Bhindi (Abelmoschus esculentus L.) is a warm season, annual or perennial vegetable, growing up to 2 m height. The leaves are 10 to 20 cm long and broad, and palmately lobed with 5 to 7 lobes. Flowers develop in the leaf axil and are large, 4 to 8 cm in diameter, with five white to yellow petals, often with a red or purple spot at the base of each petal. Each flower blooms for only one day and eventually forms the pod. The pod is a long capsule, 5 to 20 cm long, yellow, red or green in colour, generally ribbed and fuzzy and contains numerous seeds.
Abelmoschus esculentus, commonly known as okra or lady's finger or bhindi, is a warm season flowering plant belonging to the family Malvaceae, and cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its edible green fruits.The word Abelmoschus is derived from the Arabic "abu-l-mosk" meaning 'father of musk', referring to the musk-scented seeds and Latin word "esculentus" meaning 'edible'.
Origin and distribution
The genus Abelmoschus has its origin in South-East Asia. Even though the cultivated species Abelmoschus esculentus has been reported from the whole of tropical Africa, its origin is still uncertain. Egyptians were cultivating bhindi as early as 12th Century BC. From there, it spread throughout Africa, the Mediterranean, the Balkans and India. Now, its cultivation is widespread in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions, but is particularly popular in West Africa, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Brazil.
Warm humid tropical conditions are ideal for luxurious growth and high yield of okra. It grows best within a temperature range of 24-27°C and is highly tolerant to high temperature and drought condition. But, the crop is highly susceptible to frost injury as severe frost causes damages to the pods. Temperature below 120C is detrimental to the crop and seeds fail to germinate when temperature falls below 20°C. But, the crop can be successfully grown in rainy season even in heavy rainfall area.
Bhindi can be cultivated in a wide range of soils. However, loose, friable, well drained loamy and sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal for its growth. It also gives good yield in heavy soils with good drainage. But the crop cannot tolerate excessive moisture or poorly aerated soils. A pH range of 6.0-6.8 is considered as optimum. Alkaline, saline soils and soils with poor drainage are not good for this crop.
Green or light green fruited: Pusa Sawani, Pusa Makhmali, IARI selection 2, Kiran, Salkeerthi
High yielding variety released from the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU). Attractive, long, light green fruits. Average fruit length is 27 cm and fruits weigh on an average 28 g. Average yield is 16.2 t/ha.
High yielding variety released from KAU by selection from Kilichundan local. Pods are light green in colour.
Released from IARI, New Delhi. Suitable for cultivating in summer and rainy season. Fruits are dark green, smooth with 5 ridges and about 10-12 cm long at the time of harvest. Crop matures within 50 days from sowing. Average yield is 12-15 t/ha. Susceptible to yellow vein mosaic virus (YVMV).
Released from IARI, New Delhi. Variety produces light green fruits. Highly susceptible to YVMV.
Red Fruited: CO-1, Aruna
High yielding variety released from KAU with long red pods. Resistant to YVMV. Average yield 15.8 t/ha.
High yielding variety released from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. Red fruited variety suitable for cultivation in Kerala.
Yellow Vein Mosaic resistant or tolerant: Arka Anamika, Arka Abhay, Susthira, Anjitha, Manjima(All green fruited)
A high yielding perennial type bhindi released from KAU with average yield of 18 t/ha. It responds well to pruning. Fruits are long and green, 22 cm in length and weighs 24.5 g on an average. It is resistant to yellow vein mosaic virus and is recommended for rainfed cropping.
Released from IIHR, Bangalore. Fruits are borne in two flushes. During first flush, fruits are borne on the main stem 45-50 days after sowing. During second flush, fruits are borne on short branches, which sprout from the middle portion of the main stem. Fruits are spineless with 5-6 ridges, delicate aroma and good keeping quality. Resistant to YVMV. Average yield is 20 t/ha and can be harvested in 130 days.
Released from IIHR, Bangalore. Fruits are green in colour. Resistant to YVMV
Punjab no. 13
Released from PAU, Ludhiana. Suitable for cultivating in spring and summer season. Fruits are light green, five ridged and of medium length. Susceptible to YVMV.
Released from PAU, Ludhiana. Fruits are quick growing, dark green, hairy, five ridged and remain tender for a longer period. Matures within 55-60 days after sowing. Tolerant to YVMV.
Released from MKV, Parbhani in Maharashtra. Fruits are medium-long with tender smooth surface at marketable stage. Fruits have good keeping quality. Average yield is 8.5-11.5 t/ha and mature within 120 days. Tolerant to YVMV.
The ideal planting season for bhindi varies greatly depending upon climate and varieties. Under Kerala condition, there are three main planting seasons for bhindi viz., February-March, June-July and October-November.
The seed rate generally varies with germination percentage, spacing and season. The recommended seed rate for bhindi under Kerala condition is 8.5 kg/ha for the summer crop sown in February-March and 7 kg/ha for kharif crop. Approximately 30-35 g of seeds are required for cultivating in one cent of land.
Storage of seeds
Packing of bhindi seeds in polythene cover (700 gauge) increases the storage life up to 7 months.
Prepare the field by 2-3 ploughing commencing two or three months before planting to allow organic matter in the soil to break down. Incorporate well-decomposed FYM @25 t/ha at the time of land preparation. Application of organic manure like neem cake and poultry manures improves the plant growth and yield and help to reduce use of fertilizer. Bhindi is sown on ridges or on flat soil. If soil is heavy, sowing should be done on ridges.
Method of planting
The seeds are soaked in water for 24 hours prior to planting for better and quicker germination. Soaking seeds in a solution of bavistin @ 0.2% for 6 hours and drying in shade before sowing is also recommended to reduce the attack of soil born fungus. For kharif crop, sow the seeds at a spacing of 60 cm between rows and 45 cm between plants and for summer crop give spacing of 60 x 30 cm. Seeds are to be dibbled at 1-2 cm depth @ 3-4 seeds per holes. Deeper sowing delays germination. As seedlings require ample water for quicker germination, a pre soaking irrigation 3-4 days before sowing is beneficial. The seeds germinate in about 4-5 days. Gap filling should be done one week after sowing and thin the plant population to 2 plants /hill two weeks after sowing.
Manures and fertilisers
Apply FYM or compost as basal dose @ 12 t/ha. At the time of sowing, apply N, P2O5, and K2O @ 25, 8 and 25 kg/ha. Another 25 kg N per ha may be applied one month after sowing followed by earthing up operation. Fertilizers are applied by opening up a deep narrow furrow on one side of each sowing ridge. Generally, nitrogen fertilizers like urea, calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) and ammonium sulphate are suitable for this crop. For reclaimed soils of Kuttanad, a fertilizer dose of N:P2O5:K2O 75:5:15 kg/ha is recommended.
Give presowing irrigation, if soil is not moist enough. A light irrigation given soon after seed sowing ensures good germination. Even though the crop can tolerate dry soil, moisture stress at fruit setting stage reduces the fruit quality and yield; and irrigating at regular interval is found to increase yield. So it is better to irrigate the crop at an interval of 2 to 3 days in summer. Furrow method of irrigation is best suited for bhindi. In high rainfall areas with rainfall uniformly distributed throughout the growing season, the crop can be grown as rain fed.
It is necessary to keep the crop weed free during the first 20-25 days of plant growth. Conduct weeding regularly and earth up rows during rainy season. A total of 3 to 4 weedings are needed. The first weeding is done when the seedlings are two weeks old and subsequent weedings are done at an interval of 25 days. Pre emergence application of basalin 48 EC (1.5 kg a.i./ha) or stomp 30 EC (0.75 kg a.i./ha) followed by one hand weeding at 20-25 days after sowing is also practiced for controlling weed growth.
The important pest and diseases of bhindi, their symptom and control measures are as detailed below.
Shoot and fruit borer (Earias vittela and E. insulana)
Small brown caterpillars bore into the top shoot and feeds inside the shoot before fruit formation. Later on they bore into the fruits and feed within. Affected fruits become unfit for consumption. The fruit borer incidence is severe in humid conditions especially after the rainfall.
Control: All the infested fruits and shoots should be removed regularly and buried deep in the soil. Spray carbaryl @ 0.15% or neem oil emulsion @ 5%, at intervals of 15 to 20 days. Spraying with quinalphos 25 EC (2 ml/litre of water) or carbaryl (4 g/litre of water) also effectively controls the pest. Before spraying all the affected plant parts should be removed.
Root knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita)
The root knot nematode enters the roots causing characteristic root knots or galls. The aerial symptoms consist mainly of stunted plant growth and yellowing of leaves. Nematode attack in the seedling stage leads to pre and post emergent damage resulting in reduced crop stand.
Control: Apply sawdust or paddy husk at 500 g/plant or neem leaves or Eupatorium leaves at 250 g/plant in basins one week prior to planting and water daily. The effect of this treatment persists up to 75 days after sowing in summer season. Cultural control methods such as rotation with non host crops like cereals; fallowing; deep ploughing 2-3 times in summer months, etc. greatly reduce nematode population in soil. Application of nemagon (30 litres/ha) with irrigation before sowing protects the seedling in its early stage of growth. Application of Bacillus macerans or B. circulans (1.2 x 106 cells per pit) before sowing is recommended for the control of root knot nematode.
Leaf hopper (Amrasca biguttula biguttula)
Nymphs and adults of a small, greenish leafhopper suck plant sap from the undersurface leaves and as a result the leaves curl upwards along the margins and have a burnt look, which extend over the entire leaf area giving the typical ‘hopper burn’ symptom. The affected plants show a stunted growth. This pest attack is serious in early stage of the crop.
Control: 4-5 foliar sprays of dimethoate (0.05%) at an interval of 10 days effectively controls the pest.
Mites (Tetranychus spp.)
Nymphs and adults of mites suck cell sap and whitish grey patches appear on leaves. Affected leaves become mottled, turn brown and fall. The infestation of mites is mostly observed during the warm and dry periods of the season.
Control: Spraying with wettable sulphur 80 WP (2 g/ litre of water) or dicofol 18.5 EC (2.5 ml/litre of water) effectively control the mites.
White fly (Bemisia tabaci)
Nymphs and adults of a milky white minute fly suck the cell sap from the leaves. The affected leaves curl and dry. Affected plants show a stunted growth. White flies are the natural vectors of yellow vein mosaic virus (YMVY) and hence controlling this pest provides protection against the virus infection also.
Control: 4-5 foliar sprays of dimethoate (0.05%) at an interval of 10 days effectively controls the whitefly population.
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 another.
Control: Need based application of insecticides like dimethoate 0.05%. has been recommended. Application of tobacco decoction also controls the pest effectively.
Yellow vein mosaic (Yellow Vein Mosaic Virus)
This is the most important and destructive viral disease in bhindi characterized by vein clearing and chlorosis of leaves. The yellow network of veins is very conspicuous and veins and veinlets are thickened. At times, enations or raised structures are observed on the under surface of infected leaf. Growth of plants infected in the early stages remain stunted. Fruits of the infected plants exhibit pale yellow colouration; and are small and deformed with tough texture. The disease infects at all the stages of crop growth and severely reduces growth and yield. Hence, their control is very important. White fly (Bemisia tabaci) and leaf hopper (Amrasca biguttula biguttula) are vectors of this virus.
Control: Clean cultivation practices, removal and destruction of virus affected plants and planting disease resistant varieties reduces the disease incidence. Controlling the whitefly population minimizes the incidence of YVMV. 4-5 foliar sprays of dimethoate (0.05%) or neem oil emulsion (5%) at an interval of 10 days effectively controls the whitefly population. Use of resistant varieties like Arka Anamika, Arka Abhay and Susthira, and destruction of host weeds like Croton sparsiflora and Ageratum sp. are also effective.
Damping off (Pythium sp., Rhizoctonia sp.)
Causes death of seedlings before or soon after emergence. Pre emergence infection results in poor germination, whereas in post emergence infection, the emerged seedlings develop a lesion at collar region. The tissues beneath the lesion become soft due to which the seedlings die and collapse which is referred to as "damp off". Cool, cloudy weather, high humidity, wet and compacted soils, and overcrowding favour development of damping off.
Control: Excessive irrigation should be avoided to reduce humidity around the plants. Seed treatment with antagonist fungal culture of Trichoderma viride (3-4 g/kg of seed) or thiram (2-3 g /kg of seed) and soil drenching with dithane M 45 (0.2%) affords protection against the disease. The field should be regularly inspected and the disease affected seedlings should be removed and destroyed.
Fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum vasinfectum)
Initial symptom is temporary wilting, which becomes permanent and progressive later. Leaves show yellowing, lose turgidity and show drooping symptoms. Eventually, the plant dies. In older plants, leaves wilt suddenly and vascular bundles in the collar region become yellow or brown. This disease is caused by a soil borne fungus, which invades the root system and block water movement. All varieties are susceptible.
Control: No control is available other than a long rotation. Continuous cultivation of bhindi on the same piece of land should be avoided. Three sprays of karathane (0.6g/ litre of water) or bavistin (1g/litre of water) immediately on appearance of initial symptoms at 5-6 days interval checks the spread of the disease. Leaves of fully grown plants should be thoroughly drenched during spraying.
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. The disease is found mainly on older leaves, and young leaves are almost immune. Also, healthy and vigorous plants are less susceptible compared to plants under nutritional stress.
Control: Follow balanced manuring and fertilizer application on the basis of standard recommendations. Application of wettable sulphur (0.2%) or bavistin (0.1%) at one week interval effectively controls the disease.
Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora abelmoschi and C. malayensis)
C. malayensis causes brown, irregular spots and C. abelmoschi causes sooty black angular spots. The affected leaves roll, wilt and fall. The disease causes severe defoliation during humid seasons.
Control: Since the fungus survives on the diseased plant material, removal and destruction of diseased plant material helps to check the spread of the disease. The disease is effectively controlled by spraying with copper oxychloride (0.3%) or zineb (0.2%) starting from about a month after sowing and repeating at fortnightly intervals, depending upon the severity of the disease incidence.
Enation leaf curl of bhindi
Symptoms appear on the lower surface of the leaf as small, pin-head enations, which later on become warty and rough textured. Size of the leaf is reduced and become thick and leathery. The most characteristic symptoms of the disease are twisting of the main stem and lateral branches along with enations, giving the plant a creeping appearance. Fruits produced are few and deformed. The natural transmission of the disease is through whitefly
Control: Removal and destruction of virus affected plants reduces the disease incidence. Controlling the whitefly population minimizes the incidence of enation leaf curl also. Giving 4-5 foliar sprays of dimethoate (0.05%) at an interval of 10 days effectively controls the whitefly population.
Harvesting and yield
The crop starts yielding about 60 days after planting and extends to about 100 days. Pick tender and immature pods when they are approximately 3-4 inches in length. Harvest pods on alternate days to maintain good table quality as delay in harvest increases fibre content. Do not allow old pods to remain on the plant, as it will reduce production. Under good management 15-20 tonnes of green pods can be harvested from one hectare. The fruits are to be handled carefully to avoid damage and are then graded and packed in cartons.
Young immature fruits are an important vegetable, consumed cooked or fried. The fruits can be conserved by drying, whole or sliced, or by pickling. It can also be boiled in water to make slimy soups and sauces. In Indian cooking, it is added to gravy based preparations and is very popular in South India.
Bhindi has many industrial applications also. Bhindi mucilage is used to glaze paper and has use in confectionery. The bark fibres are locally used for fish lines and game traps. It is suitable for spinning into rope and for paper and cardboard manufacture. Roasted bhindi seeds are used as a substitute for coffee.
Bhindi is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients, including fiber, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Bhindi is rich in fibre, both soluble and insoluble. Studies conducted at University of Wisconsin , Madison, USA has revealed that the soluble fibre present in okra helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease and helps stabilize blood sugar and binds cholesterol and bile carrying toxic wastes. Whereas, insoluble fibre helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy by improving constipation.