About the crop
The bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) is probably one of humankind's first
domesticated vegetable species, providing food, medicine and a lot more. It probably
originated in Africa, from where it got distributed, perhaps by floating in sea
to India, China, and as far as New Zealand. The gourd is now widely cultivated throughout
the tropics, especially India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
China, tropical Africa and South America. In Kerala, it is mainly used as a culinary
vegetable. The cooked vegetable has cooling, diuretic, sedative and antibilious
The bottle gourd has been used by many societies in diverse and interesting ways.
It probably was first used as a water carrier, but quickly found diverse uses in
making pipes, snuff boxes, musical instruments, cricket cages and even life jackets.
Containers crafted from the fruit rind of the gourd were in constant use as bottles
for carrying wine and water, making the name "bottle gourd" especially
appropriate for the crop. A host of musical instruments were also fashioned from
bottle gourds, which are in use even today. Gourds are also formed to suit
specific uses, by shaping in a mould or tying with string, while growing them.
Climate & Soil
Bottle gourd requires a minimum temperature of 180C during early growth,
but optimal temperatures are in the range of 24–270C. The crop
can tolerate low temperatures, but extreme cool temperatures will retard growth
and frost will kill the plant. The plants are adapted to a wide variety of rainfall
conditions. Bottle gourd tolerates a wide range of soil but prefers a well drained
sandy loam soil that is rich in organic matter. The optimum soil pH is 6.0–6.7,
but plants tolerate alkaline soils up to pH 8.0.
High yielding variety released from the Indian Agricultural Research Station, Pusa,
New Delhi. Fruits are 1.5-2 feet long and eaten immature.
Variety released from the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore
with vigorous vines, and dark green foliage. Fruits are medium long and straight,
with light green shining skin when tender. Tolerant to blossom end rot. Crop duration
is 120 days. Average yield is 40-45 t/ha.
Propagation & Planting
Approximately 3-4 kg of seeds are required for cultivating one hectare of land.
January-March and September-December are the ideal seasons for growing bottle gourd.
For the rain fed crop, sowing can be started after the receipt of first few showers
Prepare the soil to a fine tilth by ploughing and harrowing. Pits of 60 cm diameter
and 30-45 cm depth are taken at a spacing of 3m x 3m for growing on pandals. Well
rotten FYM and fertilizers are mixed with topsoil in the pit. Sow four or five seeds
per pit at 1-2 cm depth. Avoid deeper sowing as it delays germination. Soaking the
seeds overnight in water and giving a pre-sowing irrigation 3-4 days before sowing
are found to be beneficial. Seed treatment with 0.2 % bavistin helps protect against
the attack of soil born fungus. After sowing, irrigate daily with a rose can.
The seeds germinate in about 4-5 days. Unhealthy plants are removed after two weeks
and only three plants are retained per pit. In high range zones of Kerala, seedlings
can be raised in greenhouses to ensure good germination and are later transplanted
to the main-field at spacings similar to those used for the direct seeding
Apply FYM @ 20-25 t/ha as basal dose along with half dose of N (35 kg) and full
dose of P2O5 (25 kg) and K2O (25 kg/ha). The remaining
dose of N (35 kg) can be applied in two equal split doses at the time of vining
and at the time of full blooming. A fertilizer dose of 70:25:25 kg N:P2O5:K2O
/ ha in several splits is recommended in Onattukara region. The fertilizer dose
per pit would be 28:10:10 g N:P2O5:K2O.
During the initial stages of growth, irrigate at 3-4 days interval, and alternate
days during flowering and fruiting. Furrow irrigation is the ideal method of irrigating.
During rainy season, drainage is essential for plant survival and growth.
Bottle gourd can be trailed either on pandals or on the ground; pandals
being the most common trailing system used in Kerala. For this, pandals
of 1.5 m height are erected using bamboo poles, wooden stakes, GI pipes or other
sturdy materials, when the plants start vining. Steel wires/strings, preferably
coated with rust proof materials like plastic are used to connect the stakes, and
to which coir or plastic ropes are tied in a crisscross manner so that horizontal
coir/plastic ropes run across on the top forming a net. Vines are supported by bamboo
stakes, which help vines freely climb and reach the top. Alternatively, bottle gourd
can also be trailed on the ground without erecting any pandal by spreading
dried twigs on the ground.
To improve yield, remove lateral branches until the runner reaches the top of the
trellis. Leave 4-6 laterals and cut the tip of the main runner to induce early cropping.
Removal of lateral branches in the first 10 nodes has a positive effect on
total yield. Without pruning, most of the female flowers occur between the 10th
and 40th nodes, or at a height of 0.5-2.0 m.
Bottle gourd is a cross pollinated crop. Insects, especially bees, pollinate flowers.
Pollination can be a problem during the wet season since bees are less active
during overcast conditions. Introduction of beehives ensure good pollination
and avoid the need for hand pollination.
Spraying vines with flowering hormones at six to eight leaf stage increase the number
of female flowers and can double the number of fruits. For example, one application
of gibberellic acid at 25-100 ppm increases female flowers by 50 % and can
work for up to 80 days. Application of ethrel (an ethylene releasing compound) has
been found to increase femaleness in bottle gourd.
Conduct weeding and raking of the soil at the time of fertilizer application. Earthing
up is done during rainy season. Hand or hoe weeding can be performed as needed.
Mulching is commonly used for bottle gourd crops grown on raised beds. Use organic
or plastic mulch depending on availability. Mulch can be laid down before or after
transplanting and after sowing.
Fruit flies (Bactocera cucurbitae)
Fruit fly maggots feed on the internal tissues of the fruit causing premature fruit
drop and also yellowing and rotting of the affected fruits. This fly is difficult
to control because its maggots feed inside the fruits, protected from direct contact
Control: Apply carbaryl 10 % DP
in pits before sowing of seeds to destroy the pupae. Breaking of soil to expose
pupae, and burning the soil in pit by dried leaves are also effective. Bury any
infested fruits to prevent the build up of fruit fly population. Covering the fruits
in polythene/paper covers helps to prevent flies from laying eggs inside the fruits.
It can also be effectively controlled by the use of banana fruit traps prepared.
Epilachna beetle (Epilachna spp.)
The yellowish coloured grubs and adults of the beetle feed voraciously on leaves
and tender plant parts, and the leaves are completely skeletonized leaving only
a network of veins. When in large number, the pest causes serious defoliation and
Control: Remove and destroy egg
masses, grubs and adults occurring on leaves. Spray carbaryl 0.2 %.
Pumpkin beetle (Aulacophora fevicolis, A. cincta
and A. intermedia)
Adult beetles eat the leaves, makes hole on foliage and causes damage on roots and
leaves. Grubs cause damage by feeding on root. It also feeds on flowers and bores
into developing fruits that touch the soil.
Control: Incorporate carbaryl 10%
DP in pits before sowing the seeds to destroy grubs and pupae..
Aphids (Aphis gossypi )
Aphids in large number congregate on tender parts of plant and suck sap
resulting in curling and crinkling of leaves. Ants carry aphids from one plant to
Control: Apply 1.5% fish oil soap.
First dissolve soap in hot water and then make up the volume. Alternatively apply
Downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora
Cottony white mycelial growth is seen on the leaf surface. Chlorotic specks can
be seen on the upper surface of the leaves. It is severe during rainy season.
Control: Complete removal and destruction
of the affected leaves. Spraying 10 % solution of neem or kiriyath preparation.
If the disease incidence is severe spraying mancozeb 0.2% will be useful.
Powdery mildew (Erysiphe cichoracearum
The disease appears as small, round, whitish spots on leaves and stems. The spots
enlarge and coalesce rapidly and white powdery mass appears on the upper leaf surface.
Heavily infected leaves become yellow, and later become dry and brown. Extensive
premature defoliation of the older leaves resulting in yield reduction. High humidity
and heavy dew increase the severity of the disease.
Control: Control the disease by
spraying Dinocap 0.05%.
Mosaic disease is characterized by vein clearing and chlorosis of leaves. The yellow
network of veins is very conspicuous and veins and veinlets are thickened. Plants
infected in the early stages remain stunted and yield gets severely reduced. White
fly (Bemisia tabaci) is the natural vector of this virus.
Control: Control the vectors by
spraying dimethoate 0.05%. Uprooting and destruction of affected plants and collateral
hosts should be done. Harvesting can be done only after 10 days (at least) of insecticide/fungicide
application. The fruits should be washed thoroughly in water before cooking.
Bottle gourds are permitted to obtain a maximum maturity on the vine before harvest.
Harvest gourds when vines are dry. Fruits that are not fully mature or that have
been injured do not store well. The fruits are ready for harvest 60-120 days after
sowing depending on the variety. Cut the fruits from the vines carefully, using
pruning shears or a sharp knife leaving 3-4 inches of stem attached. Snapping the
stems from the vines results in fruits without stem attached, which reduce the storage
life. When harvested with a short length of vine, they can be hung from wires below
a hot ceiling, where they slowly dry out. Depending on variety and crop management,
the crop yield can vary between 10-20 t/ha.