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.

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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

Karela Varieties commonly Cultivated commercially

VarietyYield Per hectare
Pusa Do Mausami12-15
Coimbatore Long15
Arka Harit9-12
Pusa VisheshNA
VK1 (Priya)24.5
MDU.130-35
COBgH 152
Preethi (MC 4)15
Priyanka28
CO114
Pusa Hybrid 120
Konkan Tara24
Punjab 1414
Kalyanpur Baramasi20
Hirkani14
Phule Green23

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.

Seasons

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.

Propogation

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.

Farming Techniques

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

Fertilizers :

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

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
Multi Nutrients

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.