Everything you need to know about snake gourd cultivation, production and growth. Learn about:- 1. Introduction to Snake Gourd 2. Composition and Uses 3. Climate and Soil Required for Cultivation 4. Sowing Time 5. Manurial Requirement for Cultivation 6. Irrigation Requirement for Cultivation 7. Intercultural Operations 8. Harvesting and Yielding 9. Cultivated Varieties.
- Introduction to Snake Gourd
- Composition and Uses of Snake Gourd
- Climate and Soil Required for Cultivating Snake Gourd
- Sowing Time of Snake Gourd
- Manurial Requirement for Cultivating Snake Gourd
- Irrigation Requirement for Cultivating Snake Gourd
- Intercultural Operations of Snake Gourd
- Harvesting and Yielding of Snake Gourd
- Cultivated Varieties of Snake Gourd
1. Introduction to Snake Gourd:
Snake gourd, an annual herbaceous with trailing vines, is also known as serpent cucumber, viper gourd, and chichinda. Its flowers are fragrant with white delicately fringed hair-like petals, and fruits 30-150 cm long, narrow, cylindrical, slender, and pointed at both the ends. The snake gourds have two basic shapes- the first one has long narrow fruit that is tapered from top to bottom, and the other type has the same width from top to the bottom.
At widest portion, the fruit diameter ranges from 4 to 10 cm, and surface colour is greenish-white and usually stripped. The fruits at maturity become orange-red, more fibrous, and extremely bitter in taste. It is grown commercially in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, and sporadically in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha.
Snake gourd occurs in the wild form in India, Southeast Asia, and tropical Australia, but India is thought to be its place of origin. The genus, Trichosanthes includes about 40 species occurring in southern Asia, tropical Australia and Fiji. In India, the maximum diversity in snake gourd can be seen in eastern and western peninsular region and northeastern region.
Fresh fruits of snake gourd are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins A, B and C. The nutritional composition of its fruits is given below in Table 16.1.
The immature fruits are used as salad and also cooked as vegetable in various ways. Although the fruits have unpleasant odour but that are disappeared after cooking. Occasionally, shoots and tender leaves are also used as cooked vegetable. The fruit increases appetite, acts as a tonic and stomachic, and cures biliousness. The root and seeds are anthelmintic and also used for the treatment of diarrhea, bronchitis, and fever.
3. Climate and Soil Required for Cultivating Snake Gourd:
Snake gourd needs a warm and humid climate for better plant growth and fruit development. A temperature range of 30-35°C with a minimum threshold limit of 20°C is ideal for its successful cultivation since temperature below 20°C restricts plant growth, and temperature above 35°C is harmful for its growth, flowering, and fruiting.
The most-ideal soil for the cultivation of snake gourd is sandy loam or loam, which is well drained and rich in organic matter. The soil pH range from 6.5 to 7.5 is most ideal for its successful cultivation. The field is prepared to a fine tilth by repeated ploughing and planking.
4. Sowing Time of Snake Gourd:
In south India, it is grown during both spring-summer and rainy season. The spring-summer crop is sown in December-January and rainy season crop in June-July. In northern India, generally one crop is taken during rainy season, which is sown in June-July. It is also planted in October- November where winters are very mild.
In general, about 4-6 kg seeds are enough for the sowing of one hectare land area, however, seed sowing in pits at a spacing of 2.0×2.5 m requires about 1.5 kg seeds per hectare. Seeds collected from larger fruits produce heavier seedlings and vigorous plants. The seed before sowing in field should be treated with Trichoderma viride @ 4 g or Pseudomonas fluoresces 10 g or carbendazim 2 g/kg of seeds.
i. Shallow Pit or Flatbed Method:
Shallow pits of 60 × 60 × 45 cm size are dug, and they left open for 3 weeks before sowing seeds. The pits are filled with a mixture of soil, compost (4-5 kg/pit) and recommended dose of NPK.
Carbofuran @ 1.5 g/pit should also be thoroughly mixed in pit soil before sowing seeds. After filling the pits, 3-4 seeds per pit are sown at 2-3 cm depth. A spacing of 1.5-2.5 m row-to-row and 60-120 cm plant-to-plant is advocated for the planting of snake gourd.
In this method, channels of 40-50 cm width are prepared manually or mechanically keeping 2.0- 2.5 m distance between two channels. Seeds are sown on both the edges of channel at a spacing of about one meter. Usually, per hill, two to three seeds are sown to have optimum plant population. The vines are allowed to spread over the raised portion in between the channels. In this way, around 3500-4500 plants can be accommodated in area of one hectare.
In snake gourd, population density varies from 3,500 to 10,000 plants per hectare, depending upon varieties and methods of cultivation. Adopting suitable training practices about 8,000- 10,000 plants can be accommodated in area of one hectare.
5. Manurial Requirement for Cultivating Snake Gourd:
During field preparation, about 10-15 t/ha of well rotten farmyard manure should be incorporated at the time of land preparation. Besides, a mixture of nitrogen 50-70 kg, P2O5 30-40 kg and K2O 30-40 kg per hectare is also applied to get good yield from snake gourd crop. Full amount of P2O5 and K2O and half of nitrogen are applied as basal, and rest amount of nitrogen is top dressed when the plants start bearing.
Snake gourd crop although responds well to fertilizers application but too much application of nitrogenous fertilizer can lead to excessive vine growth and reduced fruit yield due to increased male to female flower ratio.
6. Irrigation Requirement for Cultivating Snake Gourd:
Snake gourd in its entire crop duration requires a steady supply of moisture but is sensitive to excessive water application or water logging conditions, thus, providing frequent but shallow irrigation is rather beneficial. The first irrigation may be given immediately after sowing, if moisture in the field at the time of sowing is not sufficient for proper germination of seeds.
For spring-summer crop, regular irrigation at 3-5 days intervals is necessary to uphold the desired soil-moisture level. At the time of fruit set and fruit development, sufficient moisture should be maintained, and there should not be any dry spell during this period.
7. Intercultural Operations of Snake Gourd:
Pre-emergence application of 1.0 kg/ha pendimethalin or Alachlor or pre-plant incorporation of 1.0 kg/ha fluchloralin may be useful for keeping the weeds under control. However, these herbicides control the weeds in early growth stages. Later if weeds pose problem, one manual weeding may be done to ward off the weeds.
Snake gourd fruits are very long, slender, and soft, thus, training is an essential practice to allow the fruits to grow downward and to keep them straight. Vines are trailed on a high trellis to avoid fruit twisting or coiling. The plant training over bower system is considered the best for this crop. Overhead trellises are made at about 2.0 m height. A small weight can be tied to the bottom end of developing fruit to make them grow straight.
The proportion of female flowers can be increased either by pruning the vines or by applying Ethrel at 150 ppm. Application of 0.1-0.2% potassium naphthenate on 18 days old plants can increase the number of fruits per plant by 20%.
8. Harvesting and Yielding of Snake Gourd:
Setting fruits in snake gourd starts about 50 days after seed sowing. The fruits can be harvested as early as 15-20 days after anthesis. Flowering and harvesting usually remain continued for 1- 2 months. Most often fruits are harvested about 3 months after sowing when they are 30-70 cm long and still green and tender since fruits at full maturity become lighter in weight, fibrous, and bit hard, which are not usually preferred by the consumers in the market.
The snake gourd fruits have a short shelf life, thus, should be sent to the market promptly. The fruits need to be packed in baskets or in other containers immediately after harvesting to protect them from excessive moisture loss and injuries during transport Its fruits can be stored for 10- 14 days at 16-17°C temperature and 85-90% relative humidity.
However, Lim (1998) reported that snake gourd fruits could be stored for 2-3 weeks at 15-18°C temperature in association with high humidity. In Maharashtra, some people cut the fruits into three to four pieces and tie them before sending to market on large scale. Nevertheless, generally, the whole fruits are packed, and then, sent to the markets.
A single plant of traditional cultivar yields about 6-10 fruits and of improved cultivar up to 50 fruits. Single fruit weight varies from 300 g to 1.0 kg and average fruit yield from 10 to 15 t/ha, however, the yield as high as 50 t/ha may be obtained with good agronomical practices.
i. CO 1:
An early maturing cultivar with moderately spreading habit was developed at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore. The first fruit becomes ready for harvesting in about 70 days after sowing. Fruits are 160-180 cm long, dark-green with white stripes and light-green flesh, and are of good cooking quality. Single fruit weighs 500-750 g. Each plant/vine bears 10-12 fruits with an average fruit yield of 18 t/ha in crop duration of 135 days.
A variety developed at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore through selection is suitable for high density planting. Fruits are short (30 cm) and light greenish-white in colour. It gives an average yield of 35 t/ha within a crop duration from 105 to 120 days.
An early maturing variety was evolved at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore. The first marketable fruit may be harvested in about 70 days after sowing. Fruits are 160-190 cm long, dark-green with white stripes and light green flesh. Each plant bears 10-12 fruits, which weigh about 4-5 kg.
It was developed at Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara. At immature stage, fruits are about 60 cm long and light green with white stripes at styler end. Fruits are harvested in about 65-70 days after sowing. The average weight of single fruit is 600 g.
It was developed at Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli (Maharashtra). The fruits are medium-long (90-100 cm) and white in colour. Its fruit has good flesh if harvested timely otherwise becomes hollow. Average fruit yield is 15-20 t/ha in a crop duration of 120-130 days.
An attractive small-fruited variety developed through a natural selection from the locally collected material of Peruva, Ernakulam district. The fruits are small (30-40 cm), elongated, and uniformly white in colour. Its single fruit weight is about 470 g, and yield potential is about 56 t/ha in 8 to 10 pickings. First picking starts in about 55 days after sowing and total crop duration ranges between 120 and 140 days. It can be grown all through Kerala but mainly suited for cultivation in central zone of the State.
This cultivar was developed at Sugarcane Research Station, Tiruvalla, Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara through selection. Fruits are uniformly white with acute tip. Average fruit length is about 100 cm and breadth about 9.0 cm with 1.3 kg average fruit weight. The yield potential is about 50 t/ha in a harvesting period of 5 months.