Growing horse gram is especially popular in India. But it is one of the lesser known beans in most other parts of the world. As the name suggests, horse gram is generally used to feed horses. But it is also commonly used in cooking. It is considered as a food with medicinal qualities in traditional Ayurvedic cuisine.
Horse gram is actually a short day, twining, succulent, annual climbing herb. The plants have trifoliate leaves, white flowers, long linear pubescent pods with curved beak, flattened small seeds with light red, brown, grey, black or mottled testa with photo and thermo-sensitive nature.
The horse gram plants generally become mature in 4-6 months, and generally do very well in drought-prone areas with very poor quality soil. They generally require less care and growing horse gram is very easy.
Horse gram is most often prescribed for the person who is suffering from jaundice or water retention, and also as part of a weight loss diet. Horse gram is mainly cultivated in most of the states of India including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.
Along with India, growing horse gram is also somewhat popular in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and West Indies. But it is not grown widely or commercially in these countries.
Horse gram is consumed in many different ways and it is very nutritious. In India, it is consumed as a whole seed, as sprouts, or as whole meal. Consuming horse gram is very popular in many parts of India.
Horse gram is native to the old world tropics and indigenous to India. Archaeological investigations have revealed it’s uses as food around 2000 BC, especially in India. Horse gram belongs to the genus Macrotyloma, which contains 25 species and all these species are indigenous to Asia and Africa.
The horse gram is known by many other names. It is known as Kulthi bean, Hurali and Madras gram in English, Hulthi or Kulthi in Hindi, Hurule in Kannada, Kulthi-kalai in Bengali, Mudhira in Malayalam, Ulavalu in Telugu, Kollu in Tamil, Kudu in Tulu, Kuleetu/Kulith in Konkani, Kuleeth in Marathi and Gujarati, Chana or Chholey in Punjabi and Kolatha in Oriya. It is known as Bazat in Myanmar and generally used in making pon ye gyi.
How to Grow Horse Gram
The horse gram plants are very hardy and drought tolerant. They generally require less care and management. If you are planning for growing horse gram, don’t worry! It’s really very easy. Here we are describing more information about growing horse gram from planting, caring to harvesting.
Select a Location
The horse gram plants grow well in almost all types of soil. But they prefer well-drained and fertile soil which is rich in lots of organic contents. The plants are relatively tolerant to low to moderate salinity levels with pH up to 8. They can grow in soil with heavy metal stresses, compared to other pulse crops grown in semi-arid regions.
The horse gram plants are completely intolerant of frost and they are sensitive to becoming waterlogged. The plants also prefer access to full sun. So consider all these factors while choosing a site for growing horse gram.
Prepare the Soil
The horse gram plants grow well in well-drained and fertile soil which is rich in organic contents. So while preparing the soil, till it first and then add as much organic contents as you can into the soil. Homemade compost, quick compost and well-rotted aged manure will be very good for using for this purpose.
For commercial horse gram production, add at least 5-6 tonnes of organic contents per acre. And also add 60-65 kg of super phosphate and 20-22 kg of urea (nitrogen) per acre.
Climate Requirements for Growing Horse Gram
The horse gram plants grow well in warm and dry climatic conditions. The plants are extremely drought tolerant and they require less care. Although the plants can’t grow well on higher altitudes, mainly because of wet and cool climate (the plants can be grown up to an altitude of 1000 meter above the sea level). Relative humidity between 50 and 80 percent is optimum for the growth of these plants. And temperature ranging between 25 °C and 30 °C is ideal (the plants can tolerate up to 40 °C temperature, but the growth rate declines remarkably below 20 °C. And for successful cultivation of horse gram, a well-distributed rainfall of about 800 mm is sufficient. Although the plants can perform very well even under low rainfall areas.
Best Time for Growing Horse Gram
August-September is the best time for growing horse gram. But you should sow the seeds in the months of July-August if you want to grow horse gram as a fodder crop.
Choose a Variety
There are many varieties of horse gram available. And most of these varieties are hybrid. Some popular and widely cultivated horse gram varieties are;
- Arjia Kulthi-21
- Baizu Kulthi
- Birsa Kulthi-1
- CRIDA 18R
- Hebbal Hurali-1
- Hebbal Hurali-2
- Maru Kulthi-1
- Pratap Kulthi-1
- VL Gahat-1
- VL Gahat-8
- VL Gahat-10
- VL Gahat 19
These are the common and popular varieties of horse gram. Each different variety has it’s own different characteristics. You should select a variety depending on it’s availability, required climatic and environmental conditions and most importantly ‘it’s growing ability and yield in your area’. You can consult with an experienced farmer in your area for having good recommendation.
Purchase Quality Seeds
The horse gram plants are grown from seeds. So after selecting your desired variety, purchase good quality seeds from any of your local suppliers. Always try to plant new seeds, and try to purchase the seeds from an authentic source.
Seeds Per Hectare
Exact amount of seeds depends on the variety. But on an average, you will need about 35 to 40 kg horse gram seeds per hectare.
You can plant horse gram seeds either by scattering throughout the field or in rows. But we recommend planting horse gram seeds in rows, and it will make the caring process much easier. Exact spacing between rows and plants can vary depending on the selected varieties. But in most varieties, the rows should be about 12 inches apart and the seeds should be sown at least 3-4 inches apart.
Remove the damaged or low quality seeds before sowing. And for reducing any seed borne diseases, you should treat the seeds with fungicides. Sow the seeds at about 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep. Soaking the seeds in fresh water for 24 hours will help the seeds to germinate well and faster. Water lightly immediately after sowing the seeds. And within a very few days, you will see the seedlings are coming out.
Caring for the Horse Gram Plants
The horse gram plants are very strong and hardy plants. They generally require less care and management as compared to some other popular crops. Although taking additional care will help the plants to grow better and yield maximum. Here we are describing more about the caring process for growing horse gram plants.
Fertilizing: Contact your local agriculture department and test the soil to know whether you need to apply additional fertilizers. In most cases, if you prepare the soil by following the above mentioned method, them you don’t have to apply additional fertilizers.
Watering: The horse gram plants are highly drought tolerant plants. Although you should monitor the field regularly both for water stress or drought conditions, for producing quality seeds and also for maximum yield. You should keep the soil moist and water frequently but lightly during the initial growth stage of the plants. Ensure to water the plants, especially at the time of flowering, pod forming and seed development stages.
Mulching: Mulching helps to retain moisture into the soil, and also helps to prevent most of the weeds. So try to mulch when the seedlings appear and reach few inches height. Try to use organic materials for mulching such as straw, hay, grass clippings, dried leaves or compost.
Controlling Weeds: Weeds consume nutrients from the soil. So controlling them is important. You can control weeds either by hands or by hoeing. But be very careful while hoeing, because the horse gram plants have very shallow roots.
Pests and Diseases
The horse gram plants are susceptible to some common pests and diseases. Aphids, stem fly, leaf hopper and whitefly are some common pests. And common diseases of the horse gram are powdery mildew, cercospora, root rot wilt, leaf crinkle, leaf curl and mosaic virus. Contact with an agricultural specialist in your area for having recommendation for controlling all these.
Harvest the matured whole plant, thresh the pods and then extract the seeds. Horse gram seeds generally become ready for harvesting when the pods in the plants turns from green to straw color. Avoid cloudy or rainy days for harvesting, and try to harvest when the sky is almost clear.
It’s actually very difficult to tell the yield, it depends on the variety and many other factors. But on an average, you can expect between 700 and 1000 kg per hectare.
Horse Gram Nutrition
The horse gram is very nutritious and healthy. It has been recognized as a potential source of protein and other nutrients. Actually horse gram has high nutritional value equivalent to other commonly grown pulse crops in all aspects. And it is an excellent source of iron, calcium and molybdenum. According to Wikipedia, 100 grams dry seeds contain 57.2 percent carbohydrate, 22 percent protein, 5.3 percent dietary fiber, 0.5 percent fat, 287 mg calcium, 311 mg phosphorus, 6.77 mg iron, and 321 kcal calories. It also contains 0.4 mg vitamin thiamine, 0.2 mg riboflavin and 1.5 percent niacin.
Health Benefits of Horse Gram
Consuming horse gram on a regular basis has many health benefits. Here are the some notable health benefits of horse gram.
- Consuming horse gram daily can fulfill the daily protein requirement of the body, because it is a high source of protein.
- As the horse gram is a good source of fiber, so it will help to digest the food better.
- Regular consumption of horse gram can aid in controlling blood sugar. And it is ideal for diabetic patients.
- The uses of horse gram for treating ulcers (especially mouth and peptic ulcers) is well known.
- Regular consumption of horse gram helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones and also helps in weight loss.
- It is widely used in ayurvedic medicine for treating a number of health disorders.
Hope you have learned a lot about growing horse gram. Please share your stories with us and don’t forget to share this guide with your friends if you like it. Good luck!