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Bitter Gourd Open Field Days a big success

An impressive array of bitter gourd diversity is ready to expand the narrow genetic base of this valuable cucurbit crop in Asia.  

Seed company representatives get a closer look at bitter gourd in the field.

The World Vegetable Center East and Southeast Asia cucurbit team proudly displayed 600 elite bitter gourd breeding lines (S4-S6 generation) and 900 bitter gourd F1 hybrids and early stage (S3 generation) bitter gourd products of recurrent selection during Bitter Gourd Open Field Days from 23-24 July 2018 at the WorldVeg Research and Training Station, Kamphaeng Saen campus, Kasetsart University, Thailand. Thirty private seed industry staff including breeders, product development managers, marketing and sales managers, R & D heads and managing directors as well as two staff from the Vegetable Research Institute, Faisalabad, Pakistan walked the 10 acres of trial fields, marveling at the crop diversity on display.

Cucurbit breeder Narinder Dhillon demonstrated the unique traits of WorldVeg elite bitter gourd lines and F1 hybrids, such as early and total yield potential, vine vigor, fruit quality (including attractive fruit color and skin pattern), transport rigor, shelf life, and resistance to fungal pathogens and virus diseases. He explained his strategy to address the narrow genetic base of current commercial F1 hybrids: use WorldVeg breeding lines derived from landraces originating throughout South and Southeast Asia and classify them into different heterotic groups based on molecular characterization. This will lead to the development of better bitter gourd products to meet the requirements of the full value chain: growers, distributors, retailers and consumers.

“This outstanding breeding outcome is the result of eight years’ painstaking breeding work by my field team,” said Narinder. The team is led by Assistant Specialists (Plant Breeding) Supornpun Srimat and Suwannee Laenoi. Former assistant specialists Supannika Sanguansil, now with Chia Tai Group and Supunsa Phethin, with Monsanto) also contributed to the effort. Narinder has built a strong support group among seed companies so that breeders can benefit quickly from the Center’s current cucurbit breeding research.

First Asian Cucurbit Round Table

The Asia Pacific Seed Association (APSA), in collaboration with Kasetsart University (KU), hosted the first Asian Cucurbit Round Table (ACRT) in Bangkok from 19-21 July 2018. More than 100 participants from 39 seed companies in Asia participated in the event held at the Vajiranusorn Building, KU Bangkhen Campus, and listened to 15 presentations by leading cucurbit specialists from the private and public sectors.

WorldVeg virologist Sophia Chan Yuan-Li and global cucurbit breeder Narinder Dhillon presented updates on cucurbit virus disease management and cucurbit breeding progress at WorldVeg, respectively. Discussions focused on cucurbit diseases, quality management and diagnostic assays, advanced breeding technology, country market updates, and production challenges in Asia. Dhillon highlighted the importance of characterization and evaluation of unexplored cucurbit landraces and their effective use in WorldVeg’s global cucurbit breeding program to address current challenges faced by the cucurbit seed industry in Asia.

On 21 July, APSA organizers took the ACRT delegates to visit WorldVeg’s vast global bitter gourd breeding trials at the WorldVeg Research and Training Station, KU Kamphaeng Saen campus (described above), where participants discussed the important traits of these entries with the WorldVeg cucurbit breeding team and explored the way forward to utilize this breeding material to develop unique bitter gourd products resistant to various biotic and abiotic stresses.

Story: Narinder Dhillon Photos: Sorwawit Limsiriwat

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Cucurbit breeder Narinder Dhillon (center, dark shirt and white beard) explains his bitter gourd breeding strategy to field day visitors.

COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS

It was indeed our pleasure visiting you and your breeding program. We have been witnessing this program since the very beginning and now it has started showing impressive results in terms of promising F1 hybrids in various fruit segments and breeding lines with resistance to biotic stresses as well. Breeders will be greatly benefited by your exemplary work.

Parag Agarwal
R & D Lead
VNR Seeds Private Limited, Raipur, India


The field layout, planting, and crop management were impressive. Most important was the upgraded global diversified germplasm lines and the excellent use of this germplasm in the development of hybrids and inbred lines for different market segments. The hybrids and advanced lines are directly useful for breeders and seed companies in Asia. We are thankful to you and your team for making our trip so fruitful and comfortable.

Surendra Deshmukh
Deputy GM-R&D
Ajeet Seeds Private Limited, Aurangabad, India


It was the first time in my life to see such a huge demonstration field of bitter gourd! I call it a “bitter gourd knowledge bank!” We have selected several good hybrids for the Indian market with respect to powdery mildew resistance and fruit types. It was a wonderful experience and I would love to visit again.

Gopalkrishna Hegde
Director of Research
Noble Seeds Private Limited, Bangalore, India


I really appreciate you and your team for putting up such a huge effort to show your breeding materials for the visitors. WorldVeg will be the best place to approach for diversified materials.

S. Thippeswamy
Seed Works International Private Limited, Bangalore, India


No other institutes or universities in the world nor any seed company has such a wide collection of bitter gourd lines in their germplasm bank.

Anil M.
Vice President – Sales & Marketing
Acsen HyVeg Pvt Ltd., Karnataka, India


An excellent exhibition of the bitter gourd breeding program, covering all hybrid segments and elite lines of bitter gourd for East and Southeast Asia. A very well organized display of open field days and a vast collection of diverse germplasm in bitter gourds suitable for breeding superior hybrids for a wide range of agro-climatic regions. This will definitely support the public and private sectors in elevating the socioeconomic livelihood of farmers.

Shashi Kataria
Vice-President R& D –Vegetables
Kumar Bioseeds Private Limited, Pune, India