• Family-Piperaceae
  • Botanical name-Piper nigrum
  • Common Name-Pepper
General Description

Pepper, popularly known as the "King of spices" and it accounts for occupies largest percentage in the international spice trade. It is most widely used spice all over the world. Black pepper of commerce is the mature dried berries of the woody perennial evergreen climbing vine, Piper nigrum. Pepper is cultivated over an area of 32,800 ha of Sri Lanka and Matale, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Nuwara Eliya are accounted as major districts of cultivation.

It can be grown either as a mono crop or as a mixed crop in the coconut and tea plantations using live and dead standards as support. Pepper is an ideal crop for home gardens where it can be trained on the existing tree species as well.

Sri Lankan black pepper has higher piperine content which conduces to fetch a premium price in international spice trade.

Agronomic Requirements for cultivation

The plant can be grown up to the elevations of 1,200m from the sea level with an annual rainfall of not less than 1,750mm. Areas with prolonged drought may not be suitable unless there are adequate facilities for irrigation. Prevalence of sufficient rainfall during the flowering season is essential to ensure maximum pollination. Being a crop of the humid tropics, its growth and yield performances will be better in areas with low diurnal variation in temperature.

SKY 3 Impex

The plant can tolerate a wide range of temperature fluctuation from 10°C to 40°C maximum temperature. The plant growth will be adversely affected from continuous strong winds. Therefore, sheltered valleys and leeward slopes are the best situations for growing pepper in the mid and up country areas. For the better growth of plant, it should be established in well drained loamy soils which are rich in organic matter and having a minimum depth of 60cm. If the level of organic matter is low, it is essential to add farm yard manure, compost and green manure, etc. to enhance the soil fertility. Soils liable to be waterlogged are unsuitable for the plant growth.

Recommended Varieties

High yielding ten local pepper selections have been identified by the Department of Export Agriculture of Sri Lanka, considering the other characteristics such as high pungency, bold berries, continuous bearing habit and resistance to pest and diseases, etc. These selections are released for cultivation.

Other than local selections the two commercial varieties Panniyur - 1 of India and Kuching of Malaysia have been introduced to Sri Lanka. It has been observed that both commercial varieties are economically beneficial to cultivate along with local selections.

Field Planting and Spacing

The rooted pepper cuttings are planted at 2.5 x 2.5 m spacing (1700 plant/ha) in the field. At each and every point a Support for the veins to climb must be established. In Sri Lanka Gliricidia is commonly used as support trees. These supports should be maintained at a height of 3-3.5 m.

Mixed cropping

Pepper can be mix cropped with coconut and tea and also can be grown in the homesteads with a variety of the other perrenial crops. With coconut, pepper may be planted at 2.5m spacing (both within the row and between rows) in triangular system, between every two rows. With tea, pepper may be trained on Gliricidia shade trees. Most tree species generally grown in the home gardens can also be used as support trees for pepper.


It is required to train 3 - 4 orthotropic shoots over the support to get a more productive columnar shape canopy with a substantial number of plagiotropic branches. As the vines grow, they should be tied to the supports at every node. When the pepper vines reach the top of the supports, they should be pruned regularly to maintain the height.


For proper field establishment and higher yields, it is essential that the plants are fertilized adequately from the time they are planted in the field.

The following fertilizer mixture is currently recommended.

Components Parts by weight Nutrients in the Mixture
Urea (46% N) 4 14 % N
Rock Phosphate (28% P2O5) 5 11 % P2O5
Muriate of Potash (60% K2O) 3 14 % K2O
Kieserite (24% MgO) 1 2% MgO
Application rates per plant per year in grams
Years Beginning of the first monsoonal rains Beginning of the second monsoonal rains
1st Year 250 250
2nd Year 500 500
3rd year and onward 700 700

By applying 10 - 15 kg of fresh Gliricidia leaves and tender branches as a mulch, at four times per year per vine can reduce the synthetic fertilizer dosage by 50 %.


Unlike other pepper growing countries, Sri Lanka pepper flowers twice a year during the Maha and Yala rains. Two types of commercial pepper products called Black pepper, from fully matured unripe berries, and White pepper from fully ripe berries, are prepared.

Quality Requirement

Black pepper is graded as Grade I special, Grade I, FAQ Grade and Light barriers. Light barriers are defined as those that float in solution of Alcohol and water.

Standard Specifications of black pepper
Colour The colour should be black or brownish black
Appearance There should be solid deep set wrinkles on the surface.
Cleanliness The pepper should be free of dead or live insects rat droppings, mould, dirt, etc.
  • Mould berries : 1% Maximum for Grade I Special and Grade I, 2% Maximum for Grade FAQ.
  • Dirt : 1% Maximum for Grade I Special and Grade I, 2% Maximum for FAQ.
Light berries 2% Maximum in Grade I special, 4% Maximum in Grade I, 10% Maximum in FAQ.
Moisture Maximum content
  • 12% in Grade I Special and Grade I,
  • 14% in FAQ and Light berries.