Organic Bitter Gourd Farming, Cultivation In India

Organic Bitter Gourd Farming or Better Melon Cultivation

Bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) or Bitter melon is one of the most popular vegetables in India and it is also known as Karela. This vegetable used in a variety of culinary preparations and possess high nutritive and medicinal value. It is a unique vegetable-fruit that can be used for food or medicine purposes. It is grown for its Bitter tender fruits. Bitter gourd is covered with blunt tubercles and the fruits turn to an orange-yellow color when ripe. These are rich in iron, vitamin A, B, C and are an inexpensive source of proteins and minerals. But it is likely to contain more pesticide residues than other vegetables due to its lumps on the skin.

A Step by Step Guide to Organic Bitter Gourd Farming (Bitter Melon)

Bitter gourd is popularly known as a vegetable that is an excellent source of vitamins.  Its health advantages extend to lowering blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol, but it requires an acquired taste to enjoy it. By comparing chemically grown Bitter gourd, organically grown Bitter gourd is produced higher amounts of antioxidants in the leaves. Organic agriculture farming contributes to sustainable development, environmental protection, and food safety.

Guide to Organic Bitter Gourd Farming
Guide to Organic Bitter Gourd Farming

Advantages of Organic Bitter Gourd over Chemically Grown Bitter Gourd

Most of the available market produce is developed by using conventionally grown Bitter gourd which is formed with an excess amount of chemical fertilizers which has chemical residues. As a result, most of the juices have toxic residues which are not good for human health. People are gradually realizing the importance of Bitter gourd and other products developed from organically grown Bitter gourd. Therefore demand is increasing day by day for organically grown Bitter gourd.

Organic Bitter gourd cultivation involves the use of organic manures like Panchagavya, Jeevamrit, Vermiwash, and humic acid, etc has important nutrients that are required for crop growth and productivity. These organic manures are low cost as they are prepared by the farmers themselves on their farm. These liquid manures not only increase crop yield but also improves the quality and post-harvest shelf life of produce and maintains soil health and sustainability in the long run.

Important recommended varieties of Bitter gourd are Co 1, MDU 1, COBgoH 1 (Hybrid), Arka Harit, Priya, Priyanka, Phule Green, Konkan Tara, Pusa Vishesh, and Arka Harit and Preethi are mainly cultivated.

Some hybrid varieties of Bitter gourd are Sheena, Chayan, Arjuna, Nagesh, Parijat, Maya, Paras, Trishul, and TCH-1, etc.

Bitter gourd is a warm-season crop grown in tropical and subtropical regions. In India, it is grown from the plains to an altitude of about 1500 meters. The growth requirements of Bitter gourd are normally a long period of warm preferably dry weather with plenty of sunshine. For good Bitter gourd quality, dry weather during fruit maturity is necessary. It is not adapted to resist even light frost and will have to be given proper protection if grown in the winter season.

The important recommended varieties of Bitter gourd are given below;

Pusa Do Mausmi – This is a selection from a local collection, and suitable for spring, summer, and rainy seasons. The fruits reach edible maturity, in about 55 days from seed sowing. Fruits are dark green, long, medium-thick, club-shaped with 7 to 8 continuous ridges, 18 cm long at the edible stage, and 8-10 fruits weigh about 1 kilogram.

Coimbatore Long – These fruits are long, tender, and white. This is suitable for the rainy season.

VK-I (Priya) – It is a selection from Kerala Agricultural University and the fruits are extra-long (about 39 cm long). It takes 60 days from sowing to the first harvest.

Arka Harit – It has medium-sized, spindle-shaped fruits with green color skin, thick flesh, moderate Bitterness, and less number of seeds. It grows well in summer and rainy seasons but the maximum yield is obtained during the rainy season. Fruits are ready for harvesting in 12 to 14 days after pollination. In 100-110 days duration time, it yields about 120 quintal fruits per hectare.

MDV- l – This is a long fruited and high yielding plant variety. It is medium branching and early flowering variety. The vine bears about 20-25 fruits per plant and the hectare yield is 250 quintals.

Pusa Vishesh – This has been recommended for cultivation as a summer season crop. These are attractive green, fusiform with many irregular broken smooth ridges on the surface. They are medium long and thick. It takes about 55 days to come to harvest after sowing.

Soil and Climate Requirement for Organic Bitter Gourd Farming

Use organically rich, sandy, or loamy well-drained soil for Bitter gourd farming. A mixture of cow dung and compost will also do wonders for the Bitter gourd plant growth. It can be cultivated from lowland to altitudes up to 1,000 meters. The crop can tolerate low temperatures, but extremely cool temperature levels will retard growth. The Bitter gourd plants are adapted to a wide variety of rainfall conditions. It tolerates a wide range of soil but prefers a well-drained sandy loam soil rich in organic matter. The optimum soil pH level is 6.0–6.7, but plants tolerate alkaline soils up to pH 8.0.

It is a warm-season crop but has a wide range of adaptability and grown in regions with low temperatures. The ideal temperature for Bitter gourd plant growth and flowering is 25-30°C. The crop can be grown even in places of slightly lower temperature levels and high rainfall areas.  Production of female flowers, fruit set, and growth is seen affected above 35°C and will be susceptible to viral infections. As seeds have a hard seed coat, germination is affected below temperature level 10°C. Well-drained and fertile sandy loam or silt loam is ideal for the Bitter gourd crop.

Seed Rate and Seed Treatment in Organic Bitter Gourd Farming

Approximately 4.0 to 5.0 kg of seeds are required for cultivating one hectare of land. Soaking seeds in a 1:10 solution of 100 ppm Potassium Nitrate for 3 hours increases germination and seedling vigor. The spacing required for sowing depends upon the season and the variety grown. A distance of 2.5-3.5 meters between the rows and 90-120 cm between the hills in the rows.

The seeds have to be treated with Thiram by 2g/kg of seeds. The Bitter gourd seed has a hard seed coat and germinates slowly due to the slow absorption of water. Germination takes a longer time at low temperatures and the seed germination is optimum at a temperature between 25-35°C and inhibited at 8°C, and above 40°C. About four seeds are sown per pit and later two-three seedlings per pit are retained. Instead of sowing in the main field, the seeds can be sown in the polythene bags and can be shifted to pits in the main field after 15 to 20 days.

Seed Selection in Organic Bitter Gourd Farming

Selection of seed is the first step in the production of quality seed in Bitter gourd farming. The selection of seeds must be from an approved source. Usually, proper care must be taken to avoid the usage of aged seeds are stored for more than a year. Verify if the seed brought for sowing has a breeder seed tag (for producing foundation seed), and foundation seed tag (for production of certified seed). Also, the seeds must be free from pests and diseases. Rotten, dull-colored, black-spotted seeds should be removed. Seeds of uniform size and shape alone should be used for sowing. Generally, Bitter gourd is a cross-pollinated crop. Insects, especially bees, pollinate Bitter gourd flowers.

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Method of Sowing in Organic Bitter Gourd Farming

The seed is sown by the dibbling method at a spacing of about 120×90 cm. In flatbed, layout seeds are dibbled at the spacing about 1 x 1 m. The seed rate is about 4 to 5 kg/hectare is recommended. For pre germination, the seeds should be soaked in water for 24 hours. Then soaked seeds are to be mixed with double the volume of moist sand and the seed must be fully covered by the sand and keep it for three days. During this period moisture of sand must be maintained. The seeds with radicle emergence are to be collected and then used for sowing. If we are using pre-germinated seeds, sow only 3 seeds per pit.

Process of Planting Bitter Gourd

The direct seeding method is the most common method of planting Bitter gourd. In cooler climates, it can be necessary to start the seedlings in a greenhouse to ensure good germination.

Direct seeding

Optimum plant density differs with variety and row × plant spacing, usually ranging from 3,500 to 18,000 plants per hectare of land. In some intensively managed plantings, a closer spacing of about 50 x 50 cm is used. On raised beds, sow 2 or 3 seeds per hole at a depth of 2 cm. Space holes 40 to 60 cm apart in rows spaced 1.2–1.5 meters apart.


Sow seeds in plastic trays using a potting mix that has good water holding capacity and good drainages such as peat moss, commercial potting soil, or a potting mix prepared from soil, rice hull, compost, and vermiculite or sand. Plant one seed per container at a depth of about 2 cm. Water the seedlings every morning to maintain moist but not wet soil. Seedlings are ready for transplanting 10 to 20 days after sowing or when they are 10–15 cm tall. Then, transplant seedlings into the field at plant spacing similar to that used for direct seeding.

Irrigation Requirement for Organic Bitter Gourd Farming/Production

Install a drip system with main and sub-main pipes and then place the inline lateral tubes at an interval of about 1.5 meters. Bitter gourd plants do not tolerate drought. Carefully maintain good soil moisture in the upper 50 cm of soil where the majority of roots are located. During the initial stages of growth, irrigate at 3 to 4 days interval, and alternate days during flowering or fruiting stages. Furrow irrigation is the ideal method of irrigating.

Organic Nutrients Required for Bitter Gourd Farming

Manure or compost can be used to satisfy the basal application of organic fertilizer. It depends on bulky organic manures like farmyard manure, vermicomposting, and in some cases poultry manure. As these manures contain a low amount of plant nutrients and their mineralization rate is also very low. So, farmers are not getting the desired yield from organic Bitter gourd cultivation. Then, foliar application of liquid organic manures absorbs nutrients 20 times faster than the applied through the soil. Temporary nutrient deficiencies can be overcome by using liquid organic manures. Whenever the nutrient uptake through the plant roots is stopped it stimulates growth by foliar application.

Liquid manure is prepared from farmyard manure or plant materials. Frequent stirring encourages microbial activity in liquid manures. The resulting liquid can be used as a foliar fertilizer or applied to the soil. Liquid organic manures act as tonic or stimulant to plants. It is used as an insecticide and fungicide. Traditional organic formulations contain numerous plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB), which can enhance plant growth by nitrogen fixation, hormone production growth, and control phytopathogens. Also, farmers formulate their organic formulations by combining different organic materials and treating them by fermentation or composting. Panchagavya is one of the widely used traditional organic formulations. Use organic or plastic mulch depending on availability and mulch can be laid down before or after trans­planting and after sowing. Organic mulch such as dry rice straw or grass is available and cheaper than plastic mulch.

Organic Pests and Diseases Control in Bitter Gourd Farming

Bitter gourd plants are rarely infested by pests and diseases.

Epilachna beetle – The yellowish grubs and adults of the beetle feed voraciously on plant leaves and tender plant parts, and the leaves are completely skeletonized leaving only a network of veins. The pest causes serious defoliation and reduces yield.

Control – Remove and destroy egg masses, grubs, and adults occurring on plant leaves.

Aphids – Aphids in large numbers congregate on tender parts of the plant and suck sap resulting in curling and crinkling of plant leaves. Ants carry aphids from one plant to another.

Control – Apply about 1.5% fish oil soap. First, dissolve soap in hot water and make up the volume.

Downy mildew – Cottony white mycelial growth is seen on the surface of the leaf. Chlorotic specks can be seen on the upper surface of the leaves and it is severe during the rainy season.

Control – Complete removal and destruction of the affected plant leaves. Spraying 10 % solution of neem preparation.

Powdery mildew – Powdery mildew disease appears as small, whitish spots on leaves and stems. Extensive premature defoliation of the older plant leaves resulting in yield reduction. High humidity and heavy dew increase the severity of the powdery mildew disease.

Control – Control the disease by spraying with Dinocap 1 ml/ liter or Trichoderma viridae 2 g/l or neem oil 2% or 3 foliar sprays at 14 days interval on symptom appearance.

Mosaic – It is characterized by vein clearing and chlorosis of leaves. The yellow network of veins is conspicuous and veins and veinlets are thickened. Plant growth infected in the early stages remains stunted and the yield of the plant gets severely reduced.

Control – Control the vectors by spraying with dimethoate 0.05%. Uprooting and destruction of affected plants and collateral hosts must be done. Harvesting can be done after 10 days (at least) of insecticide or fungicide application. The fruits must be washed thoroughly in water before cooking.

Organic Prevention and Control Methods in Bitter Gourd Farming;

  • First, always make a plan to grow a healthy crop.
  • Properly choose plant cultivars that are fungal resistant and are common in your locality.
  • Properly choose your planting materials. Make sure that the seeds are diseased-free.
  • Select cultivars that are diseased- resistant.
  • Prune the infected parts immediately.
  • Have a healthy and well-balanced soil
  • Prune the overcrowded foliage
  • Pick and cut the infected plant parts
  • Uproot the heavily infected plants
  • Always practice proper field sanitation

When and How to Harvest Bitter Gourd

Harvest when the Bitter gourd fruits are green, shiny, and have attained full size. This is 15-20 days from flowering or 60-95 days from planting. Priming can be done at 2 to 3 days interval. Harvesting can be done continuously for 2-3 months. Bitter gourd plant requires close attention at harvest time. Usually, Bitter gourd takes 15 to 20 days after the fruit set or 60 to 75 days from planting for the fruit to reach marketable age. It can be harvested at earlier stages depending on the purpose for which it will be used. Fruit must be shiny green, thick and juicy, and the seeds should be soft and white. Harvest every 2–3 days by using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut the fruit stalk. Irregular harvesting delays the formation of successive fruit production and affects their growth and development. Regular crop harvesting at shorter intervals will increase the fruit number.

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