1. THE BER TREE
Ber (Ziziphus mauritiana) is an economically important tropical fruit tree, which is grown all over the drier parts of the Indian subcontinent, Africa and northern Australia for its fresh fruits. It is a particularly good tree to grow in dry regions, because it can withstand long periods of drought. It has a long taproot and can withstand high temperatures during the summer. Ber is a multipurpose tree (see Appendix 1). The fruit is the most well-known and used product from the tree, however it is also a source of seeds, timber, fodder, medicines and potential industrial components. Ber trees can compensate local farmers after subsistence crops have been harvested, giving a potential economic return in local markets when food is scarce. The fruits harvested 3-4 times in a season, provide a steady crop for a longer period.
There are many different cultivars of ber, which have been selected for a number of characteristics. Cultivars are known as early, mid or late maturing, depending on whether they produce their fruit early, mid or late in the growing year. This is an important consideration when selecting which cultivar to grow. The environmental requirements also differ, depending on the cultivar. Some of the more common cultivars are given in section below.
Ber can be successfully cultivated even in the most marginal lands of the tropics and subtropics, with few agricultural inputs and little attention. The tree propagates freely and resists stress conditions in regions experiencing recurrent droughts. It is suitable to rehabilitate the vast resource-poor regions of the tropics and subtropics and is thus an important tree for integration into the agroforestry systems in the warm desert ecoregions. The tree can provide economic sustenance to the region and insurance against ecological degradation.
1.1. What to grow
Table 1.1 Conditions for specific cultivars
To spread fruit harvest over a long period:
Gola, Mundia, Goma Kirti
For different annual rainfall zones:
Less than 300mm
Gola, Mundia, Goma Kirti
Goma Kirti, Umran, Banarsi, Kaithli
Location of growing area:
Near the market (within 24 hours transport)
For distant markets
2. WHY GROW BER
Ber produces a nutritious fruit, which is rich in the B group of vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin), vitamin C and β -carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. The B vitamins work together and help the body to convert food into energy. Vitamin C helps to provide healthy gums teeth, bones, skin and muscle, fight infections and heal wounds. The daily requirement of vitamin C for an adult man can be met by including 3 ber fruits in the diet. Vitamin A is necessary for good eyesight; very low levels in the diet can lead to blindness. Vitamin A is also required for healthy skin, cells and tissues, helps to fight infection and aids in bone growth. It is also thought to be effective in the fight against cancer and heart disease. All the above vitamins help to provide a healthy immune system to protect against disease. Ber is rich in the minerals phosphorus, calcium and iron. Calcium and phosphorus are essential for the production of bones and teeth, and have a role in providing strong muscles and general health. Iron is present in the blood, and is essential for transporting oxygen around the body. The ber fruit has high sugar content (sucrose, glucose fructose and starch); it is therefore high in carbohydrates, which provide energy. The levels of sugars vary according to cultivar. The fruits also contain protein with many essential amino acids (asparginine, arginine, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, glycine, serine and threonine).
Table 2.1. Nutritional composition of fresh ber fruits.
Food Value Per 100 g
of Edible Portion
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