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 paper industry also uses this crop as well as for the extraction of fiber. Okra cultivation is profitable even for the small-scale farm owners.
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.
- You must prepare the soil properly 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. So, it helps with the body’s immunity. Okra has been linked to 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 countries. 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. Also, you can grow it successfully in hot humid areas. It is sensitive to frost and extremely low temperatures.
For normal growth and development, you must maintain a temperature between 24°C and 28°C. At 24°C the first flower bud may appear in the third leaf axil while at 28°C it may appear in the 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
You can grow okra on a wide range of soils, having good internal drainage. Soils with high organic matter are preferred. In acid soil, you can apply lime or dolomite 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 are needed
with the fastest germination observed at 35°C. Beyond this range, you may get delayed germination 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
First of all, it needs intensive tillage for the land preparation of Okra. Deep (20-25 cm) plowing followed by cross harrowing is done to make the soil friable and loose. It needs one or two plankings 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, you can sow seeds in the month of June – July. The seed rate for the rainy season is 8 to 10 kg.
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.
You must apply proper manure in okra cultivation. Organic fertilizer 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, you must apply 40 kg N, 40 kg P2O5.
5. Weed Control
You can control weeds through cultivation or by the use of herbicides. Also, you can control early weeds by pre-plant herbicide applications. Later in the season, you can use shallow cultivations to control weeds.
You can use black plastic mulch 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 diseases depend upon the type and intensity of the problems. Flea beetles are the major insect for Okra. You can control this 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. However, you can control these diseases through proper crop rotation and good garden sanitation practices.
Harvesting, Storage & Packaging For Okra Cultivation
You can harvest okra 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. You can store a fresh good pod 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 a highly perishable product. However, you can control the quality with optimum post-harvest handling systems (cold chain) for four to seven days. The visible part of the contents of the package must be representative of the entire shipment. You must pack the okra 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.
You can use materials like paper or stamps bearing trade specifications. However, you must use non-toxic ink or glue for printing or labeling. Stickers individually affixed to the product shall be such that, when removed, they neither leave visible traces of
glue, nor lead to skin defects.
Domestic & Export Market Opportunity For Okra Cultivation
Okra has good market potential in both the domestic and international markets. Okra is cultivated widely in India. The major Okra importing countries are 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. However, you must take care to enhance the freshness and eye appeal in the product in order to be competitive. Also, you must provide an effective and attractive. You can expect a cost-benefit ratio of 2.2 from okra cultivation.
5 FAQs About Okra Cultivation in India
1. Is okra easy to grow?
Yes, you can grow okra easily with fewer efforts. The crop doesn’t need much care. Also, it needs moderate soil quality and irrigation facilities.
2. Is Okra Cultivation Profitable?
Of course, okra cultivation is profitable. Depending on the soil quality, temperature, and farm management practice, you can expect good returns both from the domestic and export markets.
3. What is the best month to plant Okra?
Okra is a summer season crop. In India, you can start growing okra from mid-March.
4. Where to Get Okra Seeds?
the quality of crop and yield depend on the quality of the seed. So, you must collect good quality seeds for your farm. It is advisable that you collect seeds from the reputed seed company available in the market.
5. Yield of Okra
Generally, the yield of okra depends on the variety and seed quality. However, on average, you can get 7.5-10 t/ha. If you grow hybrid variety, then you will get 15-22 t/ha okra from your farm.