Eggplant Seedlings: Essentials to Keep in Mind for Commercial Farming in SA
Commercial farming of eggplants is mostly from seedlings, as can be ordered from bulk supply nurseries in South Africa. To understand why it can be profitable to commercially propagate eggplant from seedlings, one has to consider the many health benefits and culinary uses of the vegetable first.
Known by names ranging from aubergine to brinjal and guinea squash, the vegetable is popular in Pan-African cuisines. The name “eggplant” refers to its shape that resembles that of an egg. However, that is the only similarity. Though called a vegetable, strictly speaking, it is the fruit of a vegetable plant.
Reported Health Benefits of Eggplants
Farmers wanting to grow crops that are not widely farmed for commercial purposes will benefit from buying disease-free seedlings from bulk-supply nurseries where they can also get advice on aspects, such as pH, soil, watering, and temperature requirements for growing aubergines. A few of the many reported health properties associated with the plant are:
Edible skin, known for being rich in magnesium, potassium, and fibre
The flesh of the plant is high in vitamin C, B6, potassium, and fibre
Contains high levels of flavonoids, reported to support good heart health
Rich in antioxidants for protection against free radicals in the human body
Noted for the stimulation and detoxification of enzymes in the body
As more and more people focus on healthy diets, they look towards vegetables to include in their diets that can support heart health and provide healthy fibre. With thousands of recipes on the Internet for interesting ways to cook with eggplants, the vegetable is fast gaining popularity as an important culinary ingredient.
Growing Eggplants from Seedlings
Apart from starting with quality and disease-free seedlings to ensure a solid foundation for crop success, farmers should pay attention to the optimal growth conditions for the plant.
Farmers should prepare the soil well ahead of the expected date for receiving the seedlings. The plant grows best in areas where temperatures do not go as low as 9°C and not more than 34°C. The optimal growth temperature range is from 27°C to 28°C. It is essential to transplant the seedlings when the weather is warmer as cold weather causes slow growth. That said, early planting is essential to ensure the plants have reached maturity before the peak of the summer period is experienced in the warmer regions of the country.
For commercial propagation of eggplants from seedlings in the outdoor environment, one has to carefully consider which varieties work best in the specific climate region. For growth of the vegetable in the warmer Lowveld in Mpumalanga, the period from February in the summer to May just before the winter cold sets in is best. Commercial propagation of the plant outdoors in the Western Cape is usually done after September and before January. The Highveld is known for its extremely cold periods. For propagation in the Highveld, it is recommended to grow the vegetable after September until the end of November.
One of the challenges with the commercial farming of aubergine is that the plant has a long growth period. To this end, buying seedlings for transplant helps to reduce the time that the plants are in the field before harvesting. This significantly reduces risks for the farmer and helps to reduce costs associated with irrigation and pest control. One advantage of the plant is that the length of day does not have a significant effect on flowering. However, fruit formation is hindered by excessive humidity and very low temperatures.
Apart from climate needs, farmers should pay attention to the soil requirements for the successful propagation of the plant from seedlings. Although the plants perform reasonably in all soil types, it is essential to adapt the watering according to the soil drainage and water retention capacity. Nutrient levels in the soil also affect crop successes. It is essential to prevent water clogging around the roots. The optimal soil pH is between 5,4 and 6,6.
Many varieties are available, making it possible to successfully grow eggplants in almost all areas of South Africa. Sufficient space should be available as the plant does take up more space than, for instance, cauliflower or cabbage. Seek agricultural expert guidance on commercial farming with aubergine and get in touch with Hishtil SA for more information about the availability of eggplant seedlings.