Innovative New Hybrid Reducing Bitter Gourd Crop Losses in India

A combination of targeted breeding and large-scale disease screening have resulted in a highly successful new bitter gourd variety, known as Pragathi F1. This is the first Indian commercial hybrid to demonstrate intermediate resistance to powdery mildew, a fungal disease can cause significant yield losses in bitter gourd crops.

Pragathi F1 also has a very vigorous plant habit and prolific, giving a long duration of harvesting. The fruits are shiny dark green in color, heavily spined with firmness that can withstand modest transport and shelving systems in India.

“Our variety improvement has always been grounded to the needs of the market and the farmers, to always add value to their effort and investments,” says Venus Salutan, East-West Seed Crop Breeding Manager for bitter gourds.

“The aim is to provide a more resistant variety and better quality of yields than the existing commercial varieties that ensures better income for the stakeholders,” she says.

Large-scale disease screening-
In the case of Pragathi F1, which became available in the market in 2017, Salutan says the key challenge was achieving the desired trait of intermediate powdery mildew resistance along with all other favorable traits in the development of the parents.

“Our pathology team developed a tool to help screen for the powdery mildew at the seedling stage where we could screen large plant population sizes. With this ability, our selection for the resistance became more precise while all other traits were further evaluated and selected in the field,” says Salutan.

Salutan says Indian farmers and consumers are attracted to the variety’s many qualities.

Getting the best from Pragathi F1-
To enhance the potential of this variety, the right cultural management should be given.

Dense planting and excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers should be avoided because both favors growth and development of powdery mildew.

The inherent strength of the variety to the fungal disease allows it to fit in farming systems trends aimed at minimal- or non-use of chemicals - especially on growing environments where powdery mildew is a real challenge.


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