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Mulberry Cultivation
In India, silk is a way of life. Over thousands of years, it has become an
inseparable part of Indian culture and its royal tradition.
No ritual is complete without silk being used as a wear in some form or the
other. Because of its unique softness and luster, silk is highly valued by the
fashion industry. It has established a benchmark of luxury and wealth.
Mulberry cultivation
Mulberry is a hardy plant capable of thriving under a variety of agro climatic
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 up to 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
It is these aspects that should be properly appreciated and accordingly, every
effort made to step up the leaf yield as indicated in this session.
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 sloppy 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
Since, mulberry is a deep rooted plant; the soil should be sufficiently deep up
to about two feet in depth. In respect of elevation, mulberry thrives well up to
about 4,000 feet, above growth will be retarded because of the cooler
Mulberry, Morus spp. is believed to be a native of the lower slopes of the
Himalayas either in India or China.
Towards the year 2800 BC, Chin-Nong, one of the successors of Emperor FoHi taught cultivation of mulberry in China. Mulberry is cultivated in 29
Varieties of mulberry
There are about 68 species of the genus Morus. The majority of these species
occur in Asia, especially in China (24 species) and Japan (19). Continental
America is also rich in its Morus species.
The genus is poorly represented in Africa, Europe and the Near East, and it is
not present in Australia.
In India, there are many species of Morus, of which Morus Alba, M.
Indica. M. Serrata and M. Laevigata grow wild in the Himalayas. Several
varieties have been introduced belonging to M. Multicaulis, M. Nigra, M.
Sinensis and M. Philippinensis. Most of the Indian varieties of mulberry belong
to M. Indica.
In China there are 15 species, of which four species, Morus Alba, M.
Multicaulis, M. Atropurpurea and M. Mizuho are cultivated for sericulture. In
the former Soviet Union M. Multicaulis, M. Alba, M. Tatarica and M. Nigra are
Though mulberry cultivation is practised in various climates, the major area is
in the tropical zone covering Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu
states, with about 90 percent.
In the sub-tropical zone, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and the north
eastern states have major areas under mulberry cultivation.
There is no unanimity in the classification of the genus “Morus” into species.
There are four common species of the genus that occur throughout India.
 Morus alba
 Morus nigra
 Morus latifolia
 Morus laevigata
Apart from these,
 Morus indica and
 Morus serrata also grow in the Himalayan ranges.
The mulberry varieties that are suitable to be grown in South India are:
 Kanva-2, S-13 and S-34 varieties are recommended for rainfed (rainfall:
500-800 mm) regions of South India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and
Tamil Nadu).
 Kanva-2. Belongs to Morus indica. Diploid. Widely cultivated in Southern
India. Selection from natural population of Mysore local variety.
Inflorescence and sorosis: female, profuse flowering, many sorosis.
Production characteristics: medium leaf maturity, yields about 30 to 35
tonnes/ha/year under irrigated conditions. Leaf moisture content 70 percent,
protein content 21 percent and sugar content 11.5 percent.
High rooting ability (80 percent) and wide adaptability. Resistant to leaf spot.
Moderately resistant to leaf rust and powdery mildew.
S-13. Belongs to M. indica. Selection from open pollinated hybrids of
Kanva-2. Recommended for rainfed areas of South India during 1990.
Inflorescence: male, profuse flowering. Production characteristics: yields 8-12
tonnes/ha/year under rainfed conditions, depending on rainfall.
Moisture content 70.6 percent protein content 24.3 percent and sugar content
13.8 percent. Resistant to leaf spot and powdery mildew, moderately resistant
to leaf rust infestation.
S-34. Belongs to M. indica Diploid. Selection from progeny of S30 x Berc
776. Recommended during 1990 for rainfed areas with black cotton soils
of South India. Inflorescence and sorosis: male, profuse flowering,
occasionally few soroses. Production characteristics: under rainfed
conditions, yields about 15 tonnes/hectare/year.
Moisture content 70 percent, crude protein content 23.7 percent. Soluble
sugar content 13.2 percent.
Resistant to powdery mildew and leaf rust. Moderately resistant to leaf spot
and susceptible to tick infestation.
Morphology of mulberry plant
Mulberry belongs to the Family Moraceae. The characteristic feature of this
family is the presence of idioblasts.
Mulberry is a deep rooted perennial plant with highly branching root and shoot
systems with primary, secondary and tertiary branches. Normally it grows into
a tree, but in cultivation, it is raised as a middling or bush by pruning.
The colour of the bark of the stem varies from green, grey to pink or brown
and has a number of lenticels which are important for classification purposes.
Each node bears a bud and two accessory buds. These axillary buds are
green at first and turn to brown later on. These are two types of budsvegetative and reproductive.
Vegetative buds give rise to vegetative parts of the plants like leaves and
branches. Reproductive buds give rise to the male and female inflorescence
in addition to leaves.
The leaves are simple alternate, stipulate and petiolate. They may be entire or
lobed but rarely both types are found in the same plant. Leaf may be glossy or
scabrous in texture.
Leaf tip (apex) may be long caudate (tailed), caudate or acute. Leaf margin
may be acute or crenate or serrate or dentate. The base may be straight,
shallow, deep or overlapping.
The inflorescence is a catkin or spike. Flowers are unisexual. Trees may be
monoecious or dioecious. The male catkin is usually longer than the female
A male flower has four perianths and four stamens. The stamen is composed
of anther and filaments.
The female flower has a pistil and four perianths. The pistil is composed of
stigma, style and ovary. After pollination and fertilization the entire
inflorescence becomes a multiple or aggregate fruit.
The common mulberry is a handsome deciduous tree, 10-25 m tall, of rugged,
picturesque appearance, forming a dense, spreading head of branches
usually wider than the height of the tree, springing from a short, rough trunk.
The form of the tree can vary from pyramidal to drooping. The simple,
alternate, stipulate, petiolate, light green leaves are cordate at their base but
very variable in form, even on the same tree; some are un-lobed while others
may be almost palmate.
Flowers are unisexual, borne in the axils of leaves or on spurs on separate
spikes, or catkins, which are small, more or less cylindrical and trees may
be monoecious or dioecious. Fruits are collective, fleshy, white, lavender,
deep red to black.
Importance of different morphological characters influencing leaf yield are:
1. Inter-nodal length: As the inter-nodal length increases, yield decreases.
2. Leaf area and lobation: As the leaf area increases, yield increases.
3. Lobation: Lobation and yield are negatively correlated.
4. Specific leaf weight: Leaf weight per unit area is positively correlated with
5. Leaf shoot ratio: Normally the leaf: shoot ratio will be 40: 60.The weight of
leaves should be higher and that of shoot should be lower.
6. No. of branches per plant: More number of branches will result in higher
Genotypes in mulberry
Although the Sericulturists in hilly area are successful in obtaining quality
mulberry leaf, harvests are often inconsistent and untimely, rarely reaching
the expected potential.
The stability of leaf yield in mulberry across a range of environments is
important, but to attain it is a challenge to breeders.
It refers to the genetic buffering capacity of a genotype to environmental
fluctuation. In other words, it is the ability of a genotype to withstand
environmental fluctuation.
High buffering ability indicates consistent performance of a genotype or
population across a wide range of environments. A more homeostatic
genotype is one that shows less variation in phenotypic values under different
Phenotypic variation is a composite of three variables, viz., genetic,
environmental and genotype x environmental interactions. If all the genotypes
respond similarly to all the environments tested, their relative performance in
other environments may be predicted with some confidence.
A genotype x environment (g x e) interaction exists where the relative
performance of varieties changes from environment to environment.
The g x e interaction is a major problem in getting a reliable estimate of
heritability and it makes it difficult to predict the rate of genetic progress under
selection for given characters with greater accuracy.
A perfectly stable mulberry genotype will not change its performance from
environment to environment.
Perfectly stable genotypes probably do not exist and plant breeders have to
be satisfied with obtainable levels of stability. Genotype stability mainly
depends on the interaction between genotype and environments.
The performance of the genotypes differs in various environments, due to
genotype-by-environment interactions. Such a differential response to
different environments makes it difficult for breeders to decide which genotype
should be selected.
Hence, genotype, possessing less amount of interaction with varying
environments is to be identified. Further, stability of yield is the expression of
consistency of the yield components.
The response of yield components to various environmental conditions is
particularly important for determination of their stability. The evolution of such
stable cultivars will be based on genotypes, which have high stability for one
or more qualitative and quantitative traits.
Ecological requirements for mulberry cultivation
These ecological requirements include climate, rainfall and soil and
Climate: The optimum elevation for mulberry growth is about 700 m above
MSL. For cultivation purposes, an elevation of 300 to 900 m above MSL is the
optimum range. The ideal temperature is 24 to 28oC and relative humidity is
65 to 80%; Sunshine duration 5 to 12 hours per day. Mulberry cannot sprout
below 13oC or above 38oC.
Rainfall: A rainfall range from 600 m to 2500 mm per year is considered
ideal. During the growth period, mulberry requires about 280 – 400 ml of
water to synthesize one gram of dry matter.
Soil: As mulberry is a perennial, deep -rooted plant, soil structure must be
sufficiently porous to supply air and water to the root zone. Soil should be
deep, fertile, porous, well drained and with good water holding capacity.
Loamy, clayey- loamy or sandy - loamy soils are the best. Slightly acidic soils
(6.2 to 6.8pH) free from injurious salts are ideal.
The quantity of gypsum or lime to be applied in different cases to bring the pH
to 6.8 is given below:
pH range
7.4 to 7.8
7.9 to 8.4
8.5 to 9.0
9.1 and above
2.0 tonnes
5.0 tonnes
9.0 tonnes
14.0 tonnes
pH range Lime/ha
5.5 to 6.5 1.25 tonnes
2.50 tonnes
5.0 tonnes
7.5 tonnes
Hilly areas
2.5 tonnes
5.0 tonnes
7.5 tonnes
8.75 tonnes
Soil type
Sandy loamy
Clay loamy
The powdered gypsum/lime is mixed well with garden of soil and irrigated to
stagnation for 48-72 hours. Later the water is leached out by drainage and
dried (suitable for ploughing and intercultivation operations).
Mulberries grow better in a well-drained neutral soil, preferably a deep loam.
Shallow soils such as those frequently found on chalk or gravel are not
The white mulberry, and to a lesser extent the red mulberry, are quite tolerant
of drought, pollution and poor soil. The white mulberry is considered a weed
in many parts of the country including urban areas.
The black mulberry is more fastidious, faring less well in cold climates or
areas with humid summers.
Temperature: Mulberry grows well in temperate areas but loses its leaves in
the winter. The white mulberry is the coldest hardy of the three species,
although this varies from one clone to another. Some are damaged at 25° F,
while others are unfazed at -25° F.
Red mulberries are hardy to sub-zero temperatures. The black mulberry is
the least cold hardy of the three, although again cold tolerance seems to
depend on the clone. In general it is limited to USDA Hardiness Zone 7 (0°10° F average minimum) or warmer.
In the tropics it grows all year around. Mulberries require full sun for good
production. Maximum yields in Costa Rica have been obtained in areas with
plenty of sunlight.
Establishment of mulberry under rain-fed conditions
Spacing: The spacing commonly followed for a rainfed garden is 90 x 90 cm
Pits of 35 x 35 cm are prepared. About 1 kg FYM/pit should be added.
Stakes and planting: Branches of 8-10 months old and about 50 mm in
diameter should be used for the preparation of stakes of 22-25 cm length with
five to six healthy buds.
Three stakes are planted per pit in a triangular form with spacing of 15 cm,
leaving only one bud exposed above soil surface. If planting is done with
saplings, then one sapling is sufficient perpit. Planting should be done during
June/July after the onset of the monsoon.
Intercultivation: During the first year, intercultivation should be done
manually. Once mulberry plants are established, bullock ploughing is carried
Fertilization: 50N:25P:25K (kg/ha/year) in two doses. First dose: suphala
(15:15:15) 167 kg, after 2 months of planting. Second dose: urea 55 kg or
cam (100 kg) or ammonium sulfonate (125 kg), at end of September or early
October before cessation of monsoon rains.
Pruning and leaf harvest: The first crop should be harvested six months
after plantation when the mulberry is well established. Two more crops are
harvested during the first year by the leaf picking method.
Mulberry should be pruned after one year at the onset of the next monsoon.
Pruning is done by sharp sickle or pruning saw at a height of 25-30 cm from
the ground.
Green manuring and mulching: Green manure crops can be grown as an
intercrop with mulberry during the monsoon only. Green manure crops
(cowpea, horse gram, dhaincha) should be incorporated into soil by ploughing
before the flowering starts and well before the rains cease.
Subsequently, plots may be mulched with any dry material or plants that will
not cause needs.
So, let’s know the maintenance of Mulberry under rainfed conditions (second
year onwards)
Recommended inputs (per ha per year) for gardens maintained under rainfed
conditions at spacing of 90 cm x 90 cm:
FYM or compost, 10 tonnes in a single dose at the onset of monsoon
Azotobacter biofertilizer, 4 kg/crop, twice a year (during rainy season)
VAM inoculum, 1 000 kg, once in mulberry lifespan (inoculation through
maize rootlets)
Suphala, 167 kg, first crop
Single super phosphate, 156 kg, first crop
Muriate of potash, 42 kg, first crop
Urea (55 kg) or cam (100 kg), third crop
Green manuring, 15 kg
Crops such as horse gram, cowpea, sun hemp and dhaincha should be
incorporated into the soil by ploughing before flowering and cessation of the
Leaf harvest: Individual leaf harvesting should be carried out. The expected
yield (tones/ha/year) for different varieties is: Kanva-2, 10-12; S-13, 14-15; S34, 14-15.
Uses of Mulberry
Mulberry has wide uses. Let’s know about prominent uses of them.
Mulberry leaves have been the traditional feed for the silk worm.
There is evidence that sericulture started about 5,000 years ago and hence
the domestication of mulberry.
The main use of mulberry globally is as feed for the silk worm, but depending
on the location, it is also appreciated for its fruit (consumed fresh, in juice or
as preserves), as a delicious vegetable (young leaves and stems), for its
medicinal properties in infusions (mulberry leaf tea), for landscaping and as
animal feed.
There are several places where mulberry is utilised traditionally as a feed in
mixed forage diets
The berries, called sorosis have been used in traditional fabric dyeing. Purple
and red are common colours produced with mulberry. It is traditionally used
to dye wool.
Mulberry is well suited for use as a fodder where it can be grown
opportunistically around house-compounds, on spare pieces of land and
along field edges.
Integration of fish, livestock, and crop production in China has been refined for
over 2,000 years.
The system recycles resources, reduces organic pollution (livestock and
poultry manure are good organic fertilizers for fish farming), and combines fish
farming with mulberry cultivation for raising silkworms.
The silkworm pupae are used as fish feed, and the worm faeces and
wastewater from silk processing as pond fertilizers.
Pond silt is used as fertilizer for fodder crops, which can in turn be used to
feed livestock, poultry, and fish.
In this session, we discussed about the mulberry, its varieties and
morphology. We also discussed about the proper genotypes and the various
ecological requirement of its growth.
Finally, we cited the uses of Mulberry. To summarize, Mulberry is a fast
growing deciduous woody perennial plant. It has a deep root system. The
leaves are simple, alternate, stipulate, petiolate, entire or lobed.
The number of lobes varies from one to five. Plants are generally dioecious.
Inflorescence is catkin with pendent or drooping peduncle bearing unisexual
flowers. Inflorescence is always auxiliary. Male catkins are usually longer than
the female catkins.
Male flowers are loosely arranged and after shedding the pollen, the
inflorescence dries and falls off. These are four persistent perianth lobes and
four stamens implexed in bud.
Female inflorescence is usually short and the flowers are very compactly
arranged. There are four persistent perianth lobes. The ovary is one-celled
and the stigma is bifid.
The chief pollinating agent in mulberry is wind. Mulberry fruit is a sorosis,
mainly violet black in colour.
Most of the species of the genus Morus and cultivated varieties are diploid,
with 28 chromosomes. However, triploids (2n= (3x) =42) are also extensively
cultivated for their adaptability, vigorous growth and quality of leaves.
Mulberry is widely used traditional folk remedy, used for "aphtha, armache,
asthma, bronchitis, bugbite, cachexia, cold, constipation, cough, debility,
diarrhoea, dropsy, dyspepsia, oedema, epilepsy, fever, headache,
hyperglycaemia, hypertension, inflammation, insomnia, melancholy,
menorrhagia, snakebite, sore throat, stomatitis, tumours, vertigo, and
Mulberry twigs are used for making baskets, the sticks as beanpoles, and the
wood for fuelwood, sporting goods (it's springy, like ash) and fine furniture.
In Japan, the traditional "chashaku" green tea scoop used in semi-formal tea
ceremonies is made of mulberry wood. If it's not mulberry then it's only an
informal one. (Formal chashaku are supposed to be ivory.)