How Sweet Peppers are Grown in South Africa from Grafted Seedlings
Grafted pepper seedlings are now available for commercial farming purposes in South Africa.
Whether growing from grafted or conventional pepper seedlings, it is imperative to keep soil, climate, watering, and spacing requirements in mind.
Before looking at the many benefits you can expect from growing vegetable crops from grafted seedlings, consider these important factors when farming with peppers in South Africa:
Greenhouse or Outdoor Growth?
In South Africa, most farmers propagate peppers in greenhouse facilities instead of propagating them outdoors. In the net protection, the plants are not overexposed to weather elements, such as hail or extreme temperatures. Growing in such conditions makes it possible to farm with the vegetables throughout the year, as the plants also have frost protection. The net environment helps to reduce moisture loss, thereby reducing the cost of watering. The net environment, furthermore, protects the plants from birds and many types of pests.
Proper preparation of the soil before transplanting the grafted pepper seedlings is essential to ensure the right growth area. Keep in mind that peppers have shallow root systems. This means the plants get their water from the upper part of the soil. Water logging and drought conditions both affect the growth and yield capacity of this vegetable crop.
The plants prefer a soil pH range of 6,2 to 7,0. If possible, try to maintain a soil pH close to neutral for optimal plant performance. Sandy loam and loam soil environments are best. It is important to assess the drainage ability of the particular soil. For best growth results, mix organic material and humus into the soil before transplanting the grafted seedlings.
Although it is possible to grow peppers in cooler areas, these plants prefer warmer climates as they generally do not handle frost well. Low temperatures severely hinder growth. The fluctuation between day and night temperature should be in the vicinity of between 20°C to 30°C. This gives another reason to grow these plants in protected environments, especially because once the fruits begin to ripen, the plants perform better if no rainfall is experienced. Wet conditions during this time cause fungus development.
How Far Apart to Transplant the Grafted Pepper Seedlings?
Spacing should be around 50 cm between the plants in the rows. Leave around 50 cm between rows.
As mentioned, the plants have shallow root systems. Regular irrigation is thus essential to maintain the right moisture level. Flood irrigation is not recommended, as this can cause waterlogging around the roots. Drip irrigation is widely reported as the best for these plants.
Yield Potential and Harvesting
The amount that can be harvested per hectare, depending on the cultivar, when harvested, spacing, soil conditions, irrigation, and protection against weather elements and pests. Harvesting is labour-intensive, as it is done mostly by hand. The green peppers are the immature fruits but can be harvested. As the fruits mature, they change colour. If the fruits are harvested for processing purposes, then mechanical harvester equipment is used. Storage is normally not for longer than two weeks.
Advantages of Propagating the Crop from Grafted Seedlings
Grafting makes it possible to get desired characteristics from two or more plants. Hishtil SA has performed extensive research regarding the best plants to use in the grafting process. This has made it possible to grow plants with features, such as better frost tolerance, stronger root systems, improved fruit quality and yield, and better tolerance for many soil-borne pathogens.
The grafted seedlings are grown in special greenhouse conditions where they are protected against pests and diseases. The plugs are also chemically treated before delivery to the farmer. This ensures that the young plants have adequate protection until the farmer can start with his chemical treatment programme. Farmers benefit from receiving plants that are uniform in character, deliver high yields, and are stronger.
Grafting is not a new practice. It has been used in ancient societies to domesticate wild fruit trees. Today, farmers have the benefit of being able to grow vegetable crops, such as peppers from disease-free grafted seedlings as available from Hishtil SA. Get in touch for more information about pricing and available varieties.