Piper betel (pan) belongs to family Piperaceae, which is commonly grown in Pakistan, India Bangladesh and Sri-Lanka. The leaves are most commonly chewed at leisure times or used as food in many Asian countries. It has a little medicinal value as a cardiac tonic in herbal and alternate medicines. Yield per acre in Pakistan is very low which is not beneficial and economical for growers. As a result of this the import of Piper betel has increased at phenomenal rate. The official import of Pan in Pakistan ranges around rupees one hundred million per year and Pan of about half of this amount is imported illegally. This gives a total loss of about 150 million rupees annually to Pakistan.
Present work comprises of the systematic investigation of the physical parameters and chemical properties, which are responsible for the poor and unhealthy growth of this plant. The essential macro and micronutrients, which are efficient or deficient in Piper betel leaves, plant, the soil where it is grown and in water which is used for its plantation, has been estimated from Karachi and costal area of Baluchistan. For this purpose, four different farms were selected in Malir, Damba goth (two farms) and Sakran (Baluchistan). These areas were marked as area A-D. Five different locations from each area were selected and samples were collected periodically over the year in order see any seasonal variation.
These samples were estimated for nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, sodium, magnesium, aluminum, silica, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, potassium, calcium, chromium, manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, molybdenum, lead and cadmium. These were estimated as total by direct acid digestion method. Many of these elements which are bioavailable, were estimated from their buffer extract and water extracts. All these analysis were carried out using inductive coupled plasma (ICP), atomic absorption spectrometer, flame photometer, UV/visible spectrophotometer, rapid analyzer and titration methods. These nutrients play an important role in the selection of fertilizer and making healthy soils.
The results of these studies shows that the concentration of trace metals in these areas generally followed the order D > C > B = A. The results of each area vary from one to another due to number of reasons like improper dung fertilization, lack of nutrients in soil and soil pH. Highly basic pH disturbs the occurrence and uptake of nutrients, which causes insignificant growth. After carefully evaluating these factors, which were responsible for the poor growth of the Piper Betel, a farm of Piper Betel was cultivated. This farm later on, designated as area E was planted with Piper betel in which all the cares were taken as mentioned above.
Area E was supplemented with all the macro and micro nutrients, deficiency of which was observed in areas A-D. These nutrients were given in the form of foliar fertilizer (sprayed as 10 ppm solution) of manganese, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc individually and a combination of Ca & Zn. Each of these elements was sprayed on individual lots. A combination of these nutrients was also made and sprayed on a separate lot. A modified Hoagland solution was also mixed with each of these nutrients so as to consistently supply these nutrients to plants, and any of these elements may not reach the toxic level. These foliar fertilizers were sprayed for 120 days with an interval of 10 days. During this time the growth of the plants was carefully monitored and then these studies were extended to further 100 days, sprayed with the same nutrients concentrations except manganese and iron, which was now added in a concentration of 20 ppm. Finally, the uptake of these nutrients by the plants of area E was studied by the procedures as mentioned earlier.
These results reveal changes in physical parameters such the size of the leaves was increased from 4.0 - 5.0 inches to 9.0 to 10.0 inches. The weight of these leaves was also increased to 3.5 - 3.8 gm from 1.75 - 2.0 gm. The taste of all these leaves were also improved according to habitual Pan chewers. The mineral composition of these leaves was also estimated on dry basis. The uptake, of given nutrients in our study followed by order Zn> Mn >Fe >Ca > Mg> combination. The photographs were sketched periodically, which clearly evidence these results.