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Broccoli Seedlings

Propagating Broccoli in South Africa for Optimal Crop Success

Broccoli has become a popular vegetable with consumers in recent years, because of all its reported health benefits. For one, the vegetable has been noted to contain cancer-fighting properties. However, problems experienced with the growing of the vegetable in the past caused farmers to shy away from the cultivation of broccoli. Many of the varieties only developed small heads, which affected the marketability of the crop.

New Hope

Fortunately, with recent advances in science and technology, bulk suppliers of broccoli seedlings are now able to supply broccoli seedlings that grow reasonably sized heads. This significantly improves the marketability of the crop, ensuring profitability for farmers. With it also being a plant that is sensitive, broccoli, much like cabbage, has proven difficult to propagate with success on open fields. The vegetable is traditionally a cooler-season plant, but advances in seed technology has made it possible to plant during warmer periods and various climate regions in South Africa.

Issues to Consider

It is imperative to select the right cultivar of broccoli seedlings to get the preferred head size and type. Some varieties never form proper heads and farmers growing these varieties bundle the leaves and market them in a manner similar to spinach leaves. Certain cultivars form side shoots and some farmers prefer the side shoots, because these develop after the main head is harvested, enabling them to get a second crop. Unfortunately, in South Africa, labour costs are too high to really make this practice economically viable. As such, few farmers opt for the varieties with side shoots, as they cannot generate enough profit from harvesting side shoots to offset the labour costs. The plant goes into its reproductive phase just after the winter. Most varieties grow smallish heads, with most of the plant’s energy pushed into the side-shoots. If the side-shoots are not removed, the plant stays small and the head is of substandard size. It is imperative to remove the side-shoots at this stage to ensure that the plant’s energy is used for development of the main head. It is labour-intensive but is the way to go if the farmer wants larger broccoli heads.

Signs of Stress

It is also important to buy seedlings that are better at handling stress, as broccoli is not known for being very stress tolerant. Even if the plant appears healthy, any stress will become evident in the poor development of the head. Buying pre-treated and uniform broccoli seedlings helps improve the chances of success in propagating the vegetable on a commercial scale. A lack of uniform bead development is also indicative of plant stress. Small and large beads are noticeable on the florets, with some of the beads prematurely opening. Many of the beads discolour. In addition, florets do not develop uniformly and bead colours vary considerably. Bract leaves can form between the florets in the head. If the variety is not known for maturing uniformly, any period of stress can lead to some or all of these stress symptoms. The early heads are often severely affected, but the ones developing later can be strong. Excessive heat or a drought can also cause stress. Another symptom of such stress is the formation of small leaves in the florets.

When Receiving the Broccoli Seedlings

It is essential to prepare the soil well before the broccoli seedlings arrive. Note that broccoli requires less nitrogen than cauliflower –usually a maximum of two nitrogen dressings. Fortunately, the modern varieties of broccoli seedlings grow into fast-maturing plants. This reduces the risk period, as the plants can be harvested within 60 to 80 days from transplanting the broccoli seedlings into the prepared soil. In order to ensure successful transplanting of the broccoli seedlings, it is essential to immediately open the seedlings upon receiving them from the commercial supplier. Remove the plastic wrapping and take the trays out of the cages. Keep the trays in a shaded and well-ventilated area away from where production takes place. Water the seedlings at least once per day until they are ready to transplant.

It is best to plan delivery as closely as possible to the intended transplant day to minimise stress on the seedlings. Get in touch for more information about types and availability of broccoli seedlings for commercial farming purposes.

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