Snake gourd (Trichosanthes anguina) is a popular tropical warm-season cucurbit vegetable, which is grown throughout the year in south India. It is also grown in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Fruits are harvested at a tender stage and are usually used after cooking. It is a good source of minerals, fiber, and vitamins A and B. It is a wholesome and healthy addition to the diet. The crop is highly cross-pollinated due to its monoecious nature. Flowers are unisexual, female flowers solitary. The ratio of males and females ranges from 31:1 to 22:1.
Climate and soil
Snake gourd prefers tropical warm humid climate. It can be grown successfully up to 1,500 m above mean sea level. It cannot tolerate frost and the ideal temperature is 25-30°C. Heavy rainfall during flowering affects its yield. Loamy soil with a pH of 6-7 is ideal for its cultivation.
APAU Swetha: This variety was released by APAU, Hyderabad. Fruits are long with whitish background with green stripes. Potential yield 28-30 tonnes/ha.
Baby: This is a small-fruited variety released by Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur. Attractive white fruits suitable for easy handling and marketing, average fruit length 36.5 cm, average fruit girth 22 cm, average fruit weight 474 g, and productivity is 40 tonnes/ha.
CO 1: This variety was released by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore. Fruits are 160 to 180 cm long and dark green with whites stripes. The yield is 18 tonnes/ha.
CO 2: This is a variety released by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. Plants are less spreading. Fruits short (30-35 cm long), greenish-white and yield 25-30 tonnes/ha.
Harithasree: This variety was released by Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur. Fruits are green with white stripes, average fruit length 64.5 cm, average fruit girth 18.8 cm, average fruit weight 650 g and yield 60 tonnes/ha.
Kaumudhi: This variety released by Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur; produces uniform, white large fruits with an acute tip, average fruit length 100 cm, average fruit girth 29.4 cm, average fruit weight 1.34 kg, and productivity 50 tonnes/ha.
Konkan Swetha: This variety was released by Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli. Fruits are 90-100 cm long, white, duration is 120-130 days. Yield potential, 15-20 tonnes/ha.
Manusree: This variety was released by Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur having uniformly white and medium cylindrical (67.72 cm) fruits with green markings at the pedicel. Average fruit weight 775 g with 32.5 yield tonnes/ha in 120-140 days.
MDU 1: This variety was released by Tamil Nadu. Agricultural University, Coimbatore, by crossing. Thaniyamangalam Selection and a local short cultivar fruit 60 cm long with white stripes under green background.
PKM 1: This variety was released by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore. Induced mutant from H 375, Coimbatore. Fruits and extra long (180 to 200 cm). Its yield potential is 25 tonnes/ha.
PLR (SG) 1: This variety is a pure line selection from a white long type. This variety is suitable for cultivation under irrigated conditions only. Excellent cooking quality due to less fiber and high flesh content, and does not twist due to maturity. Yield potential of 35-40 tonnes/ha.
The main sowing months are June-July and December-January. In Kerala, the crop is grown throughout the year. The seed rate is 2 kg/ha. Seeds are planted at a spacing of 2.0 m x 1.5 to 2.0 m in pits of 60 cm diameter and 30 to 45 cm depth. Add well rotten farmyard manure (FYM) and basal dose of fertilizers in the pit along with some topsoil and sow 4 to 5 seeds per pit. After 2 weeks remove the unhealthy plants retaining 3 plants per pit.
Erect pandals for trailing snake gourd. Erect small wooden branches to allow the growing plants to the pandals. Side branches are removed until the growing plant reaches the pandal.
Apply farmyard manure (FYM) @ 20 25 tonnes/ha as basal dose along with a half dose of N (35 kg) and a full dose of P₂O, (25 kg) and K₂O (25 kg/ ha). The remaining N (35 kg) is applied in splits at fortnightly intervals.
During the initial stages of growth, irrigate the plants at an interval of 3 to 4 days. At later stages irrigate the plants on alternate days. Weeding should be done as and when required.
Diseases and pests
The important pests attacking snake gourd are flies, epilachna beetle, and red pumpkin beetle.
Fruit fly: In homestead gardens, the fruits are infested by Bactrocera cucurbitae. To give mechanical protection to the fruits they may be covered with polythene, cloth, or paper bags. The use of banana fruit traps coupled with the removal and destruction of infested fruits is very effective in controlling this pest. Traps are set at a distance of 2 m after a border row and they may be replenished after 7-9 days. The use of traps should be started just before flowering.
Epilachna beetle: Remove and destroy egg masses, grubs, and adults occurring on leaves.
Red pumpkin beetle: Adult beetles eat leaves and damage roots. Incorporate carbaryl 10% DP in pits before sowing the seeds to destroy grubs and pupae. The important diseases are downy mildew and mosaic.
Harvesting and post-harvest management
Fruits should be harvested at the tender stage. Usually, the fruits are ready for harvesting in 70-80 days after sowing. Harvesting should be done at an interval of 5-6 days. The fruits have poor shelf-life and cannot be stored for more than 3-4 days under room conditions. Fruits are packed in baskets or other containers for marketing.