Karela (Bitter Gourd) farming in India & Cultivation guide
Bitter Gourd, Commonly known as Karela in Hindi, Pavakkai in Tamil or Kaipakka in Malayalam is a bitter vegetable commonly consumed in india. Its considered a melon and also goes by the name of Bitter melon in some other countries. The fruit is bitter but edible.
Bitter Gourd or Karela is one of the few crops which requires work through out its life cycle and care beyond most people would care to admit. It is one of the few crops which requires pesticides and proper fertigation through out its life cycle. Karela requires pandals or some form of structure for it to climb. Without the structure, yield will reduce and the fruit which touches the ground usually rot.
Karela is also prone to a wide range of pests and diseases. thrips, Blights and a range of fungal and viral diseases are common in Karela. Timely application of pesticides are recommended. Organic produce is rare commercially when it comes to karela. Due to its vulnerable nature, pesticides are often the only easy solution to assure profits.
Karela has over 10 vommonly grown commercial varieties today. Some are long and others are short. The yield depends on the variety. while some varieties are known to have short fruits but yield the same variety as the longer ones, there are others which are usually low in yield and but the fruits are considerably long.
Most customers and traders prefer smaller fruits because they can sell in smaller amounts. While larger fruits are usually 300 grams per fruit, the smaller ones are less than a 100 grams per fruit. This makes it easier for traders to weight smaller amounts and also for customers to get the nearest weight possible for the fruit.
Karela is Highly profitable. Unfortunately, i havent found anyone profiting from Organic Karela commercially. If you really want karela to grow organically, its best done if you can grow them yourself at home.
Karela producing states in India
- Andhra Pradesh
- Madhya Pradesh
- Uttar Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
Karela Varieties commonly Cultivated commercially
|Variety||Yield Per hectare|
|Pusa Do Mausami||12-15|
|Preethi (MC 4)||15|
|Pusa Hybrid 1||20|
Soil and Climatic conditions
Bitter gourd tolerates almost all kind of soil. Black soil with Rich organic matter, Sandy loam or Sandy soil is good for Bittergourd cultivation. Ensure that its not rocky soil and the PH is between 6 and 7.5. The most important factor for Bitter gourd cultivation is the moisture content. The plant does not tolerate flood and should be watered adequately. Farmers are known to irrigate their farm with drip irrigation 3 times a week for just one hour. Thats sufficient for bitter gourd. Too much water and water stagnation has poor consequence on the plant and chances of various fungal diseases including blight.
June- July and January-February is considered the best time to start sowing seeds. Too much of rains is not good for the plant and could cause diseases. The plant does great between the temperature of 14 and 35 degrees. Colder climate will cause flower drop and diseases , reducing yield in the due course. Maintenance of the plant is higher with lower temperature , incurring cost on the farmer. Always ensure right weather before planting bitter gourd.
Bitter gourd is usually planted by seed, directly to the farm. Saplings can also be used but the costs for saplings are much higher. Most farmers (95%) usually prefer Bitter gourd propagatioin from seeds. This is easier and faster, not to mention economical. A total of 300-400grams of Seeds are required per acre of Bitter Gourd cultivation. The seeds, are first soaked for an hour and then dried in shade for 24 hours. They are treated with seed dressing chemicals and planted directly in the field. Each seeds are sown at a distace of 2 feet from each other. The distance between rows could vary between 3-4 feet to up to 7.5 feet. This depends on your personal choice and your needs. If you would like a small tractor to pass by to fertilize the plants or to move a large trolley when haresting, you will need the right amount of space. Think of what needs to move in between the plants. A small tractor, a kuboto or a trolley or just one or 2 labourers working side by side. Space the rows accordingly. Irrigate the field immediately after sowing.
In India the most common farming tecnique for bitter gourd is the pandal system. It depends on the weather and the farmers comfort level on the type of pandals which are created for bitte gourd. Most farmers in the south only create a wall system with support using twines, bamboos and wires. the main wall is created using bamboo and wires. They are supported using a scissor styled bamboo on either ends with a metal wire tied on the top. The wall itself is created using twines and go from the bottom to the top horizontal to the ground.
In south, most of the farmers prefer a full pandal system which looks like a square tent. The plants grow from the foot of the tent and moves to cover the entire roof of the pandal.
the Pandal is key to the growth of Karela. A weak pandal system will collaps and result in loss. The pandal has to last till the end of the harvest and it should withstand the weather conditions and also be sustainable. Always use renewable products on your farm and the ones that are degradable. Avoid plastic as much as possible, but when you find it essential, go ahead and use plastic where necessary
Fertigation is key for growth of the plant and the fruit. Getting the right fertigation through out the growth cycle ensures better growth of plants, immunity from diseases and pests and better profit. The fertigation process starts straight from the land preperation and moves till the end of the harvesting period.
Fertigation during Land Preperation
- Azospirillum & Phosphobacteria 2KG / Hectare
- Pseudomonnas 2.5 KG / Hectare
- FYM 50 KG per hectare
- Neem Cake 100 KG per hectare
Fertigation during sowing
10 KG FYM / Pit
100 Gm Of NPK 6:12:12 / Pit
10 G Urea / Pit
Crop Establishment Stage (10 Days)
N : 26KG
P : 11KG
K : 29 KG
Vegetative State (30 Days)
N: 12 KG
P : 66 KG
K : 109 KG
Flowering Stage to First picking : (30 Days)
N: 12 KG
P :44 KG
K : 115 KG
Harversting stage (45 days)
N : 26 KG
P :78 KG
K: 97 KG
Fertigation is split into once or twice a week.
Pest and Pest Control
Bitter gourd is one of the few crops which is very sensitive to pest. Too uch of water and you have fungal diseases. Thrips, Blight and a range of diseases infect bitter gourd. Most farmers use preventive measures to make sure that they dont incur losses during cultivation of Karela. This results in use of a lot of pesticides.
To prevent diseases, its also important that Bitter gourd is planted during the right season and the weather is good for the crop. Planting Bitter gourd in the monsoon or during winters will result in a range of diseases from blight to viruses. sometimes even all the pesticides and chemical control cannot help you in these conditions. Its important to keep the farm clean and free from water logging.
Varieties cultivated in India
|Pusa Hybrid 1||Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh||High|
|Pusa Hybrid 2||Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh||High|
|Arka Harit||Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu||High|
|MDU 1||Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra||Moderate to High|
|Preethi||Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana||Moderate|
|Priya||Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana||Moderate|
|Indian Long Green||Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam||Moderate|
|Chinese Hybrid||Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh||Moderate|
|COBH-1||Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra||Moderate|
|COBH-2||Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra||Moderate|
- Pusa Hybrid 1: This variety is known for its high yield potential and resistance to various pests and diseases. Pusa Hybrid 1 produces uniform and attractive dark green fruits with a moderately bitter taste.
- Pusa Hybrid 2: Similar to Pusa Hybrid 1, this variety also exhibits good resistance to pests and diseases. It yields glossy dark green fruits with a slightly less bitter taste compared to other varieties.
- Arka Harit: Arka Harit is a high-yielding variety with long and slender fruits. The fruits have a glossy appearance and are light green with prominent ridges. This variety is preferred for its low bitterness.
- MDU 1: MDU 1 is a popular variety known for its early maturity and prolific fruiting. The fruits are light green with pointed ends and possess a moderate level of bitterness.
- Preethi: Preethi is a variety that is commonly grown for its tender and small-sized fruits. It has a good shelf life and is often used for making pickles and culinary preparations.
- Priya: Priya is an early-maturing variety with dark green fruits and a slightly elongated shape. It is preferred for its mild bitterness and tender texture.
- Indian Long Green: As the name suggests, this variety produces long and slender fruits with a deep green color. It has a strong bitter taste and is widely used in traditional Indian recipes.
- Chinese Hybrid: This hybrid variety is popular for its high yield and attractive appearance. The fruits are pale green with a smooth surface and have a moderately bitter taste.
- COBH-1 (Coimbatore Bitter Hybrid-1): COBH-1 is a hybrid variety known for its early maturity and good fruit setting. The fruits are dark green, slightly curved, and have a balanced bitterness.
- COBH-2 (Coimbatore Bitter Hybrid-2): Similar to COBH-1, this hybrid variety also exhibits early maturity and high yield potential. The fruits are dark green with a uniform shape and moderate bitterness.
Average Yield per acre By variety
|Variety||Average Yield (Quintals per Acre)||Average Yield (Tons per Acre)|
|Pusa Hybrid 1||150-180||15-18|
|Pusa Hybrid 2||140-170||14-17|
|Indian Long Green||90-120||9-12|
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on Karela Cultivation in India
Q: What is Karela (Bitter Gourd)?
A: Karela, also known as Bitter Gourd or Bitter Melon, is a tropical vegetable known for its distinctive bitter taste. It belongs to the gourd family and is rich in nutrients and health benefits.
Q: What are the ideal climatic conditions for Karela cultivation in India?
A: Karela thrives in warm and humid climates. It requires temperatures between 24°C to 30°C and a well-distributed rainfall of around 800-1000 mm during the growing season. Areas with good sunlight exposure and proper drainage are ideal for Karela cultivation.
Q: When is the best time to sow Karela seeds in India?
A: The best time to sow Karela seeds in India is during the summer season, between February to March. Sowing at the beginning of the summer allows the crop to take advantage of the warm weather and abundant sunlight.
Q: What type of soil is suitable for Karela cultivation?
A: Karela grows well in well-drained loamy soil with good fertility. The soil should have a pH level between 6.0 to 6.7. Sandy or clayey soil should be avoided, as they may cause waterlogging or poor root development.
Q: How is Karela cultivated? Is it a trellis crop or grown on the ground?
A: Karela is typically cultivated as a trellis crop. Trellising helps in proper support and allows the vines to climb, maximizing space utilization and improving air circulation around the plants. This method also facilitates easy harvesting.
Q: What are the common pests and diseases affecting Karela plants, and how can they be managed?
A: Common pests that affect Karela plants include aphids, fruit flies, and whiteflies, while diseases like powdery mildew and mosaic virus can also be an issue. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, like using neem-based pesticides and introducing beneficial insects, can help control pests. Proper crop rotation and avoiding waterlogging can reduce the risk of diseases.
Q: How often should Karela plants be irrigated?
A: Karela plants require regular and adequate irrigation, especially during the flowering and fruiting stages. The soil should be kept evenly moist, but waterlogged conditions should be avoided. Drip irrigation or sprinkler systems can help in efficient water management.
Q: What are the important nutrients required for Karela plants, and how should they be fertilized?
A: Karela plants require balanced nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Organic manures like compost or well-rotted cow dung can be applied before planting. Additionally, regular foliar feeding with water-soluble fertilizers can promote healthy growth.
Q: How long does it take for Karela fruits to mature after flowering?
A: Karela fruits start to develop about 8-10 weeks after flowering. The time may vary depending on the variety and environmental conditions.
Q: What are the potential health benefits of consuming Karela?
A: Karela is known for its various health benefits. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Regular consumption of Karela is believed to help regulate blood sugar levels, aid digestion, promote weight loss, and boost the immune system.