Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bottle Gourd cultivation

Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) is a widely grown tropical vegetable which has high carbohydrate content. oil can be extracted from the seed kernel and is used in hair care products. the hard shells of the bottle gourd can be used as utensils, or floats in fishing nets and even musical instruments, due to its resonating property.

soil and climate
bottle gourds require well drained and sandy loam soils for its good cultivation. it cannot tolerate higher amounts of acidity, alkalinity or salinity. pH range is between 5 to 5.5 . when soil conditions are not optimum, then production of female flowers is greately affected.
ten days after sowing. thinning out has to be done & min of 2 seeds must be retained in every bed

21 days after sowing.

it can be grown almost in all climates, however, too much rainfall is not good. optimum temperature range is between 30 to 35 degrees during day. if temperature is very high, then more number of male flowers are formed thereby decreasing yield.


Since we are discussing monsoon techniques for growing bottle gourds, the land selected must have good drainage. to attain this at least 3 repeated ploughings must be done. raised seed beds are made up to height of 30 cm & distance between beds must be maintained at minimum 2 meters.
irregular leaf shape is due to heavy rainfall & pest attack. spraying with systemic insecticides like dimethoate @ 1 ml per litre every week till plant is healthy is done.
lush green leaves indicates good nitrogen in the soil

in the presence of optimum sunlight, the leaves are able to prepare their own food & the plants appear much more healthy

irrigation is not given during monsoon , but when there is dry spell, light irrigation must be done just to replenish soil moisture. in summer irrigation is carried out thrice a week. if proper mulching is done, irrigation can be reduced to twice weekly.

the 3 photos above show the crop development after a 35 days after sowing. care must be taken to see that the growing vines are free from developing weeds, or it will hinder harvesting.

development of fruits, fruit setting seen

requires good amounts of organic manure. since it is a long duration crop, it is highly beneficial to add manures in split doses. bulky organic manures can be added to the soil every 20 days, while it is good to add complex fertilizers at least once every month.
it responds great to foliar applications as well. the number of female flowers can be increased using plant hormones like NAA, naphthalene acetic acid @ 1 ml per litre, just during flowering stage.
a healthy bottle gourd plant, which seems to be climbing. the vines can grow up to 20 feet, if left unchecked & hence thinning out is done to avoid overcrowding. also distance is maintained between beds for this reason

flowering can be observed. the plant continues to grow & the vines cover the complete area giving a carpet like appearance.

fruit setting in the above 2 photos

the green carpet cover

bottle gourds can be harvested after 55 to 75 days after sowing. care must be taken while harvesting to see that proper tender and ripe fruits must be harvested. the developing tender fruits will have green color & the seed coat & rind are tender. it is best to harvest at this stage. sometimes , harvesting is done depending on the size it attains. smaller fruits are in great demand as compared to bug sized fruits.
when the color changes from green to white, the seed coat and rind hardens & then it becomes over ripe & unfit for consumption. such fruits are kept for formation of seeds, which can be extracted once the fruit completely dries up.

some varieties can yield up to 20 tonnes per hectare.

In many cases, especially during monsoon, the growing vines are pruned to allow more lateral branching. vines which are bit old & semi hard are pruned to get the desired result. in some other cases, the vines are allowed to train on coconut ropes grown on bower of bamboo sticks. this is done to prevent the developing fruits from coming in contact with soil & rotting.

Photos and content by Pritham 'Heavy metal farmer' denzil dsouza

ridge gourds grown during monsoon

the seed beds must contain freshly decomposed organic manure. 2 buckets of manure can be added for every seed bed. the main field should have raised seed beds as water stagnation can destroy the young seedlings.
the figure above shows a typical raised bed. 2 to 3 seeds are sowed in every seed bed.

germination will take place after more than a week. under good field conditions, germination is faster. here germination was recorded 8 days after sowing

after 2 weeks after germination. as there is shortage of sunlight, the plants appear weak, even though the seed beds have all the required plant nutrients.

photo taken after 21 days after germination. when sunlight becomes available, growth and development is rapidly accelerated.

using tree branches as support for the growing ridge gourd plants. ridge gourds are climbers & thus require support for its growth.

thinning out must be done & only 2 seedlings must be retained per every raised bed.

2 or 3 sticks with lateral branches are inserted in every bed as shown. care must be taken to see that the sticks do not damage the plant roots or stem.

then the plants must gently be wrapped around the twigs. in 2 datys time, the tendrils will hold the twigs & grow

field shows support given to the plants.

15 days after giving support, the plant is well established & continues to grow using the provided support.

plant seen climbing upwards, the entire length of the support provided.

one month after providing support. the plant has grown very well & climbed the entire length of the support. the lateral shoots that emerge tend to keep falling away from the supporting material. & so the vines should be monitored everyday.

from another angle. as rainfall subsides, the beds need to be opened up & inter culture operations must be continued.

here we can see, the opening up of the raised beds & now pits have been made. 2 to 3 buckets of fresh decomposed manure is added. it is not required to water the pits as moisture content in the soil due to over night rainfall is sufficient for the plant.
only if prolonged dry spells are seen, watering can be done , alternate days, to retain moisture in the soil. at this stage, using complex NPK is also practiced.

another important index is the color green. when the plant is getting adequate nitrogen, the leaves & entire plant has a lush appearance. here the photo shows the plant has attained a height of more than 8 feet & is now slowly covering the trellis/pendall

harvesting can be seen almost immediate after flowering. since it still rains every now and then, incidence of fruit borer is very common. in some cases, tender fruits are harvested earlier to prevent boring of the fruits from the insect.

another view of the same crop. the on off showers increases the incidence of fungus & insects. using strong organic based insect repellents every week is highly recommended. spraying with chemical insecticides is not done as it does not have much impact during the monsoons. repeated sprays are highly toxic to the plant & also unfit for human consumption.

Photos and content by Pritham 'Heavy metal farmer' denzil dsouza

Friday, September 12, 2008

pests of brinjal

Shoot and fruit borer (Leucinodes orbonalis)

This is a very serious pest & results in more than 60 percent crop loss. Holes will be seen on the fruit & stem & plugged with its excreta. Even though the incidence of the pest is throughout the year, its more often seen in the monsoons. Heavy leaves drooping is also caused due to boring the stem.

Management : at every harvest, the damaged fruits must be separated from other fruits & destroyed. Also just before fruit setting, the drooping leaves must be pruned. Spraying the crops with cypermethrin @ 2 ml per litre is very effective. It is recommended to use a combination of cypermethrin with profenophos , as foliar spray @ 2 ml per litre & sprayed at an interval of every 25 to 20 days after flowering

Also certain resistant varieties like Punjab Barsati can be used.

Horn Moth (Acherontia styx)

Stout & large caterpillars with intricate designs with lateral yellow bands feed on the leaves gregariously. Even though it’s seen in patches, its very destructive.

Management: best method is to collect & destroy the caterpillars manually, if the incidence is less or the crop are is less. However if it’s a serious problem, spraying with chloropyriphos @ 3 ml per litre for the first week of attack , followed by 2 ml per litre the following week is very effective. Chloropyriphos has very high mammalian toxicity & therefore it must not be indiscriminately used.

Photos and content by Pritham 'Heavy metal farmer' denzil dsouza

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Green Chilli

Chilli (Capsicum annum) is highly regarded for its wide commercial use. India is a chief exporter, producer, & consumer of chilli. States like Andhra Pradesh & Punjab rank as the top producers in india as it is totally cultivated under irrigated systems unlike other parts where it is mostly cultivated under rainfall irrigation.

Climate and Soil

Chilli prefers warm and humid climate. Higher temperatures will result in shedding of flowers & fruit buds. Also too much rainfall is not suited for its cultivation as it will result in rotting of the plants. Prolonged rainfall in November will result in the powdery mildew & the growth and yield are greatly affected.

Soils which are basically light & well drained are best suited. It does not grow well in heavy soils. Poor and medium quality soils will result in early & good yield in the initial stages provided its managed properly. It thrives well around pH of 6 to 7. In higher acid soils, reclamation with lime is done. It cannot tolerate water stagnation for more than 24 hours, and hence choosing soils with good drainage & pore space is a priority.

Raising seedlings

Since the seeds of chilli are very small it has to be first sown in raised nursery beds. The soil of the beds prepared are mixed well with decomposed farm yard manure & weed free condition is done. The seeds are then mixed with sand & directly sown or broadcast. Paddy straw, coconut palms & other green materials are used to cover the beds. This is done mainly to preserve the moisture level. The selection of the nursery bed is an important factor determining germination. Direct sunlight places must be avoided. Partial shade plots are suitable. Very light irrigation must be given immediately after broadcast. In many cases, copper oxy chloride is also sprayed at timely intervals to prevent damping off. 1 percent urea as foliar spray ensures quick & robust growth of the seedlings. Germination takes place within a week, & it is ready to transplant only after 40 days.

Transplanting, irrigation & fertilizer management.

transplanted seedlings

Transplanting has to be done when the plant reaches a height of 15 to 20 cm. transplanting is always done in pairs, to maintain plant population & density. During transplantation the soil must be ploughed repeatedly to achieve fine tilth. Adding fresh decomposed manures & mixing the soil well is done.

maintaining spacing between rows

Shade should be provided after transplanting as the intense heat may damage the soft plant tissues & cause wilting.

Spacing of 45 * 45 cm is generally practiced in many places. Also 75*75 & 90*90 cm spacing can be maintained. Ridge and furrow method is adopted for its cultivation. While in monsoons, it has to be planted on the ridges. Furrows around 50 cm wide is generally recommended, maintaining up to 75 cm between rows.

weed free condition

Since it is a long duration crop, inter culture operation must be done on a timely basis. Every 30 days, earthing up of the soil is done, to prevent crust formation & also to manage weeds.

45 days after transplant

Plant responds well to foliar sprays & Biovita organic manure must be used @ 1 ml per litre every 20 days.

Irrigation must be provided everyday for up to 15 days after transplantation. Subsequently irrigation can be given on alternate days or twice weekly when the plant has established itself. During monsoons irrigation is not needed but bunds must be formed such that water does not stagnate at the base of the plant or it will cause rotting. Application of complex NPK should also be done every 25 days.

To prevent loss of soil water , mulching with paddy straw, dried leaves & plant residue, etc must be done.


flowering seen

green tender fruits

Flowering starts 45 to 60 days after transplanting & yielding continues for about 3 months depending on cultivar & beneficial conditionsHarvesting tender green fruits for vegetable use should be done at initial stages to allow better flush. Ripe red fruits used mainly as spice can be plucked after 1 to 2 weeks after first harvest. Dried chilli can be stored longer than the tender green ones.

Photos and content by Pritham 'Heavy metal farmer' denzil dsouza