Botanical Name: Ber (Zizyphus mauritiana L),

Family: Rhamnaceae. Ber has been a popular fruit of the rural India.

In Punjab it has specific sanctity since some ber plants, i.e., ‘Baba Budha Ber’, ‘Dukhbhanjni ber’ are still alive in Golden Temple at Amritsar. It is not fastidious to its soil and climatic requirements, hence, is grown throughout India. Ber is known as poor man’s fruit due to its wide cultivation. However, with the selection of high yielding cultivars with good quality fruits, it has become a commercial crop of Punjab and adjoining areas. Due to its hardy nature and low requirements for water during summer it is being cultivated in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on a large scale. In Punjab its cultivation is being taken up in the districts of Sangrur, Mansa, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Patiala and Roop Nagar. Ber is a rich source of vitamin C, proteins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus and iron. Ber is commonly known as poor man’s apple, owing to its nutritional value.


Ber has been mentioned in ancient Sanskrit literature, it is said to be originated in India and China area.

((Area and Production))

India is the largest producer of ber. In Punjab ber has been planted on 2500 hectares, with annual production of 42847 MT.


Ber fruit contain 13 to 20 percent TSS and 0.2 to 1.0 percent acidity. It contains Vitamin C (120 mg l00g of pulp), protein (0.94%), calcium (0.03%), and phosphorus (0.036%), iron (1.14%), p-carotene (Vit. A) 80 ug/l00g pulp also contain about 5.50% sucrose, 1.50 glucose and 2.0% fructose sugars. Ber trees are used for rearing lac insect, the leaves along with tender shoots are used as fodder, wood is used as fuel and for medicinal purposes. ‘Ber fruit is usually eaten fresh. It can be used for the preparation of murabba, candy and chutney. Squash or nectar can be prepared from the pulp. The fruits of wild varieties particularly malah ber (Z. numularia) are dried in sun and are sold during off season.


Ber (Zizyphus mauritiana) belong to family Rhamnaceae. The tree is summer dormant. Usually a thorny shrub or a medium tree with 8-10 meter height. Leaves are alternate, simple, obtuse and broadly oval. Inflorescence axillary Cyme . Flowers bisexual and pentamerous. Ovary superior. Fruit is a drupe, may have greenish yellow to golden yellow colour of the epicarp edible portion is epicarp and mesocarp. Hard endocarp contain the seed. The Chinese jujube (Zizyphus jujube Mill.) and mallah ber (Z. numularia Burm F) along with Z.mistol and Z.xylopyrus are other species of importance.


It is a very hardy fruit tree and perform well under adverse climate and poor soil conditions. It can successfully be grown in tropical and sub-tropical climate. Deep sandy to sandy loams are best suited for ber cultivation. However, good ber orchards are found in clay loam and somewhat alkaline soils too. The only requirement is assured irrigation during fruit development, i.e., November to March. Frost damage the fruits but not the trees.


((Umran)) Trees are spreading and vigorous. Fruit is large and oval with round apex. Colour of fruit yellow to golden yellow when fully ripened. Over ripened fruits turn chocolate brown. Pulp sweet with .15 to 19 percent TSS. Fruit ripens in second fortnight of March. Tree is heavy yielder (150-200 kg). Fruits have very good keeping quality. Susceptible to powdery midew disease.


This is one of the selections made from village Sanour in district Patiala. The tree is spreading and less vigorous than umran. TSS of pulp is 15-18 percent. Fruit ripens in second fortnight of March. Average) deld 150 kg/tree. It is resistant to powdery mildew, disease and can be cultivated in humid areas.


The cultivar is selection from kaithal in Haryana. The trees are erect growing and vigorous than Sanour-2. Fruit is medium in size oblong in shape with a pointed apex. The colour of the fruit at ripening becomes greenish yellow. Pulp is soft with 18% TSS. Fruit ripen in end March. Average yield per tree is 100 kg. This is excellent table purpose ber fruit but sometimes can be attacked by powdery mildew.

((Z.G. 2))

The trees are spreading with drooping branches. The fruit is medium in size and roundish in shape. Very soft to eat. The colour of the fruit become light green at ripening. The pulp have excellent blend of acidity with TSS 13-15%. It ripens in end March. Average yield 150 kg per tree. Less susceptible to powdery mildew disease.


Tree is semi-erect growing and vigorous growing. Fruit size medium to large and oval in shape. Epicarp light golden yellow in colour at ripening. Pulp soft and sweet with 15% TSS. It is an early ripening cultivar and ripens in March, Average yield 100kg per tree. It is also susceptible to powdery mildew. New ber varieties released are Goma Kirti, Thar Bhubharaj, Thar Sevika (Seb x Katha).


Normally nursery men use the desi type of ber (Katha ber) stones for raising of the seedlings as the root stock but trials at Punjab Agricultural University with respect to rootstock have shown that ber should be propagated on Zizyphus maurtiana Dehradun. or Coimbatore. It is difficult to get the stones of these strains locally therefore the stones maybe purchased from Deharadun initially. It is recommended that mother plants of these rootstocks should be raised locally and entire demand for rootstocks be met from mother plants.

Ber is a cross pollinated fruit crop therefore, raising of uniform seedlings is a difficult proposition. The seed germinate with difficulty. The stones are as hard as peach. The stones are collected from ripe ber fruits. There are to methods of sowing of the seeds for raising of the rootstock seedlings. In May sow the stones densely in a well prepared flat bed and cover the stones with sand + F.Y.M. mixture. Continue to apply irrigation to keep the bed moist. After 40-45 days of sowing, when the stones start splitting and plumules emerge. Pick up the seedlings at 2 to 4 leaf stage and carefully plant in lines in the nursery field. Apply water with a spray pump or sprinkler soon after the planting of seedings. This is a sure method of raising rootstock seedlings without any gap. In May seeds can be directly sown in lines at 30 cm apart in the nursery field at a distance 10-15 from seed. Continue to apply irrigation at regular intervals. Weeding should be done once as soon as weeds emerge prior to the emerge, prior to the emergence of the seedling. When the seedlings become pencil thickness these are T-budded.


T-budding should be done during June to September at a height of 15 cm above the ground level. The lower most shoots/ sprouts emerging on the rootstock below the bud should be constantly removed after budding. After one month of budding. 50 percent of the tops may also be looped before removing the whole of top above the union points. The successful buds should be single stemmed soon after the sprouting.


The ber plants are normally lifted from the nursery along with whole of root system with sufficient soil during August to October for planting. The ber plants can also be planted bare rooted during December-January. For this whole root system is dug out carefully from ‘water’ soil. The plants are given a little pruning to remove 50 percent of the vegetative growth. Bare rooted plants should be healthy and have at least 60 cm of height. Defoliation of plants after lifting from nursery is useful in establishment of plants in the field. Before lifting the nursery plants, proper layout and digging/fillings of pits should be carried out. The layout may be done on square system of planting. To avoid attack of white ants the pits may applied 30g of lindane or 10 ml of chloropyriphos/liter of water per pit. Plants Should be placed in the centre of pits with the help of planting board. After planting, the sides of the earth ball/roots of bare rooted plants should be genteelly pressed from all sides by standing keeping one foot on either side. Irrigation may be applied immediately after planting to settle the soil firmly. The planting distance for ber is 7.5m x 7.5m. However, for heavy soils and vigorous cultivars the planting may be done at 8.0 x 80m apart thus one requires 169 to 144 plants per hectare accordingly.

On sandy soils the root stock is ‘T-budded in situ. This system is more successful than transplanting of budded plants in such a situation. Care of the Young Plants: The newly-planted plants should be irrigated frequently at an interval of 7-10 days depending upon the day temperature. The sprouts appearing on the trunk below the bud union should be regularly removed with sharp Secateurs. The young plants should be protected from the attack of insect pests.


Ber come into bearing within 2-3 years of planting in the orchard. The short juvenile period and vigorous growth of shoots compel the grower to provide proper training to the plants at an early stage to build a strong and viable scaffold system. It will be better to provide support to young plants to save breakage of bud union. The trunk should be kept straight. Remove the branches from ground level to 60-70cm of trunk height. Select 4-6 side branches on all directions at a sufficient distance (15-20 cm) from one another. The training should be completed within a year. In the second year top leader should be removed to keep an but growing lateral.


Ber bears on new years growth in the axil of leaves. Therefore, to get optimum growth every year regular pruning is essential. The pruning should be done after 15th May. Pruning improves growth of the tree and fruit quality. If left unpruned for a number of years the ber trees become unproductive and laggy. It has been seen that un-pruned trees may have 10 metres long scaffolds and very little foliage and bear fruit at the tops only. It is essential to remove about 30 percent of the past years growth. Remove all the dead, dried and broken twigs. To provide more sunshine remove some of the secondaries too.

Very severe pruning may be given after every 5-6 years of light pruning. For this remove 75 percent of the growth of secodaries and 50 percent of the major scaffolds. Apply Bordeaux paint on major cuts and Bordeaux paste on smaller cuts. While removing strong scaffolds or secondaries, care should be taken that bark should not get injured. Give a deep cut from down upward, then give cut from upper side coinciding the first cut.

((Top Working))

Inferior ‘katha’ ber trees can be top worked with superior cultivar. For this, head back the major limbs to keep 15 cm long stubs on one or two scaffolds. Remove rest of the mature wood judiciously during May. Many sprouts emerge on the stubs in July. T-budding should be done on 2-3 shoots on each stub. Remove rest of the sprouts. Continue to remove unwanted sprouts for a year. Save the sprouted buds from breakage by giving little pruning initially. The newly developed scaffold system from the sprouted buds come into bearing within two years.


The ber trees if left un-pruned for a number of years may become uneconomical. These trees produce little crop of small sized fruits. The trees also get infested with lac insect, powdery mildew etc. In such cases the trees can be rejuvenated. Remove the scaffolds with sharp saw by keeping 10-15 cm long stub. Keep only 4-6 stubs per trees during May. Select, out growing 2 sprouts on each stub during July-August same year. These sprouts grow very fast, hence, the pinching of tops should be done in August-September so that side branch my develop on these sprouts. Thus full grown tree is ready up to November- December of the same year. Give light pruning during May next year to get some fruit. Such trees can again yield heavy crops for another thirty years.


Age (Years)/ Farm Yard Manure (kg)/ Fertilizer Dose Urea (46% Ng/tree)/ 1/ 20/ 100/ 2/ 40/ 200/ 3/ 60/ 300/ 4/ 80/ 500/ Ber is summer dormant and pruning is done during summers. Therefore fertilization has to be done during rainy season. Apply whole farm yard manure just after removing the pruning wood in June. Urea should be split into two parts. One part should be applied in August and second part during November.


Water is life for every plant therefore, its use should be judiciously made to save water. No flooding should be carried out till plants cover whole of the space provided. First irrigation should be given in June after pruning for hoeing of the tree basins and for application of farm yard manure. No irrigation should be applied during rainy season. When there is drought apply irrigation after fruit set. Thereafter, give irrigation only at monthly interval up to February. Fruit start ripening from March onward and harvesting is almost complete in April under Punjab conditions. No irrigation should be given during and after fruit harvest.


Ber trees have short juvenile period. Plants come into bearing in the second or third year after planting. Therefore, deep ploughing by using discs harrow should not be done such a ploughing can damage most of the feeder root system. Give only light ploughing during June after removing pruning wood. Ber trees occupy most of the area due to their spreading nature therefore use of tractor in grown up trees should be avoided. The tree basins should be kept free of weeds by giving hoeing.


In the first 2-3 years of age, the plants occupy in little area and most of the land remain vacant. The vacant land should be judiciously used by growing compatible crops. No crop should be grown in kharif season since, it will need irrigation during dormancy of ber plants. Grow ‘rabi’ crops like wheat, gram, massar, barseem, sarson, toria, etc. For the first two years, later on grow only toria or winter vegetables so that the field is free during March-April for easy harvesting of the fruits. Exhaustive and tall growing crops like bajra or jawar should not be grown at all.


Most of the weeds remain under check due to summer dormant nature of the ber tree. However, perennial weeds like baru grass, dubh grass, parthenium and puthkanda, etc. do raise their head during growing period of trees. To check the perennial weeds, spray Round Up (glyphosate) @ 10ml/litre or Gramoxone @ 6ml/litre when the weeds have attained sufficient vegetative growth (20-30cm height). Gramoxone can be sprayed in tree basins also. Choose a clam day for the spray to avoid spray drift to the ber foliage.


Ber fruitfly is one of the important pests of ber, which is widely distributed throughout India. The infested fruits turn brown, rot and smell offensively. The pest can be controlled by spraying 3 to 4 times with Carbaryl 50 WP 0.2 per cent or Dimethoate 30 EC 0.03 per cent commencing from the attainment of fruits of the pea size. Among the diseases powdery mildew is very common on ber fruits. Small whitish spots appear on young fruits, which later enlarge and cover the entire fruit. The affected fruits either drop off or become corky, mis-shapen and under-developed.

Disease can be controlled by dusting with sulphur @ 150 to 200 g /tree and subsequent 3 dustings at an interval of 15-20 days. Alternaria leaf spot and Cercospora leaf spot also appears in the form of grey spots on leaves. Both these diseases are effectively controlled by spraying dithane M-45 (0.25%) or Foltart (0.1%) as soon as the disease appear. Subsequent 2 to 3 sprays be given at an interval of 15 to 20 days depending upon the intensity of the disease.

Harvesting and yield:

In Northern India, peak period of harvesting falls between February and April. While in Maharashtra harvesting extends from November to January. The fruits are harvested in 4 or 5 pickings since all the fruits on the tree do not mature at one time. The fruit picking is done by hand using a ladder. The fruits should be harvested at proper stage of maturity. The best index of the correct picking stage is the characteristic maturity color and softness of particular cultivar after the fruit has attained the full size. The fruit requires about 120 days to reach maturity. Under dryland (rainfall) conditions, on an average 60-80 kg fruits per tree per year can be harvested.

Under irrigated conditions yield will be 3-4 times higher. Control of Fruit Drop: Usually ber fruit does not drop physiologically, drop is normally due to pathological reasons. Sometime due to increase in atmospheric humidity and vegetative growth, there may be fruit drop in some ber cultivars in October-November. Single spray of 10-20 ppm Naphthalene acetic acid (NAA) one in mid- October shall be sufficient to control fruit drop.


Ber fruit matures differentially, depending upon the time of fruit set. Some cultivars mature earlier than other. Umran is late ripening cultivar but Gurgaon Gola ripens early. Near Delhi and Agra ber ripens in February-March where as in Punjab it ripen in March-April. Fruit should be picked up at right stage of maturity. It should be picked when it has acquired normal size and characteristic colour of the cultivar. For example Umran fruit develop golden yellow color at ripe stage. In all 4-5 pickings are usually done from mid March to mid-April in Punjab. No fruit should become over ripe on the tree, since the taste get deteriorated. For uniform and early ripening of ber fruit, one can spray at color break when some of the fruits on a tree have developed the color with 400 ppm of ethephon (250 ml of ethephon in 300 liters of water). Ethephon advances ripening of ber fruits.


((Grading and Packing of Fruits))

After harvesting of ber fruits, grading should be done. Remove the undersized miss-happened, cankered and wind damaged fruits. One can make 3-4 grades, i.e., A grade best fruits of large size,

B-grade-medium sized good coloured fruits,

C-grade small sized well coloured fruits and

D-grade poorly coloured fruits of all sizes and left outs.

The highest percentage of fruits falls in B-category followed by A grade. C and D grade may have just equal quantities. A and B grade fruits are preferred in the market as well as by the consumers. A B and C grade fruits should be packed in corrugated fiber Board (CFB) cartoons, wooden crates, plastic crates, polynets or baskets of convenient sizes. D-Grade may be marketed in gunny-bags.

((Shelf Life))

Umran fruits can be stored for three weeks in home refrigerator (7-8°C) in perforated polythene bags. The shelf- life of fruits can be enhanced up to 30 days if the fruits are treated with 6 percent wax-emulsion and packed in perforated polythene bags of 100 gauge thickness, before storing in the commercial cold storage (7-8°C) and 85-90 percent RH.