Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) or ladies finger Is a popular annual vegetable grown in tropic & subtropics. Tender green fruits are cooked in curry & soup. The seeds are also rich in edible oils & protein. The oils extracted from the seeds are used in making soap, various cosmetics. The proteins in the seeds are used as supplements in feed fortification.
LAND PREPARATION & SOIL
The roots have a well developed tap root system & so it is recommended to grow okra in well drained , humid, rich soils containing good amounts of organic content. Loose , friable soils are best suited.
The land selected should be free from weeds & clods & other formations should be pulverized. Sowing is done either by seed drill or hand dibbling.
above photo shows okra seedlings after 7 days from date of sowing
The seeds are sowed on ridges & spacing between the plants on each ridge should be around 45 cm. the distance between each row of ridges should be at least 75 cm. the land has to be thoroughly plowed as tiny stones & clods have a detrimental effect on germination.
Organic manure should be mixed well in the soils and carbofuran granules must be added to prevent soil nematodes from eating the seeds. This will help the germinating seeds for a period of 3 weeks.above photo shows the okra plot 15 days after first day of sowing
The seeds have a strong seed coat & this can be broken by soaking the seeds in water/curds overnight.
Organic manure during sowing the seeds is a must. Application of fresh compost manure, which is not decayed properly will cause more harm than good as the ammonia released in the fresh manure will destroy the young emerging seedlings. Application of complex fertilizers like NPK is done in split doses. When the seedling reaches 4 to 6 leaf stage , earthing up & other interculture operations are done. Here adding organic manures along with NPK can be done.organic manure being added
manure added to either side of the rows
decayed organic manure is safer to use as it will not have toxic gases
after application, top dressing is done, soil is again heaped near the base of the plant
Manuring during the most crucial flowering stage has to be monitored properly. The final dose of complex NPK and organic manure can be given at this time. Foliar sprays can be given at all stages of crop development .
Watering has to be done immediately after seeds are sowed. Maintaining the soil moisture is very important at every stage. Generally watering is done every 3 days, when field conditions are normal. Under high temperature conditions, watering every alternate days in done. Ridge system of irrigation is better than flooding.
During monsoon watering is not required as the soil will have adequate mositure. Even though it can tolerate moderate to heavy rainfall, excess rainfall will damage the crops.
Moisture stress during flowering will have a great impact on the development and quality of the fruits.
After germination of the seeds, thinning out is done. Plant population & plant density can be maintained here with thinning out. In places where seeds have not germinated, it is recommended to immediately sow seed rather than transplant from another area. Even though transplanting has worked in many cases, it is not followed as it is time consuming & laborous & the percentage of success is also very low.
top dressing , earthing up of soil, application of manure.the above photo shows crop development after 2 weeks of adding manure
Weeding is the most laborous of inter culture operations in orka. But it has to be done repeatedly . weeds directly compete with the growing crop for nutrients, space & water. The time of sowing, weeds must be removed , and when application of manures during the later stages of crop develpoment, weeds have to be removed.
Some okra varieties show lateral branching. However pruning is not done.
The main crop loss is due to MOSAIC VIRUS where the plants start to turn bright yellow and results in death of the plant. Since there is no cure for virus, only prevention can be done.
Since it is transmitted by whitefly, which act as vectors, spraying with dimethoate @ 2 ml per litre at an interval of every 10 days is followed. Strong concentrations of insect repellants like neem extracts @10-15ml per litre can also be applied as foliar spray.
Plants which already have yellow mosaic should be uprooted & burnt at some distance.
photo shows leaf damaged by hairy caterpillars
Another serious pest is the presence of hairy caterpillars. The adults leave the eggs on the under side of the leaf & the larve when they hatch feed on the leaves in a gregarious fashion. Here CHLOROPYRIPHOS@ 2 ml per litre can be sprayed at an interval of 15 days.
hairy caterpillars infested plant
Different varieties have different days of fruit formation. ARKA ANAMIKA which is a very popluar variety shows flowering from the 50th day of sowing.
Harvesting must be done using gloves or cloth as the tiny hairs on the plant & fruit can have an allergic effect to some. Harvesting should be done every alternate day to avoid smaller fruits & tender fruits from being plucked.
flowering and fruit formation seen
fruit and flower buds
hybrid variety okra
a typical okra field
The crop can be retained for over 2 months & yields of about 100 quintals per hectare have been recorded.
Photos and content by Pritham 'Heavy metal farmer' denzil dsouza