We all like to wear silk clothes on different occasions. The colour, strength, and quality of silk dresses are amazing. But from where is this silk produced, and what is actually silk? Silk is a naturally occurring protein fibre. In order to produce silk hence we need to culture silkworms. The food of silkworms is mulberry leaves. The cultivation of mulberry plants in order to feed the silkworm is known as moriculture. In this topic, we are discussing all the aspects of moriculture like the climatic condition, harvesting techniques etc.
Moriculture is the cultivation of mulberry plants in order to feed silkworms. Because silkworms eat only mulberry leaves. There are 20 species of mulberry known worldwide. Mulberry plants are mainly propagated by stem cutting. Other ways of propagation of mulberry plants are by root graft or by seeds. The length of the mulberry stem to be cut is around 23 to 24cm, and also it should contain 3 to 4 buds in each stem. These stems are planted directly in the field. Once these stems mature, pruning is carried out regularly. Pruning helps in the growth induction and sprouting of new shoots.
For moriculture approximately 4 lakh hectares of farmland are used, and each hectare yields 12,000 t0 15,000 kg of mulberry leaves. Due to the advancement of agricultural technologies now, the yield is quite high. China is the highest producer of mulberry plants and hence silk.
Mulberries can grow both under temperature and in tropical regions. The ideal climatic condition for the high yield production of mulberry are
Atmospheric Temperature: In tropical regions, mulberry can be produced all through the year. In under-temperature regions, mulberry production takes place during the month of May to October. The atmospheric temperature should be in the range of 24 to 370c.
Rainfall: The ideal rainfall for moriculture is 600 to 2500mm.
Atmospheric Humidity: Approximately 60 to 80% of humidity is necessary for better production of mulberry leaves.
Sunshine: In tropical regions, around 5 to 6 hours of sunshine is required for mulberry plants. In under-temperature regions, this may vary up to 9 to 13 hours per day.
The Ph of the soil should range from 6.5 to 7. The soil contains all the essential major and minor nutrients for the growth of mulberry plants. There should be high oxygen content for root respiration. The soil should provide good anchor strength for the roots of mulberry plants. Clay and loamy soils are suitable for moriculture. Because these are porous soils which can hold sufficient amounts of water and have an anchoring depth of 30 to 35 Cm.
Mulberry plants are always planted near the rearing house. It makes transportation of mulberry leaves easy. After harvesting the leaves, they should immediately give them to the silkworms. When the land selects, it should be levelled. The Levelling method depends on the topography of the land. Levelling increases the fertility of the soil. The early spring and late autumn seasons are suitable for mulberry planting. Planting in the summer and winter seasons should be avoidable. In the temperate region, mulberry can be planted in any direction but in the under-temperature region, planting should be in the direction of the intensity of light and wind direction. The planting distance depends on the climatic conditions and soil fertility.
Pruning is a judicious way of removing unwanted branches of mulberry plants. Pruning improves the quality and yield of leaves. It gives proper size and shape to the plant, and after pruning, harvesting of leaves and inter-cultivation of plants is easy.
Harvesting mulberry leaves is a time-bound task. When the leaves become matured, the nutritional value might be lost. Partially matured mulberry leaves have higher nutritional content. Smaller silkworms eat tender leaves, while older silkworms will eat relatively matured mulberry leaves. The most common harvesting methods are harvesting leaves by hand picking or by stem cutting.
Harvesting of mulberry leaves by leaf picking: This is the common harvesting method practised in India. In this method, each leaf is picked from an individual mulberry plant. This method is highly time-consuming and requires a lot of labour. The harvested leaf should be immediately transferred to the rearing house without losing the moisture content of the leaf. Leaf picking starts after 10 days of bottom pruning. Subsequent picking is done at 7 to 8 weeks intervals.
Harvesting by branch cutting: In a branch, cutting leaves are harvested by cutting the entire branch. This method has a lot of advantages over the former one. Like
Cutting the entire branch is easy. It is much more cost-efficient and saves time. It does not require a large group of labourers as in leaf picking.
Since the leaf is still attached to the branches after harvesting. The freshness of leaves lasts for a longer duration.
Leaves harvested by this method are so easy to feed by the silkworm
The preservation and maintenance of leaves are also easy.
The important advantage is that the wastage of mulberry leaves can be reduced.
Silk originated in ancient China in 3630 BC.
Silkworms consume 50 times their weight in mulberry leaves.
Mulberry leaves are good antioxidants good for human health
Mulberry leaves in the form of tea powder are a good natural supplement.
The cultivation of mulberry leaves is called moriculture
Leaf picking and branch cutting are harvesting techniques for mulberry leaves
Pruning improves harvesting and quality of leaf
A sufficient amount of temperature and a soil Ph of 6.5 to 7 is needed for moriculture.
1. Which soil is best for moticulture?
The soil should be porous so that it can hold a high amount of water and oxygen. Usually, soil like clay is preferred for moriculture.
2. Which season is suitable for the pruning of mulberry?
After the plant becomes dormant then only pruning can be done. It is usually in the late winter season that pruning can be done.
3. Which climate is suitable for moriculture?
Mulberries can grow in a wide range of climates, especially warm temperate. Still, it can grow in Mediterranean, tropical and subtropical climates too.