Basics When Farming Lettuce
Must-Know Basics When Farming Lettuce from Seedlings in SA
Farming lettuce can be highly profitable, provided the farmer starts with quality stock, plants at the right time, and adheres to best practices for vegetable farming, among other factors.
In this article, the basics of crop farming from lettuce seedlings come under the spotlight.
High in Demand
With it used in salads and as garnish for sandwiches, wraps, and burgers, it is one of the essential vegetables for restaurants and fast-food industries. Hotels, lodges, hospitals, food trucks, households, take-away outlets, etc. require a constant supply because the vegetable is consumed fresh and uncooked, although some varieties can be lightly fried.
Annual usage in South Africa is in the vicinity of 40 000 plus tonnes and with the leafy vegetable weighing very little, it becomes clear that the consumption rate is considerable.
More About the Vegetable
It is an annual plant and forms part of the daisy family. Depending on the particular variety, everything from the stem to the foliage can be consumed.
Why Farmers Choose to Grow Commercially from Bulk-Order Seedlings
Quality seedlings are available from bulk-supply nurseries. These plugs are well-priced and already chemically treated before shipment to the farmer. This chemical treatment protects the plants until the farmer applies their first chemical treatment. The plugs from the nursery are grown in special greenhouse facilities in temperature-controlled environments. With premium stock to start the crop, the farmer already has a good foundation for crop success. Also, the time from planting to harvesting is shortened as opposed to propagating from seed.
Why Farmers Choose to Grow the Vegetable
The profit margin on this vegetable is high enough to make it an economically viable crop. Harvesting can be within six weeks, making it a suitable crop for fast turnaround. The vegetable can be planted throughout South Africa. The farmer can plant crops several times in one year because of the short growth period. When farmed in greenhouse facilities, it is possible to grow throughout the year.
Challenges with Lettuce Farming
It is a rather sensitive plant with a short shelf life. In addition, the foliage wilts fast once the plant has been harvested. To this end, it is imperative to have the right storage facilities and to get the produce to the market as fast as possible. The plant’s foliage is also tender and damages easily due to their high water content.
Main Factors to Consider
The lettuce seedlings must be transplanted on the day of delivery. Therefore, soil preparation must already be done. The plant prefers well-drained, organic-rich, and sandy loam soil with a soil pH of 6 to 7. To make sure the soil organic composition and pH are right when the plugs arrive, the farmer needs to start preparing the growth medium well in advance. Soil sampling is recommended, as the produce quality is affected by the nutrient level and pH.
Farmers should heed the spacing requirements for the particular variety. It is best to consult with the agronomists of the bulk-supply seedling nursery regarding specific spacing requirements.
Climate conditions are important. The vegetable does not do well in high temperatures and should not be water stressed. It performs best with temperature not exceeding 27ºC, as high temperature causes the plant to mature early and leads to premature seeding, leaving the farmer with a crop where heads have not matured.
Transplanting the lettuce seedlings to soil in greenhouse facilities holds the benefit of being able to get several crops in a year. In addition, the plants are ready to harvest faster than those grown outdoors. Should the farmer propagate the plants in the open field, it is imperative to only transplant the plugs once the frost period is over, but before the summer heat sets in.
The vegetable consists mostly of water, which also means irrigation must be carefully planned. Drip irrigation is best because this allows the farmer to control the amount of water and to minimise wastage. Overhead irrigation can cause the leaf system to be damaged. Overwatering causes waterlogging around the roots, which can lead to root diseases and rot.
Where to Buy Lettuce Seedlings
Hishtil SA is one of the leading bulk suppliers of vegetable plugs to farmers across South Africa. The lettuce seedlings are delivered to the farmer in special trays and are ready for transplant on the day of delivery. View the product page for a list of available vegetable plugs.