Capsicum / Shimla Mirch Open Field Farming Polyhouse / Green House
Capsicum is Commonly referred to as shimla mirch in India. Capsicum is a high-value crop considered Exotic, especially the coloured varieties. Used widely in restaurants and homes, Capsicum has a good demand for its culinary use. the export growth of capsicum grew from 28 million in 2010 to 271 million in 2014. since then, capsicum has been exported at approximately 170 million every year. though this is an impressive amount, it’s negligible compared to the total production of capsicum in the country. India produces 518 Thousand tonnes of capsicum every year. . more than 29% of capsicum is cultivated in west Bengal. Karnataka, Haryana and Jharkhand produce 10% each with other states producing the remaining. only 10 notable states in India were producing a significant amount of capsicum till the year 2021-22.
Capsicum is a cold climate plant. Open-field cultivation is possible only in some areas of the country. Even these states/locations could manage to cultivate capsicum during the winter. This was all true until 2004. Since 2004, the government of India, with NABARD and IHRC started a program to improve the production of capsicum in the country. Protected crops were encouraged and new varieties of seeds were developed. Today it’s possible to cultivate Capsicum throughout the year in protected green shades and poly houses. The program has benefited thousands of farmers in the country to try something new and profit from it.
Difference between open field cultivation and Protected cultivation of Capsicum
- Comparatively lesser investment
- Low yield (10 Tonnes per hectare)
- Seasonal (limited to one season in most parts of the country at a short span of 3-4 months)
- Lower quality produce
- Poor control over pests and diseases
Closed, controlled farming
- Very high initial investment.
- High yield (upto 100 Tonnes per year)
- Not seasonal. Cultivated year-round
- high-quality fruits. Fruits weigh 150 grams and a bit more
- Better control over pests
There are pros and cons to both open farming and controlled farming of capsicum. The investment involved in creating a greenhouse or a Polyhouse in one acre could range anywhere between 25 Lakh to 50 Lakh (Depending on the setup). Most farmers cannot afford a huge investment of that level. There are subsidies for greenhouses provided by the government which will take a huge burden off the farmer’s shoulders. Details on subsidies vary from state to state and you can refer to the documents at https://midh.gov.in/AapNHM.html for more information on the subsidy by MIDH. More details are only available from your local panchayat or Krishi Kendra offices.
But is it worth investing 30 or 40 Lakh rupees in a greenhouse or Polyhouse setup for capsicums? in a closed setup, you could cultivate approximately 100 tonnes per acre every year. With prices of capsicum ranging from 20 rs to 70 rs, an average cost of 30 rs per kilo can be agreed upon. with the yield reduced by 40 %, assuming you only get a yield of 60 tonnes per year, you would be making 18 Lakh rupees per year from a one-acre setup. It’s a great sum but you would not cover the expenses of your polyhouse till the 3rd year.
Fortunately, with the 50% subsidy, chances are you will start profiting from the second year even with the most modest yield and price.
in comparison to the controlled environment, open field cultivation has lesser investment but the yield is 20 – 30 tonnes per acre. At the same price set, you would probably make 6 Lakh rupees per crop and the expenses could anywhere be from 1 Lakh to 1.5 Lakh rs. If you are indeed lucky, you will get the price of 30 rs per kilo because, being a seasonal crop, and open field cultivation is in full during the season, you can expect a flood of produces during the season, dropping the price quiet fast. but even with price drops, you would still make a decent profit of 1 Lakh to 4 Lakh rupees per season. This is not bad at all until you compare it with Controlled farming.
It should be noted that if the season is right, capsicum does yield a good crop even in open field cultivation and varieties do yield a lot but the problem is that the crop is short duration. the season will change and warm weathers are not suitable for capsicum cultivation. Most crops last only 4 months. This is a major limitation in open field cultivation.
Challenges in Capsicum Cultivation
Capsicum is of Economic importance domestically and internationally. This makes it a viable crop for farmers to earn better profits. but over time, there have been a lot of changes in farming and technology too. Open farming had its limitations and it was improved with controlled farming. But even with controlled farming, there were new challenges. new pests were noted. New diseases were recorded and this required new research and development to get new resistant varieties. Capsicum has also seen a range of pests in the past decade and some are new too. Countering these in the open fields and the controlled environment was important and this resulted in some new varieties.
New varieties were focused on improved yield, longer duration of crop, and pest resistance. This ensured that farmers could earn profit year-round with longer crops and better yields. With a controlled environment, it also became a lot more expensive and complicated for simple farmers to understand. Understanding temperature and humidity was just the basic. Greenhouse or poly house farming also required understanding techniques of drip irrigation, soluble fertilizers and farm management, including hygiene in the field. capsicum Requires a Day temperature of 25-30 degrees Celcius and an 18-20 degree night temperature with 50-60% humidity. For a simple farmer, this may be a bit difficult to understand or implement. He does not know how to control temperature, especially because he has been farming in an open field all his life. Though farmers do understand the concept that Temperature above 35 degrees and below 12 degrees affects fruit set, they feel helpless in open field conditions.
When it comes to varieties too, Farmers are aware that Coloured capsicums are in great demand in urban markets. unfortunately, they do not know where to sell them. Mandis procure them at a lower rate and distribution to shops is beyond most farmers’ capability.
even when A yield of 20-40 tonnes of green capsicum per hectare in 4-5 months is possible in an open field, they find it either hard to sell their produce at a price which is competitive to make a good profit or can’t meet the quality standards required by the market. and when the competition has protected cultivation with A yield of 80-100 Tonnes per hectare in 7-10 months many find it important to move on to protected farming.
Protected Cultivation – in Detail
High productivity: In a controlled environment, there is 3-4 times more productivity than in an open field. It is due to the long crop duration, protection from pests and weather conditions. also providing an ambient condition for the plants to grow, easier means to provide support and more control over the plant itself ensures better productivity. You could add precise fertilizers when needed, reducing the cost of fertilisers due to seepage and also maintenance of weeding etc. Overall, the cost of running a closed, controlled environment is lesser than that of open field cultivation. Yes, the investments are high but so are the returns.
Protection from rain, wind temperature and pests: Rain, wind and weather conditions are a major problem for farmers. They are unpredictable. Water logging due to rain is a cause of concern but so are water droplets that fall with the force which can drop flowers, reducing fruiting by a good percentage. Plants have to go through the stress of the rain. it’s not different when it’s sunny either. Harsh sunlight could also create stress in plants. Temperature variation could create humidity which will result in diseases and pest attacks. These factors are easily controlled in a closed environment which is protected.
Year-round production with higher yield (3 times more): one of the biggest problems with seasonal crops is that it’s seasonal. You could grow capsicum in winter, but in an open field, it would be a bad idea to cultivate capsicum in summer, at least not commercially. You could have a plant or two in the field and experiment with it, but on a commercial scale, you are bound to see a huge loss and disappointment in summer. With closed cultivation, you could start your crop in mid-march and see profits nevertheless. Also, the life of the plant is much longer. With proper maintenance, training and pruning, you will see that the plant starts yielding in 90 days and keep giving for 10 months. you have 200 days of harvest in a good closed environment as opposed to 60 days in the open field.
Site Selection: Site selection is very important for the Controlled cultivation of any crop. Not just for capsicum but any crop cultivated requires the right site selection. Avoid places with high rainfall and humidity or wind velocity. Sandy loam soil with good drainage and percolation is recommended. if the soil conditions are not correct, ensure that you correct them. get a mix of sand, vermicompost, compost, cow manure, and lime to correct the soil conditions. Test it for the crop and its right to the requirement. Soil PH of 6 to 7 is ideal for capsicum so ensure that the PH is right even with all the above mix.
Green House structure: Greenhouse structures vary depending on the location. Local conditions dictate the design. If your area is slightly windy, the design and positioning will vary. If it’s dry or humid, things change. The height and type of greenhouse/Polyhouse will vary. Ensure you have an expert build the greenhouse and not get a youtube video and just start. for capsicum, you could use a net house or a poly house. Net house is more economical in terms of construction and will cost 180-200 rs per square meter. But Polyhouse gives better protection and control. Polyhouse completely prevents rainwater and yields 15-20% more than a net house. Polyhouse costs 500 rs per square meter. Note the prices are set on the lower side and can cost you 50% more depending on quality and area.
Cultivars and Varieties of Capsicum: When cultivated in a controlled environment, the only focus is yield and the variety which can be sold. Variety should be a long period of at least 8-10 months for higher profit and harvest time. Fruit size should be 150 Grams or more unless required by the market. the varieties which have a smaller size have lesser demand. There are some markets which will purchase smaller-sized fruits but the price will be lesser which may not be beneficial for the farmers. Coloured varieties and hybrids are preferred if the market is available. Some markets do not want coloured capsicums as there is no market nearby. But this can be changed by directly distributing to restaurants or malls. unfortunately, this takes effort but is a lot more profitable than selling in a mandi.
Common Varieties are Indra, Yamuna, Bomby, Triple star, and Natasha for green. Pasarella is the most mused red variety and Bachata is the Yellow Variety which is popularly grown in India.
The right variety should have A yield potential of greater than 100 tons per hectare. This will ensure that you cover your cost the first year even with simple green capsicum varieties. Variety should have 4 lobes, uniform colour and ripening with good shelf life.
Propagation: Propagation is done in seed trays. Seeds are sown half a centimetre deep. A seed rate of 160-200 grams is required for one acre. A plant density of 16000-20000 plants per acre is recommended per acre in a controlled environment. The use of sterilized cocopeat is recommended media for germinating seeds. Seeds take a week to germinate. application of MOP on the 15th day of sowing and the 22nd day of sowing is recommended. Before transplanting, the trays are drenched with Copper OxyChloride solution. The transplant should be done in 30 to 35 days.
Land preparation: The land should be well plough and tilled. Application of 25 kg of organic manure should be incorporated per square matter. Approximately 100 tonnes of organic manure is used per acre but this will be sufficient for 3 consecutive crops. Raised beds are formed at 100 cm wide and 15 cm in height. A walking space of 50 cm is recommended between beds. Drenching Application of Formaldehyde in the beds and covering the beds with mulching sheets and setting up of drip irrigation system follows. Application of formalin should be followed with raking up the soil by removing the mulching sheets after 4 days. this removes formalin from the soil. Formalin is used for Soil sterilization. An alternative is basamid. Basal fertiliser of 20:25:20 per acre was applied before transplanting. at the rate of 80 KG of Calcium ammonium nitrate, 125 kg superphosphate and 32 kg more of potash. Application of Neem cake is recommended.
Transplant: Water the beds thoroughly to field capacity before transplanting. Saplings at 30 – 35 days old are transplanted into the field at the right distance depending on the variety. Care should be taken to ensure that the roots are not damaged. plants should be 5 centimetres deep. drenching with Copper oxychloride immediately after transplanting is required. Watering the mulch beds with a hosepipe in the afternoons will avoid the mortality rate due to heat trapped by mulching sheets.
Pruning and training: Pruning is done to help the branch of the plants. Pruning is done on the 30th day followed by the 8th or 10th day till the plants have 4 strong branches. Training is important for Capsicum plants as some plants can grow up to 10 feet. Use of four plastic twines to train along the main stem to be supported by a gi wire on top. Training is done 4 weeks after the transplant
Irrigation and fertilizers: Irrigation is provided at 2 -4 litres of water per square meter through drip irrigation. Water-soluble fertilizers are recommended at an interval of 3 days from the 3rd week of transplanting.
Common pests: Aphids, Mites, Thrips, Fruit borers, and nematodes are common pests in capsicum. Diseases include damping off, Powdery mildew, leaf spot, Phytophthora, and viral diseases. Diseases should be spotted as soon as possible and application of pesticides should follow as early as possible and if possible within the day if not within the hour.
Harvesting: Harvesting is best done early in the morning. Harvesting begins in 60 days after transplant in green, 75 days in Yellow and 90 days in red. Fruits are harvested every 3-4 days. Yellow fruits can be picked when they have 70-80 % colour. Fruits should be kept in a cool place and exposure to direct sun should be avoided. Scuffing should be prevented for longer shelf life and quality fruits.
Post-harvest: Grading for good quality and rate is crucial. Good-quality capsicums get a better rat than second-quality produces. Grading will ensure that you get a good price. If the product is simply harvested and delivered, the chances of a lower price due to poor quality are substantial. Grading ensures that you get the best price for the best produce and a moderate price for lower-quality produce. the Fruits should be of good size, with 4 lobes and at least 150 grams will be regarded as the Best quality and the fruits which have 2-3 lobes but weigh less than 150 grams are considered second quality. The optimal condition for storage of capsicum is 7-8 degrees with 90% humidity. this will ensure that the shelf life is approximately 15 days.
Ways to increase quality and yield
- Organic manure should be enriched with microbial biocontrol like Pseudoomoas or Trichoderma for better soil health
- All damages to the poly sheets or nets should be fixed immediately to avoid pest entry.
- The polyhouse system should have a double entry with only one door open at any point in time. the main door should be away from the main roads or frequented areas.
- Transplanting should be done in 30-35 days with no delay
- Regular pruning should be done to maintain a healthy branching
- Support and train with plastic twine regularly whenever required for better support
- Fertigation and irrigation should be strictly followed
- The use of proper pesticides and insecticides in recommended quantity is important to ensure good quality and also prevent incidence.
- Keep the area clean and dispose of debris, fruits and rotten or fallen debris every day.
- Care should be taken to not pinch the apical bud to prevent mite infestation