Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) also known as white flower gourd, is one of the most important cucurbitaceous vegetable crops grown roughout the tropic and subtropic regions of the country. In the rainy season, it is almost equally distributed in plains, lower hills, and plateau regions. It is commercially cultivated throughout the year in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for domestic as well as export markets. In India, bottle gourd is cultivated in an area of 113,920 ha with a production of 2,089,890 tonnes. It is widely cultivated in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Asom, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala. It is grown for immature fruits used for culinary purposes; 100 g of tender fruit contains 96 g water, 0.2 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 2.5 g carbohydrate, 0.6 g fiber, 0.5 g minerals, 12 kcal energy, 20 mg calcium, 10 mg phosphorus, 0.7 mg iron, 0.3 mg thiamine, 0.01 mg riboflavin, and 0.2 mg niacin. The fruit pulp is a very good source of fiber-free carbohydrates. Of late, bottle gourd has become popular due to its antioxidant, antidiabetic, and anti-obese properties. However, caution must be exercised not to consume bitter bottle gourd juice, which poses a serious health risk causing severe digestive upset, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. The seed kernels contain 45% oil and about 35% protein. Increased awareness about bottle gourd health benefits has encouraged its round the year cultivation.
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Climate and Soil
Bottle gourd thrives well in hot humid weather conditions, but it also grows well and continues to produce good harvest under frost-free low-temperature conditions. If the plants have attained sufficient vegetative growth before the onset of cool weather, as is common in northern Indian plains where August September sown crops of bottle gourd produce remunerative off-season produce during November, December, and January.
Bottle gourd can be grown on all types of soils if these are not too acidic (pH less than 5.5) or saline and alkaline. Loam or sandy-loam soil is suitable. The soil should be rich in organic matter and with good drainage. Salinity and alkalinity adversely affect the crop. Two-year crop rotation is advised to safeguard the crop from soil-borne diseases. Night and day. the temperature of 18-22°C and 30-35°C, respectively, is optimum for its proper growth and high fruit set. The day temperature above 40°C may cause scorching of leaves. Seed germination is faster at the temperature range of 25-30°C but temperature below 10°C, reduces germination. The crop grown at optimum temperature has a higher proportion of female flowers and fruits/plants. Higher temperature induces the emergence of male flowers and a wide sex ratio.
There is a large variation in bottle gourd varieties grown in different states and even in different regions within a state. Important varieties and hybrids recommended for commercial cultivation are listed here.
Arka Bahar: The fruits are straight skin, not crook necked, weighing about 1 kg each at the edible stage, with light green skin. Yield about 40-45 tonnes/ha, in crop duration of 115-120 days. It is suitable for the rainy season and summer cultivation.
Kalyanpur Hari Lambi: It is recommended for planting in both summer and rainy seasons. Fruits are long and slightly dark green in color. Fruit yield is about 25 tonnes/ha. Kashi Ganga: Fruits are light green, length 30 cm, diameter 7 cm, fruit weight 800-900 g and yield potential is 48-55 tonnes/ha. It is tolerant to anthracnose and suitable for the rainy season and summer cultivation.
Narendra 619: Fruits very long and slender. Suitable for the eastern plain zone.
Narendra Dharidar: Bottle-shaped fruits having green stripes. First picking within 60 days. Green fruits can be eaten as a salad. Yield 20 tonnes/ha. Narendra Jyoti NDBG-104: Fruits long cylindrical having a shallow neck. Yield 36 tonnes/ha.
Narendra Madhuri: Winter variety, fruits round. Narendra Rashmi: Bottle-shaped fruits. First picking within 65 days. Suitable for cultivation in all seasons. Resistant to anthracnose during the rainy season. Yield 41 tonnes/ha.
Narendra Shishir: Round fruits, first picking within 85-90 days. Suitable for winter cultivation. Resistant to anthracnose, downy mildew, and fruit fly. Yield 67.5 tonnes/ha.
Narendra Shivani: Winter variety, prolific bearer, fruits very long and slender, suitable for the kitchen garden. NDBG 132: An early homogenous variety with attractive bottle-shaped, slender, long fruits; suitable for early sowing. Yield 45 tonnes/ha.
NDBG 1: Fruits are uniform, light green, long, slightly thinner, and curved near the pedicel end. It is recommended for the spring-summer crop for upland and river basins, yield is 25 tonnes/ha. Phule BTG 1: Fruits are long (30-40 cm), bottle-shaped and green. It produces more female flowers from basal nodes and gives early yield.
Pusa Naveen: Suitable for spring-summer and rainy season cultivation in northern plains. The fruits are straight, cylindrical, and free from crookneck, the fruit length is about 30 cm and weigh about 850 g. Maturity 55 days. The yield is 32.5 tonnes/ha.
Pusa Sandesh: Fruits round, globular, medium size, green, and average fruit weight 500 g. Suitable for sowing in both summer and Kharif. First harvest in 55 days. The yield potential is 32 tonnes/ha.
Pusa Samridhi: Fruits are long without a neck. The average yield is 27.2 tonnes/ha in spring-summer and 30.8 tonnes/ha in Kharif. The first harvest can be obtained in 50-55 days.
Pusa Santushti: Pear-shaped fruits. The average yield is 26 tonnes/ha in spring-summer and 29 tonnes/ha in Kharif, which sets fruits under low temperature (10-12°C) as well as high temperature (35-40°C). Maturity 55 to 60 days.
Pusa Summer Prolific Long: Fruits are long (40-45 cm), uniform, light green, neck generally bent. It is suitable for spring-summer as well as rainy season crops on a trellis. First picking in 60 days, and fruit yield is about 25-27.5 tonnes/ha.
Pusa Summer Prolific Round: A selection from local cultivars and suitable for both summer and Kharif season. It grows vigorously and is prolific-bearing. Fruits are round, and 15-18 cm in girth. First picking in 60-65 days after seeding; average yield is 25 tonnes/ha.
Punjab Komal: It produces early, oblong fruits, weighing 600 g and ready for picking in 70 days after sowing. It has tolerance to the cucumber-mosaic virus. Yield 50 tonnes/ha.
Punjab Long: The fruits are long, tender, light green, and attractive. First harvesting is possible in 70-80 days after seeding. It yields 20 tonnes/ha.
Punjab Round: Its plants are vigorous and prolific bearer. The fruits are spherical, tender, and shining. It yields 38.75 tonnes/ha.
Rajendra Chamatkar: Fruits are long (50-60 cm), uniform, green, and bottle-shaped; the yield is 20-25 tonnes/ha.
Kashi Bahar: This is a long fruited hybrid with light green, straight fruits, 30-32 cm long with an average weight of 780-850 g and yield 50-55 tonnes/ha. It is suitable for the rainy season and summer cultivation. It is tolerant to anthracnose, downy mildew, and Cercospora leaf spot under field conditions.
Mridula: Uniform green fruits, round shape, tender flesh with slow seed maturity; and heavy yielder (34-38 tonnes/ha). Narendra Sankar Lauki-4: Early hybrid, first picking within 55 days in summer. Fruits are medium long, near cylindrical in shape, and light green. Suitable both for summer and rainy seasons. Yield 36.5 tonnes/ha
NDBG 4: A promising hybrid, and it produces the first edible fruit within 55 days. Fruits are near cylindrical, long, and attractive; the average yield is 30-35 tonnes/ ha.
NS 421: Light green tender fruits, cylindrical (30-35 cm) weighing 350-400 g, flesh white and first picking can be done 48-50 days after sowing. The average yield is 36 tonnes/ha.
Pusa Hybrid 3: Fruits long (35-40 cm), slightly club-shaped, straight without neck, green, average fruit weight 1.2 kg, maturity 55 days, and yield 42.5 tonnes/ ha in summer and 47 tonnes/ha in Kharif.
Warad: A prolific bearer, light green cylindrical fruits (50-55 cm), weighing 600-800 g, first picking 48-50 days after sowing, heavy yielder, 38-42 tonnes/ha, and posses wide adaptability.
The land is ploughed with disc harrow followed by 3 cross-ploughings with a cultivator. Well-rotten compost or farmyard manure @ 20 tonnes/ ha is mixed in soil at the ploughing. Planking after the last 2 ploughings with a cultivator makes the soil pulverized and leveled. If the soil is infested with nematodes or white ants apply Carbofuran @ 25 kg/ha. After leveling the field, 40 to 50 cm wide channels are made at a distance of 2.0 to 2.5 m, if the plants are to be trained on the ground. The length of the channel depends on the source of irrigation and the slope of the land. Bottle gourd can also be staked with iron angles, bamboo, or casurina poles. For this method of cultivation, raised beds of 70 cm width, drip irrigation, and polythene mulching is required which improves vine length, number, and quality of fruits, yield and reduces evaporation losses and weeds.
Generally fully mature brownish or whitish-brown seeds germinate well. Fresh bottle gourd seeds germinate poorly. Therefore seeding should be done with fully mature 2-3 month-old seeds. For the rainy season crop, the seeds are sown in the first week of June before the onset of the rains. Therefore, seeds from summer crops should not be sown for the rainy season crop. Water-soaked seeds for 24 48 hr germinate quickly. Good seeds, if dropped in water settle down and non-viable seeds float on the water surface. About 3-4 kg seed is enough for a hectare. The row-to-row distance may be kept at 2.0-2.5 m and seed-to-seed 1.0-1.5 m. The same distance should also be kept between row-to-row and hill-to-hill within a row in the hill-row method, which is generally adopted for rainy season crops. Alternatively, the ‘single trelly’ system of cultivation can also be followed for rainy season crops as practiced in north Indian conditions. However, the ‘single trelly’ or bower’ system of cultivation can be followed throughout the year under south Indian conditions. For these systems of cultivation with staking, drip irrigation, and mulching, a spacing of 2.0 2.5 m from bed to bed and 0.6-0.8 m from plant to plant should be followed.
Nursery raising in seedling trays
Raising the nursery in seedling trays is recommended for a single trelly system of cultivation. Advantages of raising the nursery in seedling trays are easy to manage, ensures better seedling establishment, and requires less seed rate (2-2.5 kg/ha). Fill coco-peat @ 2.5 kg/tray, sow single seed/ hole, cover with coco-peat, keep the trays one above the other, tie 10 trays together with black polythene. Remove the sheet after 4-5 days and spread the trays over the polythene sheet, keep the trays in poly-net-house and water daily twice during summer and once a day during Kharif. Drench the nursery with water-soluble NPK @ 3 g/litre after one week of germination and with multi K @ 3-5 g/litre of 10-12 days of germination. Transplant single seedling per hill after 12-15 days of sowing when 2-3 true leaves are formed.
Manuring and fertilization
The application of manures and fertilizers depends upon the soil nutrient status. Successful bottle gourd production requires about 22 55 kg nitrogen, 20-60 kg phosphorus, and 17.5-44 kg potassium per/ha depending on soil type, climate, and variety. Add farmyard manure (FYM) @ 20-30 tonnes/ ha at the field preparation. Nutrient enrichment of FYM before application to the main field as basal dose improves soil health as well as yield potential of the crop. For enrichment of FYM, add 1 kg each of Trichoderma viridi, phosphate solubilizing bacteria (PSB), and multi-K to 100 kg of FYM (sieved) and wet this mixture with water and cover with polythene sheet for 15 days, then this would be mixed with 10 tonnes of well rotten FYM and applied to field. Total P and K and one-third of N can be applied basally, about 8-10 cm away from the seeds. The remaining two-thirds of N can be applied in 2 split doses. First, the split dose is to be applied 25-30 days after sowing, and the second one is at the flowering stage. Optimum fertilizer combination is needed for proper growth of the plant and good fruiting. Nitrogen (N) deficiency causes yellowing of vine and foliage and checks the vegetative growth. Whereas the excess dose promotes excess biomass accumulation, which reduces fruiting, and higher doses of N also produce more male flowers, which is undesirable. Deficiency of K reduces plant height and area of foliage causing flower drop and checks the fruiting completely. Boron deficiency and reduced bee activity lead to lack of pollination resulting in unfertilized female flowers which turn brown and dry eventually reducing fruit set and crop yield.
Vines of the spring-summer crop are allowed to spread between the channel/rows. But the vines of rainy season crop or even summer crop can be trained to spread on bower’ made from thin coconut rope or wire and bamboo sticks or on ‘single trellis’ made from GI wire, gunny thread, and casurina poles or iron angles. It prevents the fruit from rotting and allows the vines and foliage better exposure to air and light. The marketable fruit yield increases in this system of training. When the plants start vining (35-40 days after sowing), vine guiding should be done on the trellis. This facilitates intercultural operations and minimizes disease incidence.
Weeding and hoeing should be done along and between the rows. Application of N and earthing-up should be done before the emergence of tendrils. Tallgrass growing above the foliage should be pulled up. Bottle gourd responds well to micronutrient application. Spray boric acid @ 0.2% three times, starting from 15 days after sowing, at 10-15 days intervals for improving the fruit set and quality. Foliar application of water-soluble NPK fertilizer @5 g/litre at 15 days intervals for 2-3 fold starting after 45 days of sowing improves fruit yield and quality.
In February-March sown crop, the first irrigation is given 2-3 days after sowing. After that, irrigation is given at 7 to 8 days intervals. In north Indian plains during April-June, the crop should be irrigated at 4-5 days intervals. Care should be taken that irrigation water does not overflow the channels at least in the first 4 irrigations. This prevents the emergence of weeds between the channels. In the drip and mulching system of cultivation, water should be given daily between 30-60 min depending on the season.
Diseases and Pests
Pumpkin beetles, leaf miners, and fruit flies are major pests. Wilt, anthracnose, downy mildew, powder mildew, gummy stem blight, cucumber mosaic virus are major diseases.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Management
Bottle gourd may be harvested 55-75 days after sowing. The bottle gourds are of edible nature if the fruit skin color facing to sunlight is as green as one-week-old fruits. The fruits should be harvested within 3 days of the shedding of the small hairs present on the skin. At this stage, the seed inside the pulp is as soft as the pulp of the fruit, and the rind of the fruit is very tender. After this stage, the color of the fruit skin starts becoming white, fruit rind hardens and the seed coat also becomes hard and unfit for eating. During or after harvesting, there should not be any scratch or bruising on the skin of the fruit which makes it blackish and lowers down the market, value. Insertion of some soft material, paper, soft grass, or any packing material may be done between the fruits. The harvested fruits should be sprinkled with water after every 4-5 hours or put in a cold store during the pre-market period. Open-pollinated varieties yield 20-25 tonnes/ ha, while the yield of hybrids is generally more than 30 tonnes/ha.