Is it Profitable to Farm Cucumbers from Seedlings in South Africa?
Cucumbers have a host of health benefits. With the increased focus on healthy living, the market has the potential for even more expansion in future. Everything from pharmaceutical companies that extract specific components to cosmetics producers that include cucumber for anti-ageing benefits form part of the lucrative market. Whether propagating this plant for processing into other products or for the fresh produce market, starting with quality seedlings can help to improve yield and profits for the farmer.
As with venturing into any new crop farming business, newcomers to cucumber production in South Africa need to consider the potential profitability of the crop, challenges associated with growing it, and the investment costs for starting the crop. Proper research is essential to ensure the farmer understands spacing, soil, watering, temperature, harvesting, and storage requirements. Many of the bulk-supply nurseries provide extensive transplanting guides, such as the one that can be downloaded here.
Strictly speaking, cucumber is a fruit, although it is widely referred to as a vegetable. Without going into a new discussion, the cucumber is the fruit of the Cucumis Sativus L. plant. It is propagated in netted or greenhouse facilities and in outdoor environments.
Although greenhouse facilities hold several benefits, these structures are also expensive to set up. Farmers should compare the cost of setting up and maintaining the greenhouse structures with that of outdoor growth. They should also compare the yield potential, watering requirements, pest control abilities, production periods, and cost of labour for both before making a final decision on which route to go. In most instances, greenhouse-based propagation provides for year-round production capacity, improved temperature control, lower cost of irrigation, better temperature control, and optimal yield.
Farmers also need to ensure that the planting environment has been prepared properly to allow for immediate transplanting of the disease- and pest-free seedlings on the day of delivery. This includes nutrient provision, proper irrigation of the soil, installation of wind breakers if growing in the open field, and having the relevant support structures in place.
The optimal soil pH for transplanting the cucumber seedlings is between 6 and 7.
The best growth temperature range averages between 22°C and 28°C. The optimal flowering temperature range is between 20°C and 24°C.
Best results have been reported with drip or micro irrigation, as this makes it possible to water directly to the roots as opposed to the foliage. It also gives better control over the amount of watering, while reducing loss of water because of spray and evaporation.
The yield potential varies according to the quality of the plant stock, the spacing between the cucumber seedlings, the temperature fluctuations, humidity levels, pest and disease control, pruning practices, soil conditions, and more. Yield potential has been reported as up to 50 tonnes on a hectare.
Where to Buy Quality Seedlings?
Hishtil SA is one of South Africa’s leading commercial nurseries from where disease- and pest-free cucumber seedlings can be ordered for large-scale production.