Sericulture - information

dear chandraji
we shall be glad if sericulture is highlighted to betterment of farm community.mulberry crop is better or some other crop, for silk worms.

g c jagwani

Sure, Sri Jagwani. Let us pool up information on this thread and then move it to the wiki.

Dear Jagwani,

Sericulture is one among other Panchrathna’s along with milk,mango, gold & vegetables of our Kolar District in Karnataka.
Please find information on cultivation of sericulture. It will be better to find market or doing value addition work for cocoons to get maximum profits.


Mulberry is a hardy plant capable of thriving under a variety of agro climatic conditions. At the same time, it is also sensitive responding extremely well to optimum agricultural inputs but showing practically no growth when plant nutrients and moisture begin to operate as limiting factors. This is evident from the fact that under the poor rainfall conditions of 25-30 (625-750 mm) prevailing in South India, the current leaf yield is of the order of only 3,000-3,500 kgs per hectare whereas under assured irrigation and appropriate fertilizer application, it can be stepped upto 30,000 kgs or so, or nearly ten times. Further, mulberry under South Indian conditions, unlike in temperate regions like Japan, Korea and USSR, gives continuous growth almost throughout the year, because of optimum temperature conditions and good sunshine available. It is these aspects that should be properly appreciated and accordingly, every effort made to step up the leaf yield as indicated in this paper.

Soil and climatic conditions :
Mulberry can grow practically on any type of land except on very steep lands. Good growths, however, are obtained when it is raised on either flat land or gently sloping or undulating lands. On more slopy or steep lands, necessary attention to proper soil conservation methods as contour drains, contour planting or even bench terracing should be given.

Mulberry grows in a wide range of soils, but best growth is obtained in loamy to clayey loam soils. The mulberry plant can tolerate slightly acidic conditions in the soil. In the case of too acidic soils with pH below 5, necessary corrective measures through application of Dolomite or Lime should be adopted. In case of alkaline soils, application of Gypsum should be resorted to for correction of the soil alkalinity.

Since, mulberry is a deep rooted plant; the soil should be sufficiently deep upto about two feet in depth. In respect of elevation, mulberry thrives well upto about 4,000 feet, above growth will be retarded because of the cooler temperature.
Establishment of the mulberry gardens during the first year :
Mulberry falls under the category of perennial crops and once it is properly raised during the first year, it can come to full yielding capacity during the second year and lasts for over 15 years in the field without any significant deterioration in the yield of leaf. It is therefore, very important that the initial planting and establishment of the crop is carried out according to scientific methods for obtaining best yield results in the subsequent years.

Land preparation :
Land should be prepared by deeply ploughing with heavy mould board plough upto depth of 12-15 (30-35 cm) in order to loosen the soil before planting, taking advantage of the pre-monsoon showers during April-May. Thereafter, the land may be ploughed once or twice with a light plough or country plough to bring the soil to a fine tilth. Afterwards, a basal dose of organic manure like compost or cattle manure should be applied at the rate of atleast 10 tonnes per hectare for rainfed mulberry and 20 tonnes per hectare for irrigated mulberry. Finally, the manure should be properly incorporated into the soil by ploughing, and the land leveled and made ready for planting during the monsoon rains of June-July. It must be stressed here that application of basal dose of organic manure like compost or cattle manure is essential for successful initial establishment of the plantation. Under very exceptional circumstances, where these are not at all available, an alternative may be resorted to by growing nursery raised plants and transplanting them into the main field.

Generally, pit system of planting with wider spacing should be adopted for rainfed mulberry while row system with closer spacing can be adopted for irrigated mulberry. Therefore, for planting mulberry under rainfed conditions pits should be dug at a spacing of 3’ x 3’ (0.9 m x 0.9 m). The pits should be of the size 1’ x 1’ (35 cm x 35 cm) and atleast 1’(35 cm) deep. These pits are filled with soil, preferably mixed with some cattle manure, and in the pits the cuttings or rooted saplings are planted.

In the case of irrigated gardens, the prepared land is thrown into ridges and furrows (by using a ridge former or working with manual labour).

It may be noted that there is only one irrigation channel for every two rows of mulberry plants. This helps in both saving and more effective use of the irrigation water.

Planting material and planting :
In tropical conditions as in South India, mulberry can root easily and, therefore, can be easily propagated through cuttings with minimum of time and expenditure. The cuttings should be prepared from 4-8 months old hard wood branches which are brown in colour and atleast 10-12 mm in diameter. The cuttings should be atleast 7”-8” (18-20 cms) long with a minimum of three buds. The ends of the cuttings should be clean cut with a sharp knife, without splits or bark peeling off.

It is in the selection of planting material that mistakes are often made which result in poor establishment of the plants with lots of failures and resultant gaps. Cuttings either thin in diameter or green in colour should be avoided as the chances of their success are poor. Therefore, for successful rooting of the cuttings, every care should be taken to see that the cuttings of the desired maturity, thickness and length alone, as indicated above, are selected for planting. Because, only such cuttings provide necessary nutrients for the buds to sprout and grow till such time adequate root formation takes place.

It is also to be remembered that the soil should be very fertile containing adequate quantities of organic matter. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that whenever straight planting of cuttings is resorted to, the soil should receive a basal dose of manure like compost or organic manure at the rate indicated already. The manure should be thoroughly mixed with the soil before planting is undertaken.

At the time of planting, it is important to see that the cuttings are placed deep and the soil around well compacted, leaving just one inch alone of the cutting exposed. This ensures the cuttings being planted sufficiently deep in the soil resulting in the formation of roots below the ground level. Further, this will prevent the cuttings from drying up. While planting, the cuttings should be planted either upright or with only a very slight tilt.

In places where compost or cattle manure is not available, it is highly risky to resort to direct planting of cuttings. Under such conditions, it will be found necessary to raise rooted plants, in nurseries and transplant 2-3 months old rooted plants with about 3’ growth and a stem thickness of about 10 mm in the main field. While transplanting nursery raised plants, it is important to see that the original cutting from which the plants have grown are buried deep in the soil atleast one to two inch below ground level and the soil around pressed hard as in the case of planting cuttings. This ensures better anchoring of the plants.

In all the new plantings with either cuttings or nursery raised plants, it should be so timed that there is 1-2 months of rainfall following the planting operation, particularly in the case of rainfed mulberry.

Spacing :
In the case of rainfed mulberry gardens, the aim should be to raise mulberry plant with a sturdier frame so that it is able to withstand prevailing drought conditions, better. Therefore, the spacing should be atleast 3’ x 3’ (0.9 m x 0.9 m) as is being currently practiced. When cuttings are planted in the pits prepared for the purpose, they should be planted in threes at a spacing of 6” (15 cm) from each other, forming an equilateral triangle. When nursery raised rooted plants are transplanted, they may be planted as single plants.

In the case of irrigated qualitative mulberry, the overall advantage in raising mulberry for both quantitative and qualitative harvest is in favour of planting mulberry with a spacing of 2’ (0.6 m)d between the rows and 9-10’ (23-25 cm) within the row. This slightly wider spacing as compared to the existing Kolar system of row cultivation helps to produce better quality leaves from the point of view of silkworm rearing. In the case of irrigated gardens, where the practice of leaf picking instead of whole shoot harvest is followed, it would be found necessary to adopt a wider spacing namely 2’ x 2’ (0.6 m x 0.6 m). Upto 3’ x 3’ (0.9 m x 0.9 m) is also practiced sometimes, but in this case, the plants tend to become almost small trees and present problems of harvest.

Variety of mulberry :
An improved selection namely K2, also referred to as M5 is a superior variety evolved by the Institute, which is a vigorous strain responding well to manuring and capable of giving about 25% more leaf yield. This variety thrives well both under dry as well as irrigated conditions. Quality wise also, it is superior to the local variety of mulberry and, therefore, could be used with great advantage.

Manuring :
As pointed out earlier, application of a basal dose of organic manure like compost or cattle manure is necessary for successful establishment of the garden. Thereafter, the young growing plants should be assisted to put forth vigourous and maximum growth through periodical fertilizer applications.

In the case of the rainfed garden, which is planted in June-July during the South-West monsoon season, the mulberry will receive sufficient rains from both the monsoons and this fact should be taken full advantage of, to achieve maximum growth and build up a huge sturdy frame so that the plant may stand the following drought months, from January to April, very well. This is achieved by applying two doses of nitrogenous fertilizers such as Ammonium sulphate or Urea at the rate of 25 kg of N/ha for the first application after 2 to 3 months of growth and again, another 40 kg of N/ha as the second dose after an interval of another three months. This should enable the plants to reach a growth of about 2 mtrs in about 6 to 8 months time.

In the case of irrigated mulberry, where the plants will grow vigorously due to assured irrigation, the first dose of nitrogenous fertilizer should be given after 2 months of planting at the rate of about 40 kg N/ha. In another 2 to 2and half months the plants would be ready for first harvest of leaves. Thereafter, the normal fertilizer application programme (described later) could be resorted to.

Weeding and inter-cultivation :
During the initial stage of plant establishment in the field, weed growth should be kept to the minimum, so that the growing young plants are not smothered by the weeds. Atleast two weedings should be carried out during the first six months after planting of cuttings, once after two months of planting and again after an interval of 2 to 3 months. The weeding operation should be thorough and the soil should be dug deep to remove the weeds with roots. This deep digging is carried out as part of the weeding operation and results in necessary loosening of the soil and a stimulation to the plants to grow vigorously. Thus special care should be taken to reduce the weed growth as much as possible in the first year of planting. Thereafter, the shade effect of the fully grown mulberry will tend to keep the weeds down. Similarly, periodical inter-cultivation should be resorted to particularly in the case of dry mulberry gardens during the first year so that soil loosening results in better aeration and stimulation of plant growth. This also helps in catching the rain water and its deep penetration for better retention of soil moisture.

Maintenance of the mulberry gardens after the initial establishment :
During the first year, all attention should be concentrated on establishing the mulberry field properly as indicated above. One should not be in a haste to take early leaf harvests before the plants attain full growth. In the case of mulberry under rainfed conditions, it will take ten to twelve months before first pruning is resorted to and systematic cultivation is taken up. On the other hand, in about six months’ time, the plants will reach full growth under the irrigated conditions and thereafter, systematic cultivation can be taken up. These are described below:

Rainfed mulberry :
As mentioned earlier, mulberry planted in June-July will be ready for first pruning in June of the following year. Prior to that, two small harvests may be taken, once sometime in November-December and again in April-May. The harvests should be light and made by picking only mature leaves, leaving major part of the growing branch intact covered with leaves.

Pruning :
For maintaining mulberry in a state of vigorous growth and also for obtaining good quality leaves, periodic pruning is necessary. Pruning should also take into consideration the growth attained by the plants; normally the growth should be more than 2 mtrs in height and stem or branch girth not less than 23 mm at the bottom.

Rainfed mulberry should receive one annual bottom pruning in June coinciding with the receipt of the South-West monsoon rains. It is carried out by cutting the plants at height of 3” to 4” (8-10 cm) above the ground level with a sharp pruning knife or saw, in such a way that clean cuts are made without splitting the stem or branches. The system of guddali pruning currently practiced is too drastic and cuts into the root zone which leads to reduced branching and gradually to even ultimate mortality of plants. Therefore, such a practice should be given up and pruning carried out as indicated above.

Weeding and inter-cultivations:
Normally within a week of pruning, weeding and inter-cultivation should be carried out by ploughing or using a harrow. The weeds around the plants which are not generally removed by ploughing or harrowing are removed by weeding manually. This operation stimulates growth of plants and also assists in providing necessary tilth and deep penetration of rain water in the soil, resulting in better conservation and utilization of the soil moisture. In all, upto four weeding and inter-cultivation operations should be carried out in June, October, January and April.

Manuring :
The present low yields of leafy under rainfed mulberry are mainly due to poor rainfall and lack of or inadequate application of manures or fertilizers. Even under the limitations of scanty rainfall prevalent in South India, scope exists to improve leaf yields through optimum manuring of the fields. Therefore, manure should be applied in the form of both bulk organic manure like compost or cattle manure and chemical fertilizers.

Organic manure should be applied at the rate of ten tons per hectare, immediately after pruning and inter-cultivation, and thoroughly incorporated in the soil. This should be carried out systematically once in the year so that the organic content in the soil is improved and as a result, the fertilizer application is more effectively utilized. Alternatively, where organic manure is not available, a green manure crop like sun hemp can be raised annually during the rainy seasons and incorporated into the soil to serve the same purpose.

In addition to bulk organic manure, chemical fertilizers should also be applied at the rate of 100 kg N, 50 kg P and 50 kg K per hectare per annum, which may be applied in two equal split doses. The firs dose should be applied sometime in late August, i.e., 6-8 weeks after the application of the organic manure and the second dose sometime in late November during the North-East monsoon rains. The first dose may be in the form of complex manure like 15:5:15 or 17:17:17. About 300 kg or 6 bags of 17:17:17 will be required to meet the requirements of the first dose of 50 kg N, 50 kg P and 50 kg K. The second dose maybe given as 50 kg N only which is available in 250 kg or 5 bags of Ammonium sulphate or about 100 kg or 2 bags of Urea.

While applying the fertilizers, it should be spread close to the plant in either sides along the row. After application, the fertilizer should be incorporated well into the soil by digging with spade or forking in with a digging fork for good results. This is very important operation, as otherwise, the fertilizer would be wasted and would not be effectively utilized by the plant.

Harvesting of leaves :
Leaf harvest commences after about ten weeks from the time of pruning in June and up to six harvests can be taken during the year at an interval of roughly 7-8 weeks in between harvests. The quantum of harvests will depend on the precipitation received in the different seasons, being more during rainy seasons (more than 2/3rd of the total harvest) from August to December during the first three harvests and comparatively poorer during the drought months from January to May, except the Mungaru/Mansoon season when pre-monsoon showers are received resulting in a slightly improved harvest.

Picking of leaves should be carried out in time, that is to say, when the leaves are at the correct stage of maturity for harvest. Otherwise, part of the leaves will become over mature coarse and suffer in quality from the point of view of nutritive value for the silkworms. Also part of the leaves may turn yellow, shed and be lost. Therefore, timely harvest, as the leaves reach the required stage of maturity, will lead to fuller harvest of the available leaves without wastage, and realization of maximum yield.

It is also important to stress here that while harvesting, the terminal buds of branches should not be picked but allowed to grow till the plant reaches its full frame of growth upto about 6’ or so. Thereafter, the tips of the branches may be picked so as to encourage the formation of secondary branches. Unfortunately, the current practice is to strip the entire branch from top to bottom at every harvest which results in serious set back to the growing plant. This is also one of the main factors responsible for reduced harvests in the case of rain fed mulberry at present.

Have great ahead in doing sericulture.

1 Like

Many thanks Chandraji and Swamyji
I shall be highly grateful to know other plantations other then Mulburry.
G C Jagwani

Dear Sir,
Please do not escape by saying Many thanks Chandraji and Swamyji. But I required a valuable information for agriculture for us.
Your information may be related to marketing, processing, new product, crops what ever it may be needed for our our brother farmers from you for you having what you wanted now.

What other crops information you required sir?

Dear Swamyji
Actually by crop, I wanted to know what feed other then Mulberry is feeded to Silk Worms.
Sericulture is low cost project and additional cash is generated,many marginal farmers can benefit from it, the cocoons are sold in cash and rates are as per the quality of the cocoons.
I will be glad if you throw some light on the followings.
Oak tasar silk worms
Muga silk worms 
Eri silk worms
Tropical tasar silk worms
Are all  feeded with Mulbberry ?
With regards
G C Jagwani

Dear Swamy, can you please post a link to the original source too so we are covered from a copyright perspective.