Grape Cultivation in india

Cultivating Grapes is not for the faint hearted. Though its not the most complicated crop to be cultivated, it does require a lot of learning and experience. Apart from the learning curve, there are conditions which needs to be met. The weather conditions to grow Grapes is specific. Water requirements are particularly important and so is the soil conditions. While india is known to grow a lot of tropical crops, Grape is a mediterranean crop. Only a few states or pockets are capable of successfully growing most varieties of grapes. 

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In recent times, the variety of grapes has helped farmers to grow the fruit in other areas. Northern states where the weather is a bit colder and summers are shorter are growing grapes with some success. 

Apart from weather conditions, grape farmers require to know a lot about the plant itself. From propagation, to trellises and bower building, pruning, fertilizers and water management are all very important for grape cultivation. Grapes does not give any returns for nearly 2 years and the first harvest happens after 2 years. A lot of patience and maintenance is required from the farmers. Apart from putting a huge investment into the cultivation, its also to be noted that the returns, though appreciable, are slow.

Today 80-90% of all the grape cultivated are consumed as a fruit. 10% or lesser goes into wine and the remaining goes into dried grape processing. Wine manufacturing and processing is very limited in india. This restricts farmers from cultivating a lot of varieties which are specifically for winery. 

When it comes to Cultivating grapes, maharashtra tops the list followed by karnataka, Tamil nadu and Andhra pradesh. 

In the year 2020 150,000 Hectares of land was estimated to be used for grapes cultivation which is an increase from 140,000 Hectares the previous year. Grapes cultivation areas are steadily increasing at more than 2% every year since the early 2000. India is also known to have the highest productivity per hectare at 25 Tonnes per hectare while other major countries who are producers of grapes range from 10 Tonnes to 20 tonnes per hectare. The second highest productivity per hectare is in the USA at 19 tonnes per hectare. Even with the highest productivity per hectare, India only contributes to 2% of the world grape production.

Pro’s and Cons of Grapes cultivation

The First and biggest drawback is that Grape cultivation takes at least 2 years to begin profiting from. The investment is high during this period. There is no returns and there is work involved throughout the period even when there is no returns. Creation of Bowers, training the plant and Pruning needs to be managed. Care for plants is essential. 

The possibility of Intercropping with Grapes is Not advised. The entire plot is dedicated towards grapes cultivation and there is no alternate income either. To make things a bit complicated, Grapes is a perennial vine. Grape farms stay the way it is for years and sometimes decades. If you plant to invest in grape farming, its mandatory that you look at it as a long term investment. Unlike most vegetables, Grapes is not a crop you can start today and decide to wipe it out and do something a year later. Grape farms need to continue for 3-4 years to start making any profit.

This leads to certain uncertainties. What happens if the price of grapes drops after 4 or 5 years. What happens if there is no demand. What if the variety of grapes you cultivate is not the kind of grapes preferred by the market. Grape cultivation for Wines are not popular in india. There are limited wineries in india and Grapes for wines are rarely cultivated but in certain pockets of maharashtra and karnataka. The wines produced here are not as popular as the wines produced in other countries and also come with hassles of license and other government policies.

Grapes is also labour intensive crop and requires a skill set from the farmer to the workers in the farm. Knowing when to water, how much to water and what fertilizers to apply is basic. It goes towards when to prune, how to prune. How many nodes to leave when pruning and how to harvest. Harvesting grapes is not done by machines and the entire process is manual. During harvesting its important to know which grapes is ripe and which is not. Harvested grapes are then sorted and packed. Sorting of grapes involves removing any poor quality berries. Discarding poor quality berries ensures that other berries which are of good quality does not get contaminated. Some berries usually are rotten or damaged while picking. These berries should be removed before packing.

Transportation of the grapes bunches post harvesting is done with plastic crates. Foam bases are spread on the crates to ensure that the fruits are not damaged. Crates of different sizes are available in the market but usually, the crates can hold approximately 4 KG. Some crates hold 10 KG. Each bunch of grapes are spread over the crates and not stacked. Cold storage facility should be available for export quality grapes while national and local transportation can be done immediately.

Usually an acre of land can be harvested by 4 people in a day. An average yield of 3.5 tonnes can be harvested in a day. It takes approximately 60 hours in total for one person to harvest one acre of grapes. While machines are available today to harvest grapes, they are not used widely in india. Most of the grape harvesting is done manually.

Grape Farming – Entire Process

Grape farming starts with Land Preparation. The land is first cleared of all weeds and flattened. Use of a bull dozer is often common and preferred. The land should be slightly tilted to enable water movement. Stagnant water is not recommended for grapes and provisions should be made for water to move out of the field at all times. Any soil type is good for grapes as long as the water will not be retained and flooding is completely avoided. Though sandy loam soil with good aeration is recommended, Clay soil or rocky soil types are also tolerated as long as there is no water retention. ITs less about the soil and more about the weather conditions when it comes to grapes. With Clay soil, care should be taken that water , when applied is less and the roots are just wet enough. 

Weather conditions for grapes is important too. Though there are varieties of grapes which grow in tropical weather and the yield is a lot more than the mediterranean weather, The right variety is key. Grapes prefers full sun, Dry soil with good irrigation. Grapes grows well where the precipitation level (rainfall) is lesser than the sum of evaporation in soil and transpiration from the soil itself. This weather requirement requires sufficient irrigation. Grapes farming is more dependent on irrigation rather than natural rainfall. Too much rainfall is often considered bad for grape farming. 

Sand is good for Grape farming if the irrigation is good. Sand in Tropical weather can reduce a lot of diseases related to roots but comes with some problems. Constant irrigation is important and sand absorbs a lot of heat. There is no water retention, which is good for grapes but with excessive heat, the plants are prone to wilting. Ref : https://sommelierschoiceawards.com/en/blog/insights-1/soil-types-that-matter-for-grape-growing-164.htm

In general, any area which has a temperature of 20-40 degree, has minimal rain fall (less than 900 mm annually) with good irrigation is apt for grapes cultivation.

Once the land is prepared, pits are to be prepared a month prior to planting of saplings. Pits are dug at a distance of 1 X 3.5 meter or 2X2.5 meters. The distance between pits vary from variety and depends on the growth of the vine in each variety and foliage. Also the type of trellis system to be implemented has an influence on how pits are dug and at what distance. Pits are dug at 60-90 Centimeter WXHXD and let open for a month so the soil is exposed to the sun. 

The pits are left to be exposed for a month and then 1 KG of Fym, 500 Grams of super phosphate is mixed with top soil followed by subsoil. One year old cuttings are used for planting grapes. The right season to plant grapes varies from location to location.  In Maharashtra and Central india , its between November and January. For Karnataka and telangana, the best time is December to january in parts of karnataka , and tamil nadu, and February to march in North india. Planting season should never coincide with winter or Monsoon. 

Plants usually take up to a month to show new sprouts. Irrigation during the first few weeks should be provided at optimal rate. The plant should never get wet feet. In areas with no irrigation facilities, planting can be done in the onset of monsoon. 

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Grape Varieties & Yield in india

Due to climatic conditions and suitable weather for Grapes, india is noted to have the highest production per hectare, far more than most other countries which cultivate grapes and have higher volume of production. For instance, Italy has 8500 Kilo Tonnes of Grapes production per year. The productivity per hectare is 11 Tonnes per hectare. India produces only 1600 Kilo tonnes per year but the Productivity per hectare is 24 Tonnes. The productivity is double of what italy has when it comes to per hectare and its very high as compared to all other countries. The nearest productivity per hectare next to india is usa at 18 tonnes per hectare. 

Apart from the weather, the variety of grapes grown in india is also a key reason for its improved yield. High yield varieties like Anab E shahi and bangalore Blues has an average yield of 40 Tonnes per hectare and has 2 harvests every year. The Thompson variety which is used for both table and Dried grapes has an average yield of 25 tonnes per hectare with one harvest per year.

YieldTSSPurpose
Anab E Shahi35 T/ H14-16%Table
Bangalore Blues16-18%Juice , Wine
Bhokri35T/H16-18%Table
Gulabi10-12 T/h18-20Table
Kali Sahebi12-18T/H22Table
Perlette3518Table
Thompson Seedless20-2520-22Table, Raisin
Sharad Seedless1524Table
Hybrids
Arka Vati22-25Raisins , Wine
Arka Hans18-21 Wine
Arka Kanchan19-22Table , Wine
Arka ShyamTable , Wine
Arka Neel Mani2822-22Table, Wine
Arka Shweta3118-19Table
Arka Majestic3810-20Table
Arka Chitra3820-21Table
Arka Krishna3320-21Juice
Arka Soma4020-21Wine
Arka Trishna2622-23Wine

Project Report : http://nhb.gov.in/NHBDPR/Grape_DPR.pdf