“Ash gourd cultivation on marginal lands”
Prakash Mahala and Manmohanjit Singh
Regional Research Station, Ballowal Saunkhri
Ash gourd cultivation has a niche area in Garshankar and Mahilpur blocks of Hoshiarpur district under limited water condition on marginal lands. It is grown mainly in kharif season under rainfed condition and the produce is purchased by contractors from the fields itself. It has been proved to be a successful alternative to maize crop in animal damage prone area as it is disliked by wild animals. Improper cultural practices, lack of suitable varieties and susceptibility to pests and diseases result in getting low yield and poor quality. There is need to adopt recommended practices to get the optimum yield of ash gourd. Ash gourd is a warm season crop which grows well in temperature range of 22-35 0C. It can be grown in all types of soils, but sandy loam soil with pH of 6.5-7.5 is ideal for its cultivation.
Variety: Punjab Agricultural University has recommended PAG-3 variety for cultivation. The vines of this variety are medium long with green leaves. Fruits are attractive, globular and medium sized. It takes 145 days from transplanting to harvesting. The average fruit weight is 10 kg and average yield is 120 q/acre.
Ash gourd may be sown either in Feb-March or in June-July but in rainfed condition the best suited time is with onset of monsoon. Before sowing bring the soil to a fine tilth after 2-3 ploughing and harrowing. Do the sowing in hills prepared on either side of the sowing channel. Use a row spacing of 3 meters and space the hills to 75-90 cm. apart in a row. Sow 2 seeds per hill. Use 2.0 kg seed per acre. The sowing can be done in pits under limited available irrigation conditions. Its nursery can also be raised in trays to ensured germination.
Apply 8-10 tonnes well rotten farm-yard manure either near hills or in pits. Application of 40 kg nitrogen (90 kg Urea), 20 kg phosphorus (125 kg SSP) and 20 kg potash (35 kg MOP). Apply FYM, 1/2 nitrogen and whole of phosphorus and potash in a band before preparation of beds. Apply rest 1/2 nitrogen at flowering stage.
If irrigation facilities or harvested rainwater is available, then apply one light irrigation soon after sowing to ensure good germination and irrigated subsequently at an interval of 7-10 days depending upon the soil and rainfall conditions.
Hand weeding should be done within first 45 days of sowing and guide the vines after 35-45 days of sowing. It shall facilitate the intercultural operation and minimize disease incidence. Crop mature in about 120-150 days and harvest the fruit when they attain maturity
Plant protection: To control red pumpkin beetles Spray Carbaryl @ 1.5 g per litre of water. Aphids and fruit flies can be controlled with spray of Malathion @ 2.5 ml per litre of water.
Powdery mildew disease can be managed with spray of Karathane @ 0.8 ml per litre of water, whereas downy mildew can be controlled with Spray of crop with Indofil M.45/Kavach @ 2 g. per litre of water. To avoid damage of crop from virus, use virus free seed, rogue out virus affected plants and control of aphids. Avoid spraying the crop in morning as honey bees are visiting flowers during that time resulting in more pollination and higher yields.
As ash gourd is mainly used in sweet making so its early cultivation coinciding with festival season fetches higher prices. Its other uses are for bari making and in some other dishes. During the last few years farmers were able to get income varying from Rs 30000 to 50000 per acre from this crop but its prices fluctuate every year. So there is need to go for its value addition by establishing cottage industries in the niche area itself for improving the livelihood of the farmers of that region.