How to Start Okra Cultivation (Ladies Finger)

Okra or ladies finger is also known as Bhindi in India. It is one of the important vegetables in India and grown throughout the year. However, it is a warm season crop. It is grown throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions in the country.

The botanical name of okra is Abelmoschus Esculentus. It belongs to the family Malvaceae. Major okra producing countries are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Benin, Cameroon, Ghana and Saudi Arabia. The major okra producing states are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The crop is also used in the paper industry as well as for the extraction of fibre. Okra cultivation is profitable even for the small-scale farm owners.

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Things To Consider In Okra Cultivation

  • The right Agro-climatic condition is the must to grow okra. It is highly sensitive to frost.
  • Proper irrigation scheduling is important. You must arrange for the same.
  • Proper soil preparation is required before planting
  • Choose the variety that fits most with your place.
  • According to the area of land you have, calculate the entire cost of okra cultivation.
  • Before starting okra cultivation, plan about where to sell okra.

Health Benefits Of Okra

  • Okra is a rich source of fibre
  • It reduces blood sugar
  • Okra not only helps in conceiving but also in fetus’ brain development, prevention of miscarriages, the formation of the fetal neural tube, and preventing any defects in the tube.
  • Vitamin K is a co-factor in the vital blood-clotting process and along with Folates, restores bone density, strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis.
  • The rich fibre and mucilaginous content in Okra pods help increase stool bulk, facilitate proper absorption of water, bind to toxins, lubricate the large intestines, and ensure easy bowel movements, with its natural laxative properties.
  • Okra provides minimum calories, the fibre helps in keeping you full for longer, and the abundant nutrients nourish you.
  • It’s a rich source of vitamin C, which helps with the body’s immunity – okra has been linked to a cough and cold prevention.
  • It’s rich in vitamin A and other antioxidants – the green pods contain beta-carotene, lutein and xanthine, which together with vitamin A help preserve good vision and keep your skin fresh and healthy

Best Varieties For Okra Cultivation

Okra is cultivated worldwide. The varieties are different in different country. Some of the popular varieties are Emerald, Louisiana Green Velvet, Dwarf Green Long Pod, Hastings Improved Perkins, Annie Oakley, UGA Red etc.

Some of the most popular and profitable Indian okra varieties are Kamini, Pusa Mukhamali, Parbhani Kranti, etc. There are also some improved varieties like Pusa Makhamali, Sobha, Vijay, Pusa sawani, Vaishali, Vagmi, pb. Padmini, Selection 2-2, Pusa sawani is fairly mosaic tolerant Parbhani Kranti (Resistant to virus disease). Okra (Abelntoschus esculentus).

Agro-Climatic Condition For Okra Cultivation

Okra cultivation is a profitable business when recommended production practices are followed. It can return an income over a 10- to 12- week period after harvest starts. Okra requires a long, warm and humid growing period. It can be successfully grown in hot humid areas. It is sensitive to frost and extremely low temperatures.

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For normal growth and development, a temperature between 24°C and 28°C is preferred. At 24°C the first flower bud may appear in the third leaf axil while at 28°C it may appear in sixth leaf axil. This higher position is not necessarily accompanied by a delay in time because at higher temperatures the plants grow faster and the higher position is reached earlier.

For faster plant growth still higher temperature helps though it delays the fruiting. But at higher temperatures beyond 40°–42°C, flowers may desiccate and drop, causing yield losses.

Suitable Soil For Okra Cultivation

Okra can be grown on a wide range of soils, having good internal drainage. Soils with high organic matter are preferred. Application of lime or dolomite may be done in an acid soil to bring the pH in the range of 6.0 – 6.5.

For seed germination, optimum soil moisture and a temperature between 25°C and 35°C is needed
with the fastest germination observed at 35°C. Beyond this range, the germination will be delayed and
weak seeds may not even germinate.

It grows on sandy to clay soils but due to its well-developed tap root system, relatively light, well-drained, rich soils are ideal. As such, loose, friable, well-manured loam soils are desirable. A pH of 6.0–6.8 is ideally-suited. However, okra Pusa Sawani has some tolerance to salts and thus also to a larger pH range. All soils need to be pulverized, moistened and enriched with organic matter before sowing.

Okra Cultivation Basic Steps

1. Land Preparation

Intensive tillage is required for the land preparation of Okra. Deep (20-25 cm) plowing followed by cross harrowing is done to make the soil friable and loose. One or two plankings are also needed to make the soil surface smooth and level. The sterilization of the soil can be achieved by both physical and chemical means. It can be also done by using transparent plastic mulch film, which is termed as soil solarization.

2. Plantation & Spacing

For better yield, it is advised to sow okra seeds ½ to 1 inch deep. The plants need to be planted at 6 inches apart. The space rows work better when set 24 to 36 inches apart.

Ridges & furrow type of layout is used. Sometime bhindi is also sown at the border of main crop & layout is the same as for the main crop. For summer crop spacing is 45×30 cm. & Rainy season crop spacing is 60 x 45 cm. For Kharif season, seeds are sown in the month of June – July. The seed rate for the rainy season is 8 to 10 kg.

3. Irrigation

Okra requires adequate moisture in the soil during summer months for faster growth. Drip irrigation is most suitable to the crop as it provides uniform moisture throughout the season. The daily water requirement of Okra crop is 2.4 l/day/4 plants during the early growth stage and 7.6 l/day/4 plants during the peak growth stage.

4. Manuring

Proper manuring is required in okra cultivation. Organic fertiliser and neem cake are the best alternatives. 20 to 25 tonnes well-rotted FYM mixed with soil during field preparation. For rainy season crop, apply 50 kg; N, 50kg P2O5 per hectare. For the summer season 40 kg N, 40 kg P2O5 should be applied.

5. Weed Control

Weeds can be controlled by cultivation or by use of herbicides. Early weeds can be controlled by pre-plant herbicide applications. Later in the season, shallow cultivations can be used to control weeds. Black plastic mulch may be used to suppress weed growth. The black plastic mulch also keeps the soil warm and encourages plant growth.

Plant Protection System For Okra Cultivation

At times it will be necessary to control insects that attack okra. Check your crop on a regular schedule, especially early in the season. The control measures for insects, pests and disease depend upon type and intensity of the problems. Flea beetles are the major insect for Okra. This can be controlled with row covers or applications of Rotenone or Pyrethrin. Okra is susceptible to diseases such as Verticillium, Fusarium and several other fungal diseases in the wet season. These diseases can be controlled by proper crop rotation and good garden sanitation practices.

Harvesting, Storage & Packaging For Okra Cultivation

Okra is harvested in 60 to 70 days after planting when pods are 2 to 3 inches long. At this stage, the pods are still tender. Larger okra pods will tend to be tough and fibrous. Round-podded okra varieties remain tender at larger pod sizes and are good to use for slicing and freezing. Since okra grows very fast, it should be harvested every two days.
Okra has a short storage life. A fresh good pod can be stored for 7-10 days at 7-10 0 C temperature and 90-95% relative humidity. At temperatures below 7° C Okra is subjected to chilling injury, which results in surface discoloration, pitting and decay.

Okra is highly perishable but with optimum post-harvest handling systems (cold chain), quality is maintained for four to seven days. The visible part of the contents of the package must be representative of the entire shipment. Okra is to be packed in a way that properly protects the product. The materials used inside the package must be clean and of a quality such as to avoid causing any external or internal damage to the produce.

The use of materials, particularly paper or stamps bearing trade specifications, is allowed, provided the printing or labelling has been done with non-toxic ink or glue. Stickers individually affixed to the produce shall be such that, when removed, they neither leave visible traces of
glue, nor lead to skin defects.

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Domestic & Export Market Opportunity For Okra Cultivation

Okra has a good market potential in both the domestic and international market. Okra is cultivated widely in India.  Okra is mainly imported by the UK, France, the Netherlands, and Italy. France and the United Kingdom are the largest markets, due to their respective large African and Asian populations.

Okra is expected to become more mainstream, providing opportunities for exporters from developing countries. Freshness and eye appeal must be enhanced in the product in order to be competitive. Packing should also be effective and attractive. You can expect a cost-benefit ratio of 2.2 from okra cultivation.