Phalsa Farming (Falsa) – Cultivation In India

Introduction to Phalsa Farming, Cultivation Practices in India

Are you planning for Phalsa Phalsa Farming? Well, you are in the right place. (Grewia asiatica L.) belongs to the Tiliaceae family and it is an important minor fruit crop of India. It is a hardy and small bushy and preferred as an ideal crop for growing in arid and hot regions. Phalsa can be grown successfully on the slope of hills. Also, it is preferred for dry land horticulture and Silvi-horticulture. Phalsa is also known as Indian Sherbet Berry that goes with the botanical name Grewia asiatica tops the list of exotic fruits in our country. It is widely used in the preparation of sherbets; Phalsa is a powerhouse of vitamins, ample amounts of trace minerals, and is easily digestible.

Phalsa is a very hardy fruit, hence can be planted on marginal soils, where the rest of the fruits cannot be grown. It is one of the oldest fruits known to Indians. It is capable of growing under neglected and water scarcity conditions where only a few other plants would survive. Phalsa cultivation in India is more popular in the vicinity of cities/towns. Phalsa fruit is liked for its acidic taste, colored squash, and syrup. It is an exotic bush plant considered horticulturally as a small fruit crop but also used as folk medicine. Let us get into the details of growing Phalsa/Falsa fruits or commercial Phalsa Farming in India.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Phalsa Farming in India

Phalsa Plants
Guide to Phalsa Farming in India.

Area and Production of Phalsa

Phalsa is minor fruit and is being cultivated on a very small scale in each state. However, in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh Phalsa is cultivated near cities commercially. In Punjab area under Phalsa is only 30 hectares with an annual production of about 196 tonnes approximately.

Phalsa is found wildly growing in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, MP, West Bengal, and many parts of south India. The cultivation of Phalsa is limited to a small scale in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh. The total area under Phalsa is less than 1,000 hectares. The popularity of the Phalsa crop is restricted due to small fruit size, prolonged ripening period, repeated harvesting, and the highly perishable nature of fruits. The current statistics on the area and production of Phalsa fruit are not available. Apart from India Phalsa is cultivated in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, and experimental basis in some provinces of the United States of America.

The Phalsa is native to India and naturally grows and develops widely in South-East Asian tropical countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Thailand. Phalsa is a seasonal crop, with summer being the primary fruiting period. The fruits remain fresh only for a short while upon harvest and must be consumed promptly. Phalsa leaves are wide, oval-shaped, and deciduous, bearing orange-yellow flowers upon maturation. The ripe fruits have a dark purple to the black outer skin, with a fleshy lighter colored interior. Similar to grapes in appearance and taste, these Phalsa fruits are also drupes and present themselves in branched clusters, with a characteristic sweet and sour, tart-like taste.

Different Varieties of Phalsa

The tall-growing wild Phalsa plants bear acid fruits that are not relished. The dwarf, shrubby type plants, with a blend of sweet-and-acid in the best fruits, is cultivated.

There is no recognized variety of Phalsa crop, but there are local favorites for different growing regions. In the Hissar area of Haryana, two local varieties of Phalsa i.e. tall and short are grown. The dwarf Phalsa variety is more productive than a tall variety. The dwarf Phalsa variety has higher total sugar and non-reducing sugars while the tall variety has more reducing sugar. The seed protein of both is different. In the Kanpur area, two Phalsa varieties namely, Local and Sharbati are grown.

Availability of Phalsa in India

Phalsa shrubs grow in the Himalayan regions of India and thrive at elevations up to about 3,000 feet. The major areas in India cultivating the Phalsa fruit commercially are Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. On a local level, the Phalsa fruits also grow in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. Most farmers grow the Phalsa trees on the outskirts of the city wherever the land has loamy soils.

Phalsa is a summer fruit, and ready for picking in the south from March through April, and in the north, from May to June. The harvesting season itself is short, lasting only 3 weeks. There are other factors limiting Phalsa’s availability. That is the plant ripens unevenly, and each small fruit must be hand-picked and a laborious task. The yield per plant is low, offering roughly 11kg per tree.

Climate and Soil Requirement for Phalsa Farming

  • Phalsa plant prefers a hot and dry environment during fruiting. In the winter season, it goes dormant and shed its leaves. It resprouts in March. The high temperature of June helps in fruit ripening and it is not fastidious to its soil requirement. It can easily be grown on poor soils. Loam soils are considered best and it makes good growth under scanty irrigation conditions.
  • Phalsa relishes distinct winter and summer for the best crop growth, yield, and quality. In regions having no winter, the Phalsa plant does not shed leaves and produce flowers more than once, thus yielded poor quality fruits.
  • The Phalsa plants can tolerate temperatures as high as 44°C. A high-temperature level during fruit development favors the ripening of fruits.
  • Proper soil drainage is another factor that must be kept in mind. Though, soils where water stagnates for many days during the rainy season or those which have poor sub-surface drainage and are water-logged should not be selected for commercial cultivation of Phalsa.
  • The Phalsa planting flourishes well under variable climatic conditions requires protection from cold temperatures. Usually, adequate sunlight and warm or hot temperatures are required for fruit ripening, the development of appropriate fruit color, and good eating quality.
  • Phalsa is grown in marginal lands close to city markets to facilitate prompt marketing of fruit. The Phalsa plant is drought-tolerant, but occasional irrigation during the fruiting season and in dry periods is profitable for growers.

Propagation Methods in Phalsa Farming

Phalsa is propagated by several methods such as seed, cuttings, grafting, and layering but seed propagation is the most popular method of multiplication of Phalsa. 

Usually, the conventional propagation of Phalsa plants is by seed. The plant is readily propagated by rooting of hardwood cuttings as well as layering. Seedlings produce the first crop of well-evolved fruits about 12 to 15 months from planting. Seeds stay viable for years and germinate in less than 3 weeks. Wood type and planting date influence the rooting of the Phalsa plant. Treatment with auxins (IAA, IBA, and NAA) improves rooting of difficult-to-root hardwood cuttings of Phalsa, ground layers, and air layers.

Seed Propagation for Phalsa Farming
  • Phalsa tree is commonly propagated through seed. Bold seeds give 90% germination during July.
  • Sow seeds on raised beds 2cm deep in lines 10 cm apart.
  • Seed to seed distance must be 2cm. Cover the seeds with a mixture of sand + F.Y.M 50: 50 ratio.
  • Then, apply water with a sprinkler, immediately after sowing. Avoid flooding of seedbeds, failing which root rot fungus Pythium can appear. Apply 1% Bavistin solution after the seed germinate.
  • Apply the solution Dursban 20EC by l0ml/L of water after 30days of seed sowing to check the attack of white ants. Seeding becomes ready for transplanting in January.
Propagation from Cuttings in Phalsa Farming
  • Phalsa crop is commercially propagated by seeds in India but the seed has less viability up to 90 to 120 days hardly when stored in ambient condition. It is difficult to maintain the purity of characters for generation after generation by natural pollination hence; vegetative propagation is mostly accepted nowadays.
  • The propagation of Phalsa can be done by hardwood cuttings as well as the layering method. Propagation of Phalsa by cutting is accepted due to easy root initiation and less precision requirement during farming. In cuttings, plant growth regulators like IBA, and NAA, etc. applied exogenously induce better and early rooting.
  • Rooting of cutting in Phalsa mainly depends on various factors such as type of cutting, pre-treatment of cutting, environmental factors, time of planting, and method of planting, etc. which affects on survival ability of cuttings.
  • In Phalsa, generally, growth regulators are used to improving its rooting ability. Then, there is exists a lot of contradiction with regards to the optimum concentration of growth regulator treatments. Therefore, it is possible that optimum use of growth regulators would help for rapid multiplication in propagating of Phalsa cuttings.
Layering Propagation for Phalsa Farming

The Phalsa is also propagated by layering. Treatment with auxins improves rooting in ground layers and air layers. Higher success in air layers of Phalsa was reported with treatment of IBA, NAA, and 2, 4 –D, or both. The success rate was different in different treatments but higher concentration and combination of IBA and NAA gave higher success than lower concentration and control.

Propagation from Grafting in Phalsa Farming

Softwood grafting was found successful in Phalsa. The defoliation of scion 1 to 2 weeks before grafting was found successful in increasing success in grafts.

Planting Process in Phalsa Framing

  • Phalsa plants can be planted during July- August or February- March when the plants have shed their leaves.
  • About 8 to 12 months old seedlings are better for planting.
  • Usually planting is done 2.5 to 3.0 meters apart both ways, accommodating about 1100 -1500 seedlings per hectare.
  • Phalsa plant is well suited for close planting (density orchards).
  • For increasing the plant population paired row (double row) planting system can be tried in Phalsa plants.  
  • Due to the increased population, the total yield is increased by 20-30%.
  • N, P, and K by 100, 40, and 25 kg /ha respectively should be applied.
  • Among the micro-nutrients, zinc, and iron are found to influence fruit size and juiciness.
  • Transplant healthy seedling bare-rooted in the prepared pits in January.
  • Generally, planting is done at 1.0 x 1.5m apart in lines. A month before actual planting pits of size 0.5 meter deep and the same diameter is prepared.
  • After planting light irrigation is applied to settle the soil around plant roots.
  • Seedlings are transplanted from seedbeds into well-prepared holes when a year old and are usually spaced about 3-4.5 meters apart, though some experiments have favored 1.8 x 1.8 m or 2.4 x 2.4 m to maximize efficiency in harvesting.
  • Fruiting will commence in about 13 to 15 months. Annual pruning to a height of about 0.9-1.2 meters encourages new shoots and better yields than more drastic trimming.
  • Sprays of 10 ppm gibberellic acid have increased fruit-set and at 40 PPM, there is increased fruit size but decreased fruit-set.

Intercropping in Phalsa Farming

  • Phalsa crops can profitably be intercropped with vegetables and this practice can pay good dividends to the growers.
  • The Phalsa plants have to be maintained in a bush form by regular annual pruning and then allow the space left in between the lines to be profitably used for growing vegetable crops.
  • Also, the Phalsa can be grown as an intercrop in the mango or other fruit crop orchards particularly during the initial years. Phalsa can be grown as an intercrop in the orchards of mango or other fruit crops, particularly during the initial years.

Irrigation Requirement in Phalsa Farming

  • Phalsa trees can tolerate drought conditions fairly well after fruit harvest. For getting high fruit yield it requires irrigation at intervals of 20-days from April to June. No irrigation can be applied during the rainy season and in dormancy.
  • The Phalsa tree can withstand drought and does not demand irrigation as frequently as other fruit trees.
  • An adequate supply of irrigation water at regular intervals particularly during flowering and fruiting periods can go a long way for ensuring better health of plans and more profitable yields.
  • The time and amount of irrigation vary greatly according to the soil, climate, rainfall, and age of plants.
  • Normally, one irrigation every 15 to 20 days in summer (except during rains) and once every 4-6 weeks in winter is considered adequate.
  • An adequate amount of irrigation to the Phalsa plants during the time of development of berries will make them bigger in size and juicier.

Manuring and Fertilization Requirement in Phalsa Farming

Apply 5kg of FYM (farmyard manure) to each bush after pruning in January. The bushes can be applied 50 to 100 grams of urea in two parts i.e., during March and April depending upon the age. A high nitrogen dose leads to profuse shoots growth which is not desirable for good fruiting. When the bushes become 4 years of age increase the dose to 200gm in split dose. Apply l00gm in March and rest l00g, in April at month’s interval.

You may also check this: Growing Grapes In Greenhouse.

Weed Control in Phalsa Farming

Phalsa tree requires two hoeings. One after pruning the tree in January and the second in April-May. If the intensity of weeds increases in the rainy season, then spray Gramoxone with 6-7ml/L of water in vacant places in plantations that are trained on the head system. However, no herbicide needs to be sprayed in bush trained plants, and shade of the foliage keeps a check on the growth of the weed.

One or two ploughings after pruning of the Phalsa plants is desirable to control the weed growth. If necessary one ploughing can be given after the irrigation to mix-up the fertilizers applied and check the weed growth.

Training and Pruning in Phalsa Farming

Phalsa is usually trained as a bush and the plant can also be trained as a head system with a single stem. The height of the single stem must be kept at one meter. The plant produce shoots above 1 meter just as in the bush system. The Phalsa fruit is borne in clusters in the axils of plant leaves on the new growing shoots produced during the current season. Annual pruning is very essential to have new vigorous shoots to ensure regular and heavy fruiting.

The Phalsa plants pruned to a height of 1 meter during January- February produces a greater number of new shoots than those which are pruned to the ground level. Therefore, the growers are advised to prune their Phalsa plants at a height of one meter from the ground level. The Phalsa plants are rather slow in shedding their leaves in the winter season. The best time for Phalsa pruning is when the plants have shed their leaves and in all cases, the operation should be finished well before the start of new growth.

Pests and Diseases Management in Phalsa Farming

Pests in Phalsa plants

Mealybug – Mango mealybug has been reported to cause severe damage to the Phalsa crop. Then, the fruit set is severely affected by the attack of this insect. It is controlled by spraying with 0.04% Diazinon or Monocrotophos.

Bark eating caterpillar – It is a polyphagous pest that damages the Phalsa plant by making tunnels in the main branches or trunk. It is controlled by injecting kerosene oil or petrol in the holes by plugging the mouth with mud.

Leaf eating caterpillar – These caterpillars feed gregariously on leaf lamina and skeletonizing it completely. It is controlled by spray with Carbaryl and Endrin (0.1%).

Diseases in Phalsa plants

Leaf spot disease – This plant disease is common in the rainy season. The affected leaves tiny brown lesions appear on both sides of the leaves. It can be controlled by spraying Dithane Z- 78 at 0.3% concentration or by spraying Blitox at 0.2% concentration.

Rust – This disease is caused by Dasturella grewiae in the Phalsa crop. The symptoms of these diseases are light brown spot develops on the lower side of leaves as a result of the infection. This results in the defoliation of plant leaves. Alternate Sprays of DM –45 (0.3%) and Sulfex (0.2%) at 15 days interval effectively control Rust disease.

Powdery Mildew – It takes place in the form of a powdery patina on leaves and is a fungus. To avoid this disease, spray Phalsa plants with a fungicide and avoid overhead watering. Applying two treatments, one in the winter season and the other in the early spring season can also help. Also, affected parts must be cut and disposed of to avoid the spread of the disease to healthy plants.

When and How to Harvest Phalsa Fruits

  • Depending on the selected cultivars and growing positions, fruits are harvested in June, July and August.
  • After 40 to 45 days of flowering, the fruits start ripening.
  • For harvesting, handpicking is employed.
  • The period of harvesting in Phalsa continues up to the first week of June.
  • The Phalsa fruits are highly perishable and utmost care should be taken to avoid damage to them.

Storage and Marketing of Phalsa Fruits

  • Phalsa fruits are highly perishable and, they should be utilized within 24 hours of harvesting.
  • Phalsa fruits can be stored for around a week or two in the refrigerator.
  • Immediate marketing of fruits is possible only when the orchards are located nearby some cities. Ripe Phalsa fruits are sub-acidic in taste and are a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C.
  • The Phalsa fruits are excellent for making juice and squash.

Expected yield from Phalsa Farming

The annual yield of Phalsa is 3-5 kg/plant or 4.5-6 tonnes/hectare. Phalsa fruit production increases by spraying gibberellic acid at full bloom and 2nd spraying are done after 15 days.

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