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Cabbage Seedlings

Commercial Farming of Cabbage from Seedlings in South Africa

It is very challenging and expensive for farmers to produce cabbage crops from seeds, so they usually do it from seedlings. Cabbage is of the capitata group from the Brassica oleracea species, “capitata” meaning “having a head” in Latin. The plant has a rosette with green leaves. These leaves are folded around a short stem to form a head. The root comes from the leaf organ instead of an axis. Cabbage is often used raw in salads, although many people prefer to eat cabbage cooked.  

The Soil Conditions Required

Cabbage seedlings can be propagated in various soil types but do the best in well-drained loam soil that is rich in organic matter. Cabbage seedlings can also be planted in acidic soil conditions and in fact, the ideal pH range for the soil in which to grow cabbage seedlings is between 5,5 and 6,5. However, it is important never to allow the pH to drop below 4,5. When planted in soil with a pH that is too high, the leaves of the plant will turn dark. Blackleg is quite common in cabbage planted in soil that is very saline.

The Preferred Climatic Conditions

Both cabbage seedlings and adult plants grow best in slightly humid, cool conditions. If they are grown in a dry climate, the leaf quality will be poor and the plant loses much of its flavour. It is better to transplant cabbage seedlings in the cooler part of the year, as the plants do not tolerate high temperatures well. The higher level of insect activity during summer months also means having to apply more pesticides. This has a negative effect not only on the plants, but on the environment and the farmer’s profits. The best temperature is between 18 and 20 °C, although cabbage seedlings are quite tolerant of even cooler weather. The plant has good frost tolerance as well, so cabbage can be grown in various regions of the country. It is possible to grow from cabbage seedlings during the summer if you are propagating the vegetable in a cooler region of the country. It is, however, important to note that the quality of the vegetable may be negatively affected by excessive heat and dry air, unless one of the warm-weather varieties is used.

A variety of cultivars is available, for which the farmer can obtain seedlings from reputable suppliers. The leaves from the various cultivars range from smooth to wrinkled and red to green. Farmers typically propagate from cabbage seedlings but it is important to transplant to well-prepared soil; to this end, the soil must be treated against nematodes and half the nutrient requirement must be applied before planting. It is essential to space the rows correctly. Up to 50 000 cabbage seedlings can be planted on a hectare, depending on the cultivar, but if medium-head cabbage seedlings are planted, it is possible to fit as many as 65 000 plants per hectare. Planting can take place at any time of the year, except in regions with extreme temperatures.

Fertilisation should be done according to the results of a soil analysis. Keep in mind that later fertilisation may lead to deformation of the heads. Irrigating the soil is important before transplanting the cabbage seedlings, as they require moist soil. Once the cabbage seedlings have been planted, they must be irrigated again. Crop rotation is important to ensure the nitrogen level in the soil stays at adequate levels, as cabbage plants deplete the nitrogen levels in the soil. Rotation must be done with legumes or plants unrelated to cabbage to prevent pest build-up. Yields range from 30 to more than 80 tonnes per hectare, depending on various factors such as climate, soil, plant variety, irrigation, and more. Harvesting for the fresh-produce market is labour intensive, as it must be done by hand to prevent damaging the cabbage heads. If the plants are harvested for processing, more cost-effective mechanical harvesting can be done.

It is essential to invest in good-quality cabbage seedlings. All the seedlings available from Hishtil SA are propagated in greenhouse facilities and chemically treated before being delivered to the farmers. This helps to give the plants a head-start and thus saves the farmer that first application of chemical treatments. View the range of seedlings available and get in touch to discuss quantity requirements.

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