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Crop Farming of Broccoli Seedlings

Basics of Crop Farming from Broccoli Seedlings

Most commercial farmers grow broccoli from seedlings, as propagation from seed is more risky and challenging. Broccoli can be eaten raw, cooked, boiled, or stir-fried. It is an exceptionally nutritious plant, packed with folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin A and C, and magnesium. The vegetable is also a good source of fibre. With it being a relatively challenging crop to propagate on a large scale, it fetches a good market price.

Soil Needs

It is imperative to transplant the broccoli seedlings to well-drained sandy loam soil that contains a lot of organic material. The plant requires a soil pH of between 6 and 6,7. A soil analysis should be done prior to preparation and just before transplanting to ensure that the necessary additions or changes can be made to create the right soil conditions for the seedlings. Many farmers prepare the soil by ripping and ploughing it. The best depth at which to do this is between 550 and 650 mm. Lime and compost can be added as part of the soil preparation.

Transplanting to The Field

Transplanting is generally done when the broccoli seedlings are about 15 cm in height and has some foliage. Spacing of between 39 and 51 cm between plants and 50 cm between rows are best to get up to 40 000 plants on a hectare. Staggered planting provides for more light between the plants. Many farmers transplant the broccoli seedlings from April to the start of June but there are varieties that can be planted at any time of the year. The vegetable does not perform so well in high temperatures, so it is important to ensure that harvesting can be done before the hot summer months.

Climate Needs

As it is a cool-weather vegetable, it is best to ensure establishment and harvesting before the high summer temperatures set in. The plant grows well in climates where temperatures range from 15 to 19 °C. In some parts of the country where spring is relatively cool, it is possible to propagate the plant for harvesting in early spring.

Irrigation Needs

Make sure the soil is moist before transplanting the broccoli seedlings and irrigate them at once after transplanting.

Growth to Harvest

The vegetable can be harvested from about six weeks after transplanting, though in extremely cold places, the plant takes longer to mature and harvesting can then only be done about eight weeks after transplanting. However, it is important to harvest the heads before flowering starts. It is possible to get anything between 5 and 12 tonnes per hectare. Harvesting is done mostly by hand. Cut the heads with about 15 cm of the stems still on them to keep the heads from prematurely drying. Store the harvested heads in a cool area away from direct sunlight, as they can dry out quickly after harvesting. The vegetable can keep up to two weeks if stored in this way. It is possible to harvest heads up to three times and in this way get optimal yields from one crop.

Propagating from broccoli seedlings holds several benefits for the commercial farmer:

• An improved yield.

• A shorter period from planting to harvesting and thus a reduced risk of diseases and pests.

• Greater plant uniformity.

• Plants are chemically treated before delivery to the farm, ensuring protection in the early days of establishment.

• Pest- and disease-free plants provide a good start for the crop.

The seedlings available from commercial nurseries are propagated in special greenhouse facilities where they are protected against pests and diseases. The varieties are tested, ensuring good-quality stock for the farmer. With the first chemical treatments already done, the farmer saves on costs associated with early treatments. The farmer also faces a lower risk. Not all seeds germinate and as such, there are always some plant losses when propagating from seed. So, with an increased yield, better stand, good uniformity, and superb quality, the farmer benefits in several ways from planting seedlings instead.

But it is imperative to buy from a trusted nursery with a proven track record of good-quality broccoli seedlings at affordable prices and with excellent after-sales service and technical support. Hishtil SA is such a supplier and delivers the plants to farmers across South Africa. View the product range and get in touch for more information about availability and pricing.

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