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Commercial Production of Okra in Mississippi

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Okra is a hot-weather vegetable. Most varieties make a large plant.

Okra will grow in most soil types in Mississippi, but loam and sandy loam soils produce the highest yields. Okra will grow with a soil pH of 5.7 to 6.5, but a pH between 6.0 and 6.5 is optimum.

Fresh Market: Clemson Spineless, Cajun Delight, North and South, and Annie Oakley II. Processing varieties are specified by the processor.

Planting Dates
Okra is a hot-weather crop. Sow seed between April 15 and June 1, when soil temperatures are between 70 and 95 ºF. You can plant as late as July 1, but the harvest season will be short and the yield lower.

An ideal stand is one plant for every foot of row, on two rows 3 to 4 feet apart with 5 to 7 feet between rows. This is similar to skiprow planting patterns and is easier to harvest than the conventional 38- to 42-inch row spacings, but it does give a lower yield. Annie Oakley II is a dwarf okra that produces compact plants for closer spacing.

Seed Rate
Conventional drill-type seeders can use as much as 10 pounds per acre, while precision seeders use as little as 2 pounds.

Apply fertilizer according to soil test results. Apply lime three months before planting. Broadcast fertilizer before planting, or band it below and to the side of each row. Sidedress with nitrogen according to soil type, rainfall, and crop growth. One application of 33 pounds of nitrogen may be sufficient on fine-textured soils. Two or three applications may be required on sandy soils. Too much nitrogen can cause excessive stalk growth.

Maximum yields of quality okra depend on rapid continuous growth of the plants. Be sure to maintain adequate soil moisture with supplemental irrigation. Signs of water stress are slowing of plant growth, wilting at midday, and few blooms developing into pods.

Weed Control
Trifluralin (Treflan, Trilin) or metolachlor (Dual) can be used preplant incorporated to control grass seedlings and some smallseeded broadleaves.

Okra is highly susceptible to nematodes. Have the soil tested for nematodes, and consult “Southeast U.S. 2010 Vegetable Crop Handbook” for more detailed information on pest control in Mississippi.

Disease Control
Several diseases can cause problems. Pod rot is a bearded fungus growing on the pod. It occurs on pods that were not pollinated sufficiently. Remove one or two upper leaves and tall weeds to improve sunlight and air circulation. Southern blight is a white mold at the base of the stem near the soil line. Plant okra behind corn or other grass crop; deep plow to cover old crop residue. Verticillium wilt causes okra plants to yellow, wilt, and usually die. Control with crop rotation.

Insect Control
Common insect problems include aphids, ants, corn earworms, and stink bugs. Control these insects with carbaryl (Sevin). Consult “Southeast U.S. 2010 Vegetable Crop Handbook” for more detailed information on pest control.

Under ideal conditions, first harvest of okra is 55 to 60 days after planting. Harvest three times weekly, when pods are 2 to 3 inches long, by cutting or snapping pods. Irregular harvests reduce yield. Handle okra carefully, since it discolors quickly when bruised. Do not wet okra after harvest. Pack in clean hampers, and place in the shade as soon as possible.

Discard curved or malformed okra pods. Grade according to buyers’ demands. Most buyers will pay more for “Fancy” grade okra, which consists of pods 2 1⁄2 to 3 1⁄2 inches long.

Okra can be stored at 50 ºF for 7 to 10 days. Temperatures below 50 ºF will cause injury. Keep humidity high to prevent wilting, but do not wet the pods.

Okra yields in Mississippi range from 4 to 7 tons per acre, or 200 to 400 bushels.

Preharvest $ 880
Harvest and handling $ 4,256
Total $ 6,136

Wholesale prices for okra vary between $0.20 and $0.70 a pound for fresh-market okra. Processing okra brings between $0.08 and $0.12 a pound.

The information given here is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of other products that may also be suitable.

By Dr. David Nagel, Extension Professor, Plant and Soil Sciences

Discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or veteran’s status is a violation of federal and state law and MSU policy and will not be tolerated. Discrimination based upon sexual orientation or group affiliation is a violation of MSU policy and will not be tolerated.

Information Sheet 1510
Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. MELISSA J. MIXON, Interim Director

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