A tree of Indian ber
Other names: Jujube, Chinese date, Chinese fig,
Ber is an important minor fruit of India. It is the most
hardy fruit-tree cultivated all over India and is often called the poor
manís fruit. Most trees in India growing isolated are of seedling origin
and therefore bear poor quality and their fruit sells cheap.
However, during the last few decades, regular commercial plantations of budded trees have now come up all over India, and fetch quite good price.
These India varieties are not as rich in sugar and vitamin C as the good Chinese varieties. However, they contain 50 to 150mg of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) per 100 mg of fruit and 12 to 18.7 per cent sugar. This is even better than the vitamin C content of the juice of sweet oranges. The candied ber also makes an excellent product. These superior varieties of ber are no longer the poor manís fruit.
Ber tree is also used in India for rearing the insect Tachardia laccad, which yields lac (or shellac). The industry, however, received a setback after the gramophone industry started using discs of plastic instead of those made of lac.
About the botanical identity of the India ber,
there has been some confusion in the past. It belongs to the genus
Ziziphus of the family, Rhamnaceae, which is very close to the Family of
the grape, Vitaceae. Several species grow wild in
Flowering in Indian ber
The Indian ber has a spreading tree, vine-like branches, leaves
which are dark green on the upper surface and densely felted on the
lower surface, it flowers in autumn, bears fruits at the end of winter;
if it sheds the leaves it does so in the hot weather after fruiting and
does not like a cold climate. These characters are not found in the
Chinese species. The
Flowers of ber
The Chinese species is difficult to propagate and is generally
propagated by grafting, but the improved varieties of ber in
The ber can grow in almost any soil even under
conditions of neglect. Even under these conditions, some of the seedling
trees attain a height of over 20 metres. It can also grow in slightly
alkaline or water-logged soils.
Indian ber fruit large
Although ber is a very hardy tree, it does respond to good care. The commercial ber orchardists of India give 20 to 30 kg of farmyard manure to each tree.
Irrigation of the young trees during the hot weather, especially of the root-stock before budding, is very desirable. It hastens growth and makes budding easier and surer. No regular tillage is, however, given to plantation of ber.
Training of the young trees to give them a strong framework with
the main branches well spaced and arising not too high is important.
Some annual pruning of the old trees is necessary. It encourages the
growth of new shoots to increase bearing. Weak branches are removed.
Some authorities recommended pruning every other year. The pruning is
done after harvesting the fruit. Another light pruning can be given
pruning can be given shortly before flowering. Trees on Z. rotundifolia
root-stock are pruned severely and are cut back close of the bud-union.
Indian ber of a round fruited
In India, the fruit is harvested from November to March depending upon the region. The yield of the superior varieties varies from 40 to 90 kg per tree.
There are many varieties in different parts of
India. Narma and
Karaka are famous varieties
of Varanasi in U.P. Umran or
Umri is a large-fruited
variety with a good yield and a good keeping quality cultivated around
Delhi. Gola is very early,
round-fruited variety of excellent quality exclusive to
Kotho or Katha are from Alwar, Rajasthan and Meherun ber is from Jalgaon in Maharshta. Mehrun is said to be resistant to fruit flies which otherwise is a serious pest of ber. A seedless variety for ber was found in Poona, but it has not spread, probably due to the small size of the fruits.
Pest and diseases:
Birds attack the fruits of ber and are not easy to control. During the fruiting season, the ber trees are covered with fishing, nets in some places to protect them from birds.
The biggest menace to ber cultivation all over India, However, is the attack of fruit-flies, Carpomyia vesuviana. It makes the fruit unfit for sale. The flies may ruin upto over 90 percent of fruit. The attack on different varieties may vary form 2 to 100 per cent. The early varieties with large sweet fruits are attacked more. Burying the infested fruits, ploughing the soil under the trees and application of Chlorpyriphos dust (1.5%) followed by spraying 0.1 per cent Chlordane after October every year is able to check the attack.
The fruit-borer, Meridarchis scyrode, found in South India can be
checked with DDT. This treatment can also control Porthomologa paraclina,
which damages the leaves. Other insect found in
The only noteworthy disease of ber in India is the powdery mildew
caused by a species of Oidiopsis. It has been reported from western U.P.
and can cause shedding of fruits. It can be controlled with lime sulphur
wash or 0.1% Karathane spray. Other fungal diseases noticed in
Most information drawn from an article by:
Ranjit Singh and S.K. Saxena