Bitter Gourd Cultivation Guide

About the Crop

###Crop Name
Bitter Gourd

###Common names
Bitter melon, Bitter squash

###Scientific Name
Momordica charantia

###Name in Indian languages
Pavakkai (Tamil), Pavakka / Kaippakka (Malayalam), Kakara Kayi (Telugu), Haggala Kai / Hagara Kai (Kannada), Karela (Hindi), Karela / Karola / Uchche (Bengali), Karela (Gujarati), Kaarathey / Karathen (Konkani), Karle (Marathi), Karala (Oriya), Karela (Punjabi), Kanchala (Tulu), Karela (Kashmiri)

###Origin, Distribution and Uses
Bitter gourd is believed to be originated in tropical Asia, particularly in the Indo Burma region. Bitter gourd is widely grown in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and tropical Africa. Bitter Gourd is used for cooking it when it is green or in yellow ripening stage. The chinese use Bitter Melon for its bitter flavor in stir-fries, soups, dim sum, and herbal teas. Bitter Gourd is a very popular vegetable throughout India. This a very common vegetable in India. In North India, it is served with yogurt on the side to reduce the bitterness, mixed with spices and then cooked in oil. In Southern India, it is used to prepare fries and in a variety of dishes which are delicious. Bitter gourd is well known for its medicinal values and its juice is to prepare many medicines.

Area, Production and Productivity

Bitter Gourd is cultivated in an area of 8,50,000 acres of land. Productivity rate is approximately at 24mt per acre.

###Climate, Seasons and Soils
Bitter gourd is a warm season crop. The temperature suitable for its growth and flowering is 25-30°C. Bitter Gourd Crop can be grown in places of slightly lower temperature and high rainfall areas. As the bitter gourd seeds have a hard seed coat, germination is difficult to take place when the temperature is below 10°C. the soil should be well drained and fertile. Sandy soil will also suit the crop.
In hilly areas the crop is sown during April-May. In plain areas where the winter season comes early, bitter gourd is sown during January-March in states like Rajasthan and Bihar. In states where the onset of winter is late, sowing of seeds is done in February-March. In areas where the winter season is mild, the bitter gourd crop is sown throughout the year. In Kerala, when bitter gourd is grown as a full crop, the seeds are sown during January-February for summer crop, May-June for kharif crop and September for rabi crop.

##Varieties
###F1 Hybrids

  • Paras
  • RK-163
  • Rupali
  • Chhotu
  • Shaukeen

##Improved Varieties

  • CO 1
  • MDU 1
  • COBgoH 1
  • Arka Harit
  • Priya
  • Preethi
  • Hirkani
  • Phule Green Gold
  • Phule Priyanka
  • Konwkan Tara
  • Phule Ujala

Crop Management

###Field Preparation
The field for bitter gourd crop should be prepared well before cultivation. The field should be ploughed to a fine tilth and pits of 60 cm 30-45 cm depth should be made at a spacing of 2.0-2.5 x 2.0–2.5 m. Natural farmyard manure at 20-25 t/ha should be filled in pits and filled with top soil up to 3/4th height and 4-5 seeds should be sown in each pit at 5.0-6.0 kg/ha. As bitter gourd seeds have a hard seed coat, soak 2-3 months old seeds overnight in cold water. The bitter gourd seeds then should be stored in moist cloth and kept for one or two days for germination. The seeds should be sown in pits after germination.

###Propagation
Seeds are used to propagate bitter gourd plantation.

###Seed Rate
Approximately 5 to 6 kgs of Bitter Gourd seeds are required for one Hectare of land.

###Seed Treatment and Sowing
Seeds should be treated with fungicide to avoid fungal pathogens. Seeds should be mixed with Carbendazim 4g/kg. A new technique called Halogen permeation treatment is also a good seed treatment technique. Calcium oxy-chloride, commercially known as bleaching power and powdered calcium carbonate (lime stone) is mixed in equal ratio and this mixture should be added to seed at the rate of 5g/kg before sowing. The seeds should be sown at the rate of 1-2 seeds in the pits at 2 cm deep.The seeds should be covered with loose soil to ensure better germination. Thinning to one plant per hill is done one week after germination. At the end of the bed, cut the plastic mulch and staple.Seeds can also be sown in trays and transplanted.

###Transplanting
The seedlings in the tray should be watered in the morning. The transplantation of seedlings should be started late in the afternoon (2 pm onwards) to avoid extreme heat and high temperature during noontime transplanting shock. Push out the seedling lightly by pressing the bottom of the seedling tray or nursery bed. Care should be taken that the roots are not damaged while transplanting the seedlings. The newly transplanted seedlings should be watered daily for 2 weeks after transplanting or until the seedling are well-established in the field.

###Spacing
Pit sizes of 60 X 30-45 cm should be made at a spacing of 2 x 2 m and seeds should be sown at the rate of 4-5 seeds per pit. Unhealthy plants should be removed after two weeks and only 3 plants should be retained per pit.

###Cropping Patterns
Other crops should be avoided along with bitter gourd crop as it is a creeper and takes lot of space and it is tough for another crop to grow along with bitter gourd.

###Water Management
Bitter Gourd is a very delicate creeper and so cannot tolerate drought or water stagnation as the plant gets rotten. Frequent irrigation is very necessary during flowering and fruiting stage so that the yield is high. if the plants are young and the weather is moist or during winter season watering should be done at 3-4 days interval and during fruiting stage watering should be done at 2 days interval.

###Nutrient Management
Application of FYM @ 20-25 t/ha as basal dose along with half dose of N (35 kg) and full doses of P2O5 (25 kg) and K2O (25 kg) should be done for bitter gourd crop. The remaining dose of N (35 kg) can be applied in several split doses at fortnightly intervals.

###Weed Management
As bitter bourd is a shallow rooted crop, deep intercultural operations should be avoided. The field should be free of pits and hand weeding, hoeing should be done along with application of fertilizers.The Bitter Gourd crop needs 2-3 weeding operations in order to keep it free from weeds. It is better to give first weeding 30 days after planting. Mulching is commonly used culture practice for weed control of bitter gourd crop grown on raised beds.
Its good to Apply plant growth regulators like MH (50-150 ppm) or CCC (50-100 ppm) or Ethrel (150 ppm) or Silver Nitrate (3-4 ppm) or Boron (3-4 ppm) litre of water) at 2-leaf stage or 4 leaf stage to increase the female flowers and yield.

###Pests and Management

  • Jassid, White flies, Aphids (Empoasca sp., Bemisia tabaci, Aphis sp.)
    These pests suck sap from the lower side of the leaf. Application of Neem oil emulsion 2.5% with garlic paste (20g/l)/ Malathion 50 EC (2ml/l) with garlic paste (20g/l) is a best control measure.

  • Fruit fly (Dacus cucurbitae and Dacus dorsalis)
    These pests spoil the crop by puncturing the vegetables with the ovipositor and inserting the eggs inside the vegetables. Maggots feed on these vegetables which get rotten . Application of Bait traps with Carbofuran granules, Malathion 50 EC (2 ml per litre) are the solution to control this pest. Field sanitation is a good control measure.

  • Epilachna beetle (Epilachna sp.)
    Both adult and grubs scrape the leaf lamina and skeletonise the leaves. Malathion 50 EC (2 ml per litre) should be applied to control the pests.

  • Pumpkin Caterpillar, Semi looper (Margaronia indica and Plusia peponis)
    These pests spoil the crop by Feeding on the leaves and making holes in the vegetables. 1l Kiriyath extract + 1l of cow’s urine in 10 litres of water and adding 10 g of green chilli paste is a good control measure.

  • American serpentine leaf miner (Liriomyza spp.)
    These pests eat away the chlorophyll of the leaves leaving snake like white scars on the leaves. Application of Neem oil emulsion at 2.5% is a good control measure.

  • Pumpkin beetle (Aulacophora foveicollis)
    These pests spoil the crop by feeding on the leaves and making holes in the roots. Application of neem cake and drenching the soil with Ekalux (2ml/l) is a good control measure.

###Diseases and Management

  • Downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis)
    Yellow spots are formed on the upper surface of the leaves and water soaked fungal spots on the lower surface of leaves. Application of Dithane M-45 ( 4g/l) is a good measure to control this disease. Field sanitation is also a good control measure.

  • Powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea)
    Ashy spots will be formed on the leaves and stem of the plants when the crop is infected with this disease. Application of Bavistin (4g/l) is a good control measure for this disease. Field sanitation is also a good control measure.

  • **Mosaic (Cucumber mosaic virus) **
    This disease causes yellow and green mottled appearance on the leaves. The control measure is to control the vector insects, White flies, jassids. Field sanitation is also a good control measure.

Organic Cultivation

Bitter Gourd can be grown in an organic way, this needs a ample supply of organic fertilizer made from compost bin. Organic compost must be applied after tilling to give the necessary nutrients that plants need in order to grow well. Also it is important to take care that there is enough sunlight for this crop.

Harvesting , Yield and marketing

Harvesting of bitter gourd starts 55-60 days after sowing. Picking should be done when Bitter Gourd are fully grown but still young and tender. Care should be taken that the seeds are not hard at the time of harvest. If the crop is good, 15-20 harvests are possible for bitter gourd plantation and harvesting is done twice a week. If the vegetables are allowed to ripen, the net harvesting will be adversely affected. Bitter Gourd after harvesting should be packed in thin gunny bags or directly packed in tempo and marketed. As far as possible the vegetables should be shifted to the market on the same day and care should be taken that the vegetables don’t get ripen after they are harvested.

Cost of Cultivation

Average yield of Bitter Gourd is 15t/ha. The cost of production is 14 Rs/kg including field preparation, fertilisers etc.

Post Harvest Technology

Bitter Gourd should be picked early in the morning, to avoid exposing the vegetables from direct sunlight. The damaged and deformed vegetables should be carefully removed and marketable vegetables should be packed in boxes or in plastic bags with holes for ventilation after grading the vegetables. Higher temperatures above 13°C should be avoided for this will speed up ripening of vegetables.

Reserved for additional information