Pepper and Pepper Research in Sarawak
Pepper, the world's most widely used spice for food flavouring, is the fruit of the tropical climbing vine Piper nigrum L., native to south-western India. In Sarawak, pepper cultivation dates back to 1856 but more extensive planting started in the 1900s.
Today, pepper is one of the important cash crops supporting the livelihood of about 67,000 rural dwellers in upland areas of Sarawak. Holdings are small, averaging 0.2 ha. they concentrate in certain Districts of Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Betong and Sarikei Divisions. The present estimated planted area is about 13,000 ha.
Sarawak exported about 19,748 tonnes of pepper in 2004 and 18,824 tonnes in 2003, valued at RM 113.2 million and RM 120.0 million respectively. Nearly 98% of Malaysian pepper is produced in Sarawak. Currently, Malaysia ranks No. 5 after Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and Brazil in terms of pepper production. The production in 2004 was about 20,000 tonnes.
Export Forms of Pepper
About 95 % of the pepper traded globally is in the form of black and white peppercorns. The remaining 5% is made up of pepper oleoresin, pepper oil, green pepper and ground pepper.
The Pepper Plant
Pepper vines thrive in warm and wet tropical climate. They are normally grown from stem cuttings, rarely from seeds. The root system is developed from adventitious roots formed at nodes that are buried in the soil at planting. As the vegetative (orthotropic) shoot climbs upward, a simple leaf is produced at each node. A bunch of short adventitious roots also develops to help the shoot cling to the support. At each node an axillary bud grows into a lateral branch (plagiotropic) which eventually bears the fruit spikes.
Flower spikes originate at the node opposite each leaf. Most cultivars have bisexual flowers that are usually self-pollinated. The fruit is a berry, pale green and soft in the early stage, but turns dark green and hard as it matures. The outer skin (exocarp) becomes yellow and bright red and becomes soft as it ripens. Each berry contains a single seed enclosed by a pulpy mesocarp. The commercial black peppercorn is the entire dried berry whereas the white peppercorn is the seed.
Peppercorn owes its pungency to the presence of the alkaloids piperine, chavicine and piperettine. Volatile essential oils give rise to the typical aroma. Together, these compounds constitute the oleoresin that can be recovered by solvent extraction. The spiciness and pungency are influenced by varieties and also the growing locale.
Many cultivars exist in India, the centre of origin of pepper. In Sarawakaccessions of P. nigrum and 46 accessions of other Piper species. These materials are used in the pepper improvement programme., the most widely grown cultivar is 'Kuching' . Through research, two cultivars, 'Semongok perak' and 'Semongok emas', have been released to farmers. At ARC Semongok.
Original article from:
Depertment of Agriculture