Cauliflower Demand and the Challenge of Growing the Vegetable The demand for cauliflower seedlings is increasing simply because cauliflower has in recent years become a popular vegetable amongst health-conscious consumers. With the Internet full of recipes such as how to make tortillas from cauliflower and how to replace rice and starch-based vegetables with the healthier cauliflower, farmers in South Africa are doing brisk business. Everything from pizza bases to gluten-free flour recipes are now based on cauliflower. The vegetable is now extremely popular across the world. Whereas in the past, it was seen as a luxury vegetable, nowadays it is one of the most popular vegetables in households in South Africa. The same trend can be seen in other countries. Farmers can expect demand to increase over the next few years. The growing demand for this versatile vegetable is attributed to the rise of a new affluent class. Many people are also becoming health-conscious and wish to replace starch in their diets. Others prefer the vegetable as an alternative to flour, because it is a gluten-free option. With it extremely difficult to propagate cauliflower from the seed stage, many farmers opt for the uniform seedlings as available from bulk cauliflower seedling suppliers. With seedlings, the time from planting to harvesting is shorter. This reduces the risk of stress due to environmental factors such as heat or drought. The plants are on the field for a shorter time, helping to reduce the risk of aphids and rodent infestations. Challenges for South African Farmers Though demand is ever-increasing, cauliflower is not the easiest of crops to propagate in the warmer climates of the world, because the plant goes into seed far too early and can fail to develop a head if it is grown in too-warm temperatures. However, improvements in plant-breeding methods have made it possible to offer uniform cauliflower seedlings ready for transplant. These seedlings are from varieties that can grow in the warmer South African climate, though cauliflower is still mainly a cooler-climate crop. Why Cauliflower Propagation Is So Challenging It has to do with the growing periods. Farmers cannot rely on a single variety, since with every growth season, one to several varieties are needed, depending on where and when they are planted. The issue is that some varieties are harvested after 80 days, whilst others can take up to 200 days before being ready for harvesting. Another problem experienced by commercial growers is the fact that it is a biennial crop, with the implication that seed production takes 24 months. It is also extremely important to plan planting and harvesting in line with demand. Farmers must build strong relationships with retailers to ensure they will do good on their cauliflower orders. At the same time, farmers must make sure they have a trusted supplier of cauliflower seedlings. Companies such as Hishtil SA grow the seeds to seedlings in temperature- and pest-controlled environments, enabling a steady supply of seedlings. It is, however, extremely important for farmers to plan carefully and to speak to the supplier about the quantities needed, when these are required, and which varieties. Transplant When Seedlings Arrive Once the plants are received, it is imperative to get them in the soil as quickly as possible. For this reason, farmers should coordinate the preparation of the soil with the delivery of the seedlings. Once the seedlings are delivered, the plastic must be cut open and the plant trays removed from the cases. The trays should be placed far from the production area in a cool and shaded space with good ventilation. Watering of the seedlings must be done at least daily. Nitrogen-rich soil is also a requirement. A professional commercial nursery should supply the seedlings already pre-treated against pests and disease. The plants should be grown in insect-free environments, ensuring disease-free plants to transfer to the soil. Farmers cannot expect good harvests if the young plants already have diseases or are pest-infected. It is thus imperative that farmers buy from a trusted supplier of disease-free seedlings. Hishtil SA meets these requirements and is committed to ongoing research, plant improvement, and superior quality. Farmers wanting to benefit from the high demand for cauliflower should get in touch with the company for more information and to find out about the availability of quality cauliflower seedlings.
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