Pearl Farming Information:
The following article provides basic information about freshwater pearl culture which can be used by some beginners who are interested in starting pearl farming. In fact, pearl cultivation is one of the problematic aquaculture businesses especially if you want to start from scratch. The main advantage of pearl farming or pearl culture is the high market value. Apart from this, the final product is lightweight and non-perishable. The best part of pearl farming is except for the grafting process, pearl culture is a relatively simple aquaculture business as pearls do not require artificial feeds (especially marine ones).
Pearl is considered a natural gem and is produced by a mollusk. Pearls are the most beautiful gems available to us and their stunningly aesthetic beauty is the reason why they are so popular around the world and these pearls are sold for a good price in the market. Where do these pearls come from? Well, while the natural pearls are found in seas shells whereas the cultured pearls are made when mussels are nucleated through surgery which initiates the pearl forming process.
When it comes to pearl formation, generally any shelled mollusk can produce some sort of a pearl, but those mollusks having pearl lining or nacre on the interior of the shell surface can produce shining (lustrous) pearls. How these pearls are formed? Well, an abnormal response to a foreign body in the normal biological processes that build up the shell in certain mollusks constituted the base for pearl culture operations. Actually, the mantle with its outer epithelial cells is the tissue responsible for producing pearl nacre. When an external stimulus (like accidental trapping of a hard foreign body) occurs in the outer epithelium of the mantle tissue, it leads foreign body resulting (producing) in a pearl. We can blindly say, the pearl is nothing but a calcium carbonate deposit within the soft tissue of the shelled oysters. However, the pearl formation process is different in freshwater pearl culture (cultured pearls). Usually, in freshwater pearl cultivation, mussels are nucleated through surgery which initiates the pearl forming process.
How long does it take to form pearls? It depends on the type of mussel and the formation of pearl can take a few months to several years.
The types of pearls include Natural pearls, cultured pearls, Japanese cultured pearls, freshwater cultured pearls, seawater/saltwater cultured pearls, Keshi pearls, and mabe pearls. Pearls are available in 8 basic shapes; round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque, circled, and double bouldered. However, Perfect round-shaped pearls are more valuable. When it comes to pearl production in the world, China tops the list.
The cultivation of pearl includes; Natural pearls, Seawater cultured pearls, and Freshwater cultured pearls. In the following content, we are discussing “Freshwater Pearl Culture”.
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Pearl Production Countries:
China, Japan, Australia, South seas, Vietnam, India, UAE, USA, Mexico, Fiji, Philippines, France, Myanmar, and Indonesia are some of the major pearl production countries.
Pearls in Indian Languages:
मोती/Motee/Moti (Hindi), Muthyalu (Telugu), മുത്തുകൾ/Muttukaḷ (Malayalam), ಮುತ್ತುಗಳು / Muttugaḷu (Kannada), முத்துக்கள்/ Muttukkaḷ (Tamil), મોતી/Mōtī (Gujarati), মুক্তো/Muktō (Bengali), and मोती/Mōtī (Marathi).
Implantation Methods in Pearl Farming Operations:
Generally, freshwater pearl operation methods depend on the surgery done in the internal structure of the mussel and the type of pearl is intended. A shell bead can be an essential input in the pearl culture operations and locally available inexpensive bio-compatible acrylic material can be employed as nuclei in freshwater pearl operations or production. Pearl mussels of the size 8 to 10 cm in shell length and weight of 50 grams and above are the best bet (ideal) for pearl farming.
Key Points to Consider before Starting a Pearl Farming:
Consider the following facts and key points before starting a pearl culture/farming.
- Pearl farming requires a long-term investment of time, money, and hard work to become successful in this field.
- For more profits, the Production of high-quality pearls is the key.
High-quality pearl production is only possible under certain ideal conditions.
- A reliable source of pearl oysters
- A suitable location/site
- Sufficient funds/investment to establish and operate the pearl farm
- Access to grafting technicians
- Ability to market pearls in the right way
If you are unable to meet any of the above criteria, it’s better to look for some other farming rather than taking the risk.
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Steps Involved in Freshwater Pearl Farming (Culture Practices):
There are 6 main steps involved in the freshwater pearl culture operations and these are discussed below.
- An Oyster or Mussels Collection in Pearl Farming: As part of this task, healthy mussels are collected from freshwater bodies such as rivers and ponds. These mussels should be collected manually and kept in containers/pots/buckets along with water. It is recommended to use above 8 cm in anterior-posterior length in freshwater pearl culture.
- Pre-culture (operative) Conditioning: After collecting the mussels or oysters, they should be prepared for pre-culture conditioning for 2-3 (2 or 3 days) days by keeping mussels in the crowded condition in captivity with aged tap water at a stocking density of 1 mussel/liter water. This Pre-culture conditioning helps in the easy handling of mussels during surgery.
- Implantation of Grafits and Nuclei/Mussel Surgery in Pearl Farming: This can be achieved in three ways depending on location.
- Mantle Cavity Implantation in Pearl Farming: Well, in this process, around about 4 to 6 mm diameter beads should be inserted into the mantle cavity region of the mussel after opening the 2 valves (Make sure the mussels are not injured at both ends during this stage) of species and separating carefully the mantles of anterior sides from the shell with the help of surgical set. Mantle Cavity Implantation can be done in mantle cavities of both valves.
- Mantle Tissue Implantation in Pearl Farming: In this process, the mussels should be divided into 2 groups as the donor mussel group and the recipient mussel group. As part of the procedure, one should prepare the graft which is a kind of small piece of mantle tissue. This can be done by preparing a mantle ribbon from a donor mussel group, and cutting that into small pieces of 2 mm x 2 mm. The implantation should be carried on recipient mussels, which are of 2 types as ‘non-nucleated & ‘nucleated’. In the former method, only the graft pieces are introduced into the pockets created at the inner side of the posterior pallial mantle whereas, in the nucleated method, a grafted piece followed by a small nucleus of 2 mm diameter is introduced in the pockets. In both cases, make sure that the graft or nucleus does not come out of the pocket. Implantation can be done at mantle ribbons of both valves.
- Gonadal Implantation in Pearl Farming: In this process, the preparation of grafts should be done as described in the mantle tissue method. First and foremost, a cut should be made at the edge of the gonad of the mussel. Then a graft should be inserted into the gonad followed by a nucleus of 2 to 4 mm diameter, to keep the nucleus and graft close contact. Make sure that the nucleus touches the outer epithelial layer of the graft and the intestine is not cut during the surgical procedure.
- Post-operative Care of Mussels in Pearl Farming: Implanted mussels should be kept in post-operative care units such as nylon bags for 10 to 11 days with antibiotic treatment and supply of natural feed/food. These units should be checked daily for any removal of dead mussels and the ones that reject the nucleus.
- Pond Culture in Freshwater Pearl Farming: After post-operative care, the implanted mussels should be stocked in the ponds. The mussels should be kept in nylon bags usually 2 mussels/bag and should be hung from bamboo sticks or PVC pipes and placed in ponds at 1-meter depth. The mussels should be cultured at a stocking density of 25,000 to 30,000/ha. The ponds should be fertilized with organic and inorganic fertilizer periodically to sustain the plankton productivity. Periodical examination of mussels should be carried out to remove dead ones and cleaning of bags should be carried out throughout the culture period of 12 to 20 months. When it comes to feeding mussels, they are usually fed with algae, cow dung, and groundnut.
- Harvest of Mussels and Pearls in Pearl Farming: At the end of the culture period, the mussels should be harvested. Individual pearls should be taken out from the mantle tissue or gonad of the live mussels. However, the mussels are sacrificed in the case of the mantle cavity method.
- The products obtained through different surgical implantation methods are;
- shell attached half-round and shell attached image pearls in mantle cavity method
- unattached small irregular or round pearls in mantle tissue method
- and unattached big irregular or round pearls in a gonadal method
Pearl Farming Training:
There are many people offering training in freshwater pearl cultivation in India. Check this for Pearl Cultivation Training In India.
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