fruit by burning. Spraying contact insecticide in the evening hours is effective for the control of fruit sucking moth.

Shot hole borer

Shot hole borer is another major pest of pomegranate plant. Adult female lays eggs on loose bark of the main stem. These small beetles bore the trunk and the roots horizontally. Thus it obstructs the movement of water and food resulting in yellowing of the branches. This insect spreads to adjacent plants in the garden creating patches of affected plants. Infested plant produces large number of small fruits and dies. Small horizontal holes are seen on the lower portion of the main trunk. Beetles migrate from dead plant to nearest healthy plant. This shot hole borer can spread to the entire garden if neglected. Fungus causing wilt may enter the plant through these holes. Normally shot hole borer attacks bigger plants of 5 years and above age. Uproot the dead plant and destroy by burning. Prepare a solution of 4 ml Chlorpyriphos or 6 grams of Carbaryl in 1 liter of water. Loosen the soil around the affected plant and drench 5 to 8 liters of the solution twice a year. Drench the same solution to the pits after uprooting dead plant. Take out loose bark of healthy plants. Put 10 grams of COC, 6 grams of Carbaryl and 1 ml of neem oil in 1 liter of water. Add red clay soil to make the solution thick. Paint this to the main stem to avoid shot hole borer.

Stem borer

Likewise stem borer is also seen boring thicker branches of the pomegranate plant. Affected branches show yellowing and may dry eventually. We find wood powder coming out of the entry hole of the insect on the stem. Cut off the affected stem and destroy by burning. Clean the hole on the stem with a metal wire. Push 2 to 3 ml of Dichlorvos insecticide in to the hole with a needleless syringe and cover with wet mud.

Root knot nematode

Problem of root knot nematode is seen in many gardens. Meloidogyne is the common type of nematode found. This microscopic worm lives in the soil and sucks sap from the roots. The affected roots develop knots and the plant shows stunted growth. Deficiency symptom of micronutrients is seen on the leaves. This nematode spreads to new gardens through the soil in the packets of nursery plants. Growing marigold as an intercrop in severely affected garden helps a lot for the control of nematodes. Put 1 kilogram of neem cake and 50 grams of Carbofuran granules to each plant every year to avoid nematodes.

Diseases of pomegranate

Rots

Let us study the major diseases of pomegranate now. Phytophthora fungus causes root rot, neck rot; leaf shedding and fruit rot diseases. In case of leaf rot water soaked lesions appear on the leaves. Gradually the leaves decay and drop. Fungus spreads to the twigs as well resulting in drying. Small spot appearing on the fruit spreads to the whole fruit. Then the fruit rots and drops off. Flower affected with Phytophthora fungus drops. In case of root rot, a major portion of the root system rots resulting in yellowing of the plant. This plant will have less leaves and flowers resulting in poor yield. The fungus attacks foot portion of the stem and the plant dies. Phytophthora rot is common in the rainy season. Avoid water logging. Drenching and spraying 1% Bordeaux mixture or 0.3% COC or 0.2% Chlorothalonil solution effectively controls rot diseases.

Anthracnose

Anthracnose disease of pomegranate is caused by Colletotrichum fungus. Incidence of this disease is more in humid climate of the rainy season. Water soaked spots appear on leaves, flowers and fruits. Spot on the skin of the fruit elongates in to a lesion affecting the look. This fruit gets rejected for exports. The fungal pathogen spreads in the air. This anthracnose disease is common in most of the pomegranate areas of India. Put 1 gram Thiophanate methyl in 1 liter of water and spray twice in 15 days interval. Better not to use Carbendazim and Mancozeb as the residual period is more, which may affect the exports.

Fungal wilt

Fungal wilt is the 2nd most important deadly disease of pomegranate. This has spread to most of the pomegranate plantations in India resulting in huge economic loss. In most of the cases Ceratocystis fimbriata fungus is the causal organism. Branches of the plants show yellowing and dry one after the other. It may take 6 to 12 months for complete wilting of the whole plant. The symptom remains the same even in the case of shot hole borer and fungal rot. But in this fungal wilt we find splitting of the base of the main stem. Cross section of the stem shows brown or violet blotches. In most of the cases the plant dies with the complex of all these problems. Fungal wilt spreads to new gardens easily through infected layer plants and the soil in the packet. The pathogen survives in the soil and the dead plant parts for long time. The disease spreads to the adjacent plants through root contact. Flooding water, termites and implements spread the fungus in the garden. This fungal wilt is severe in black clay soils which hold more moisture.

Dig a trench of 2 feet depth around the affected plant to isolate it from surrounding healthy plants. Uproot the dead plant and destroy by burning. Put fire to the pit also to kill the fungus in the soil. Drip irrigation avoids chance of spread of the disease through irrigation water. Select disease free plants for fresh planting. It is better to spray fungicide to the layer plant before planting. Sterilize the secateurs used for pruning with fungicide solution. Treating the affected plant and the surrounding plants in the early stage will control the disease effectively. Loosen the soil around the affected plant. Put 3 ml Propiconazole and 2 grams of Mancozeb in 1 liter of water. Drench 5 liters of the solution around the plant 2 to 3 times in a week interval. Treat the recovered plant again after one year. If the farmer neglects this fungal wilt disease, he will have to lose the garden.

Bacterial Blight

Bacterial blight is the most dangerous disease spread to most of the pomegranate gardens in India. It can bring crop loss up to 30 to 50% or even more. But the plant will not die due to this disease. Xanthomonas axonopodis bacterium is the causal organism. Pathogen enters the plant system through wounds or cut ends and stomata. But it never becomes systemic. Initially black-brown spots appear on the leaves and stems. Later on it spreads like a blotch on the stem. Severely affected twig may break. Star shaped spot appears on the fruit resulting in splitting. This fruit drops down or becomes unsellable. This bacterial blight is severe in the rainy season. Cloudy climate and frequent light showers spread this disease to the entire garden.

This bacterium spreads to new plantations through layer plants. Pathogen cannot survive in the soil for long. But it can live for 6 to 8 months in affected plant parts like leaf, stem and fruit. Bacterium again attacks the next crop from these sources of inoculum. Pathogen spreads to the whole garden through rainwater splash, flooding water, pruning secateurs, animals, workers and visiting insects. Select disease free plants carefully for fresh planting. Tissue culture plants are the best for this purpose. Nourish the plant from the beginning with sufficient quantity of rich organic manures such as cow dung manure, vermi-compost, neem cake etc. It develops disease resistance in the plant. It is advised to use Pseudomonas fluorescens and Bacillus subtilis bio agents as well. Put correct dozes of major and micronutrient fertilizers. Disinfect the secateurs used for pruning with 25 ml Sodium hypochlorite in 1 liter of water. Allow the workers brought from other farms for pruning only after cleaning their secateurs and clothing. Keep the garden clean.

In a garden infected with bacterial blight spray 1% Bordeaux mixture before pruning to bring down the pathogen load on the plants. Spray Ethereal after pruning to shed all the leaves. Collect stems, fruits and leaves after pruning and destroy by burning outside the garden. Dust 10 kilograms of bleaching powder per acre to kill pathogen in the soil. Put half a gram of Streptocycline or half a gram of Bromopal and 3 grams of COC in 1 liter of water and paint it on the stems. Spray the same solution 3 times in an interval of 10 days. If the bacterial blight is severe keep on spraying the same solution once in 15 days. After each spray of this antibiotic spray zinc sulphate, magnesium sulphate and boron 1 gram each in 1 liter of water to strengthen disease resistance of the plant. Do not go for the rainy season crop Mrig Bahar in the gardens affected with bacterial blight. Due to clear sunshine Hasta Bahar and Ambe Bahar crops escape serious damage by the bacteria. If all the farmers of the area take up all these control measures it is possible to put a check on this bacterial blight disease.

Prevention of pest, diseases and problems

Control of pest and disease of pomegranate is difficult and costly after infection. Hence prevention is the better option. Do not go for pomegranate in deep clay soil with poor drainage. Confirm that the layer plant used for fresh planting is free from diseases, insects and nematodes. Live fence around the garden by growing Casuarina, Silver oak, Sesbenia etc. in 2 to 3 lines is useful. Few farmers put coconut leaves as a barrier. It blocks pathogens and insects flowing with the wind to some extent. Some farmers have experienced less disease incidence by intercropping papaya or mango with pomegranate. However, it is not yet validated by scientific studies. Remove and destroy leaves, stems, fruits and plants infested with pest and diseases without any mercy and negligence. Destroy it by burning outside the garden. Keep the pomegranate garden free from weeds. Do not go for high density planting lesser to 10x15 feet. Do not put the plants for cropping in the rainy season in higher rainfall areas. Supply sufficient quantity of rich organic manures and balanced fertilizers to build disease resistance in the plants. Deficiency of micronutrients makes the plant susceptible for the diseases. Correct any such deficiencies by foliar sprays of required nutrients. Do not put all solid fertilizers together in to the mixing barrel of the fertigation unit. Dissolve individual fertilizers separately and then pour it in to the barrel. Avoid over watering and irregular irrigation. Take up proper training and pruning of the plant so that stems, leaves and fruits inside the plant canopy get sufficient light and ventilation. Apply all possible organic and cultural methods of pest and disease control. Use chemicals whenever it is inevitable. Use suitable adhesives and surfactants to the spray solution to make it to spread and stick on the plant. Motorized sprayers are better for spraying. Take up spraying only in the cool hours of morning and evening. Do not spray anything under hot sun. Spray all chemicals separately. Do not mix all of them except the recommended ones. Excess use of bactericides or antibiotics weakens the plant. Hence use them only against its necessity and at recommended rate. Use fertilizers against soil testing and testing of 8th pair of leaves.

Bird damage

Birds damage the ripening fruits. Farmers tie colored shining ribbons to threaten the birds. These ribbons produce a typical sound with the wind. In some gardens birds are chased away by beating drum 5 to 6 times a day.

Fruit cracking

Cracking of matured fruit is another major problem in some cases. Sudden variation in the soil moisture level, deficiency of boron and calcium due to excess nitrogen, improper usage of hormones etc. are the reasons for fruit cracking. Healthy fruits crack suddenly leading to crop loss up to 50%. Maintain uniform soil moisture level by drip irrigation. Give correct dozes of fertilizers. If the problem of fruit cracking is severe spray 10 grams of calcium chloride or 20 grams of calcium ammonium nitrate in 1 liter of water. Again spray 1 gram of boron in 1 liter of water.

Colour development of fruits

Pomegranate fruit fetches good price if it has attractive colour. Adequate amount of potash with congenial climate will develop proper colour naturally. If the colour development is not to the expectation the farmer has to take sprays. Put 5 grams of 0:52:34 fertilizer or 5 grams of 13:0:45 fertilizer in 1 liter of water and spray it twice. In addition, spray 5 grams of 0:0:50 or 13:0:45 fertilizer in 1 liter of water at fruit ripening stage to enhance colour development.

Harvesting, Grading, Packing, Yield and Export

Average yield of pomegranate is 8 to 10 tons per hector under good management in India. Our farmers are getting INR 60 to 80 per kilogram. Or in other words average income is INR 7 to 10 lakh per hector. Pomegranate plant once planted can give commercial yield for 25 to 30 years. Fruit is ready for harvest by 150 to 180 days after pruning. The arils inside the fruit get spoiled and lose the colour if the harvest is delayed a lot. Immature or over ripened fruit will have poor shelf life. Unlike other fruits pomegranate will not ripen after harvest. Fruit ready for harvest will have shiny saffron-red colour. Edges on the fruit disappears and the fruit becomes round. It produces metallic sound by tapping. Harvest the fruits in the cool hours of morning. Take care not to make scratches on the skin of the fruit and not to damage the calyx cup at the end of the fruit. Heap the harvested fruits in a cool place under shade. For distant markets or for exports pre-cooling is necessary.

Clean the fruit with cloth. Sort out the fruits with sun burns, rot and bird damage. Expert workers grade the fruits manually by experience. Grading of the pomegranate fruits is done according to the requirement of the target market and the country of export. Size or weight of the fruit, colour, insect and disease spots, scratches on the skin etc. are the criteria for grading. Here we give one model grading Super size 750 grams and above weight, very big size, deep red colour and no scars on the skin. King size 500 to 750-gram weight, attractive colour, big size and no scars on the skin. Queen size 400 to 500-gram weight, attractive colour and no scars on the skin. Prince 300 to 400-gram weight and without any damage to the skin. 12 A fruits with 200 to 300-gram weight and one or two scars on the skin. 12 B all fruits below 250-gram weight. Fruits are packed in regular carton of box after grading for domestic markets. Paper shreds are put in layers at the bottom, top and between fruit layers. This is readily available in the market for INR 15 per kilogram. All boxes are filled to a particular weight for easy calculation. Grade of the fruit inside and the trade mark of the garden are mentioned on the box. The open end of the box is closed with a gum tape and sent to market.

Maharashtra and Karnataka are in 1st and 2nd place respectively in pomegranate area and production in India. Pomegranate crop is available throughout the year in Maharashtra and Gujarat states. A major portion of the production from Karnataka reaches the market between January and April and between March and June from Andhra Pradesh state. Kolkata, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai are the major wholesale markets in India for pomegranate. Export of pomegranate takes place from Mumbai and Kolkata ports. Bangladesh, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Britain and Netherland are the main countries importing pomegranate from India. Even though India is in 1st position in area and production of pomegranate it is in 2nd place in exports after Iran. Pomegranate from Iran and Spain is the main competitor for Indian fruits in the international markets.

The random samples of fruits from the garden are tested in the lab for chemical residues for export trade. The fruits with attractive colour and shining belonging to Super-size, King size and Queen size are eligible for international markets. These fruits must not have internal degeneration. The arils must have deep red or purple colour with pleasant aroma. Sugar content or the TSS should be between 16 to 17⁰ brix. The export consignment should not have immature or over ripened fruits. Skin of the fruit must be free from any scars of pest or disease and scratches. Selected fruits are cleaned individually with a cloth. High pressure air is used to clean any dirt or insect in the calyx cup. Size and colour of the fruits and the weight of the box depends on the destination market or the country. These boxes are stored at 5 to 7⁰ centigrade temperature and shipped to the target country.

Advantages for India

India has many advantages for pomegranate exports. First of all, we have highest area and production. The best varieties with attractive colored skin and arils and soft seeds are available. Year round production is possible in most of the crop regions of India. Major production areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka are near to Mumbai port. Hence it is easy for exports to Gulf and European countries. There are many pomegranate research stations across the country. Pomegranate export zone is established in Maharashtra. All pomegranate farmers cooperative societies have joined hand to establish an apex organization called Maha Anar for export trade. Pomegranate export facility center has come up at Baramati. Farmers are being trained for the production techniques for pomegranate export. Global Gap certification is done. Pomegranate export is realized under the trade name of MahaPom. There is lot of scope to increase pomegranate exports using all these facilities.

As of now a major portion of pomegranate production is utilized for domestic consumption. Volume of exports is very less. Good demand and price in the domestic market are the reasons. The present international price for pomegranate is not that attractive looking to the cost of production. It is necessary to increase yield or productivity to bring down cost of production. Inflow of pomegranate to European markets from Iran and Spain recedes after January. Hence Indian fruits have good demand between February and July. There is lot of scope to popularize Indian pomegranate in the consumer markets of Canada, USA and South American countries. We can target even South-East Asian countries, Australia, Japan, Korea and other countries. Eastern ports need facilities for the export of fruits from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Our farmers are getting INR 60 to 80 per kilogram on average. This brings an attractive income if the yield is good. We can sustain the same price even after area expansion if we explore new markets. But the need of the hour is to develop disease resistant variety to enhance production and productivity. India is expected to come to first position in the export of pomegranate soon. Pomegranate is the only crop generating huge income for dry land farmers with very less irrigation water. Let us hope that the crop stabilizes and brings prosperity for these farmers. Namaskar.