The Okra or Lady’s finger (Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench) is of old world origin, somewhere in the African continent. There are 38 species of the genus Abelmoschus. It is an important vegetable crop grown in summer and rainy seasons throughout India.
It is rich in vitamins, calcium, potassium and other minerals. The root and stems are used for clarification of sugarcane juice before it is converted into jaggery and brown sugar.
The medicinal properties of okra are associated with genitro-urinary disorders, spermatorrhoea and chronic dysentry. Okra is grown for its green, tender and nutritive fruits which are used for canning and frozen despite the use as vegetable.
VARIETIES OF OKRA
Pusa Sawani The fruits are dark green, smooth with 5 ridges and about 10-12 cm long at the marketable stage. It takes 50 days from sowing to marketable maturity. Earlier it was resistant to Yellow Vein Mosaic Virus (YVMV) but now resistance has been break down.
This variety was developed by Dr. Harbhajan Singh through selection from a cross between Pusa Makhmali x IC 1542.
Parbhani Kranti Resistant to YVMV. Fruits are green, smooth with 5 ridges and about 8-10 cm long at the marketable stage. It takes 50 days from sowing to marketable maturity. It was released by the Marathawada Krishi Vidya Peeth, Parbhani (Maharashtra) in 1985. It is becoming popular day by day. It was developed from an interspecific cross between A. esculentus (Pusa Sawani) and A. manihot.
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Harbhajan High yielding, fruits having 5 ridges, 15-29 cm long and resistant to YVMV.
Punjab Padmani Fruits remain tender for a long period. Tolerant to YVMV. Developed by crossing Pusa Sawani with accession EC 31830.
Punjab 7 Fruits are medium long, green, tender and ridged. Resistant to YVMV.
Punjab No.13 Fruits light green, 5 ridged and medium in length. Susceptible to YVMV Developed by PAU, Ludhiana from a cross between A. esculentus (Pusa Sawani) and A. manihor sp. manihot.
Pusa Makhmali Susceptible to YVMV. It is an early variety. Developed at IARI, New Delhi as a result of selection from local material of West Bengal.
IIHR 20-31 It produces long fruits with thick flesh and lush green skin colour. Produces 20-25 fruits per plant. It is free from the attack of YVMV.
Varsha Uphar Released by CCS HAU, Hisar. It has been developed by inter-varietal hybridization between Lam Selection-1 and Parbhani Kranti, following pedigree selection. It is an early, high yielding and resistant to yellow-vein mosaic virus. Fruits are smooth, dark green with 5 ridges and ready for first picking 47 days after sowing. On an average it provides 9.8 tonnes of vegetable and 1.5-2 tonnes of seed from one hectare.
Arka Anamika (Sel-10). It is resistant to YVMV developed at 11HR, Bangalore. It is evolved through inter-specific hybridization between A. esculentus (Pusa Sawani) and A. manihot spp. tetraphyllus. Plants are medium tall with short internodes and less branching. It provides 110-120 q green pods per hectare.
Arka Abhay (Sel-4) It is a sister line of Sel-10. Fruits are light green and leaves yellowish. Flowering starts 45-50 days after sowing and picking starts 55-60 days after sowing. It is tolerant to fruit borer and resistant to YVMV. It yields about 100-110 q green pods per hectare.
Co-1 Developed by TNAU, Coimbatore through single plant selection from a population of Red Wonder. The pods are long, slender, 5 ridged, glossy, smooth and scarlet red. It is tolerant to YVMV but susceptible to fruit borer and powdery mildew.
MDU-1. It is an induced mutant of Pusa Sawani evolved at TNAU, Coimbatore. Fruits are light green, tender and long. Picking starts 45 days after sowing.
EMS-8. It is also an induced mutant of Pusa Sawani and developed at PAU, Ludhiana by treating with 1% EMS. Fruits are medium long, green, thin, tender and 5 ridged. It has field resistant to YVMV but tolerant to fruit borer. Average yield is 95 q/ha.
The okra being a warm season crop, is highly susceptible to frost. Seed germination is best at temperature between 25°C and 30°C and fails below 17°C. The crop thrives best during warm and moist climate, although it grows fairly well in the hot summer too. When the day temperature exceeds 42°C, there is flower-drop.
SOIL AND FIELD PREPARATION
Okra does not exercise any performance in sandy to clay soils which are well managed in terms of fertility and drainage. Neutral to slightly alkaline soils are ideally suited.
One deep ploughing during summer followed by 2-3 light ploughings are sufficient to obtain the tilth. Level the soil at the time of last ploughing.
MANURE AND FERTILIZERS
The manure and fertilizers application depend upon the season, climatic conditions and soil fertility. However, in general 20-30 tonnes of well decomposed FYM, 100 kg N, 60 kg P2O5, and 50 kg K2O /ha are sufficient. FYM should be thoroughly mixed in the soil at the time of field preparation. The complete dose of phosphatic and potassic fertilizers and one-third dose of nitrogenous fertilizers should be applied at last ploughing. The remaining dose of nitrogenous fertilizers should be applied in two split doses; the first to be top dressed one month after sowing and the second two months after sowing. However, the areas where high rainfall occur throughout the rainy season, the nitrogen should be applied in 4-5 split doses so that loss of nitrogen through leaching can be avoided.
It is possible to grow the okra all the year round in South India, where winter is mild. Early spring and autumn, however, are the main cropping seasons of the area. In Central and Northern plains usually two crops: spring-summer and rainy season are raised. The former is sown in February-March and the later in June-July. Only the crop, sown in May-June, can succeed in the hills.
Seed rate varies according to the sowing season. For a spring-summer crop about 20 kg seed/ha is required whereas, 8-10 kg seed/ha is sufficient for the rainy season crop. Low and rather erratic germination of seed during February-March (due to low temperature) demands a higher seed rate for the spring-summer crop. Soaking of seed in water for 24 hours before sowing is recommended to enhance germination percentage.
METHOD OF SOWING AND SPACING
Since spring-summer crop needs more care, the seed should preferably be dibbled 15 cm apart, on ridges made at 45 cm apart. The ridges should run South to North and the seed should be sown on the side of the ridge facing East.
The main or the rainy-season crop can be sown in flat beds at a distance of 45-60 X 25-30 cm. For commercial or large scale or economical production, seed rate has to be increased from 10 to 15 kg/ha.
The spring-summer crop needs irrigation after every 4-5 days but frequency of irrigation in the rainy-season crop depends upon the rains and field moisture.
The spring-summer crop may need two or three weeding and hoeings but the rainy season crop may need frequent weedings. Pre-planting application of Fluchloralin @ 0.5-1.0 kg/ha four days before sowing or Trifluralin @ 0.5-1.0 kg/ha or Alachlor @ 1-2 kg/ha one day after sowing have been recommended to check weeds. The weedicide-treated fields may, however, need one weeding at 60 days after sowing.
It takes 7-8 days from flowering to picking of fruits. Generally the consumer prefers small tender fruits 5 to 7.5 cm long in every alternate day. Frequent pickings in okra promotes fruit development, hence enhances yield.
Fruits should be harvested by trained persons at tender stage without the pedicel. Large sized fruits require more force to remove them from the stem and even sometimes this force leads to uprooting of the plants.
On an average the yield of okra varies from 60 to 65 q/ha of green fruits for the spring summer crop and 90 to 120 q/ha for the rainy-season crop.
Poor seed germination:- Normally in North Indian plains okra is sown in two seasons. In rainy season there is no problem of seed germination. However, prevailing of low temperature during February, which is an optimum time of sowing of spring-summer crop, leads to poor seed germination.
- Seed soaking in fresh water for 24 hours and in hot water (45°C) for 30 minutes improve seed germination.
- Tie the water soaked seeds in a piece of cloth and keep into a heap of fresh cow dung overnight to stimulate germination.