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Guide for Commercial Propagation of Pumpkins

Basic Guide for Commercial Propagation of Pumpkins from Seedlings

Large-scale farming of this vegetable is done throughout South Africa. Though most farmers grow directly from seed, many growers now prefer to propagate the crop from pumpkin seedlings, which can be ordered in bulk from reputable commercial nurseries. The pumpkin seedlings are grown in special greenhouse facilities where the plants are protected against pests and diseases. They are chemically treated before they are delivered to the farmer in order to ensure that they are adequately protected against diseases and pests until the farmer can start with their normal chemical-treatment programme. The plant has a deep root system with roots growing up to 1,5 m deep. It also has large leaves, in addition to an extensive vine system, causing it to take up a lot of space if trellis structures are not used. Pumpkins have characteristic yellow flowers.

Irrigation Needs and Soil Types Suitable for Propagation of The Crop

It is essential to have a generous water supply available if planning to grow pumpkins commercially, but farmers should be careful not to over-water the crop. For growth from transplanted seedlings, it is important to keep the upper layer of soil moist during the early growth stage, though, once the plants near maturity, the upper soil layer should be kept dry, while deeper down, at between 25 and 30 cm deep, the soil should be moist. The plant performs well on soils with a light texture such as sandy loam or loam that is well-drained. Where the crop is grown in a heavy soil type, it is imperative to ensure good drainage. Pumpkins prefer soil with a pH of 6 to 7.

Optimal Spacing and Crop Potential

If transplanting seedlings for growing the sprawling-vine type, a spacing of up to 100 cm in the row and 200 cm between rows is recommended to get anything from 5000 to as many as 8000 plants on a hectare. The bush-type pumpkin plants can be spaced between 49 and 76 cm in the row, with 200 cm between rows in order to propagate up to 10 000 plants on a hectare. On average, farmers get around 20 t of fruit from a hectare, though good crop management using quality seedlings can yield up to 30 t per hectare.

The Soil’s Moisture-Content Management

Optimal management of the water supply is important and to this end, the farmer should check the moisture content of the soil at least twice every seven days. This can be done using a spade or auger in the absence of moisture meters in the soil. The plant is quite sensitive to water stress and it is recommended to insert equipment that measures moisture in the soil when the pumpkin seedlings are transplanted, upon delivery from the nursery. Irrigation must be more frequent when higher temperatures are experienced.

Harvesting Practices

Harvesting of the vegetable is done by hand. It is a labour-intensive process, as damage to the skin through handling can cause the fruit to decay. Leave a part of the stem on the fruit when harvesting and store the harvested fruits in a dry room with a temperature that range between 18 and 20 °C while curing the vegetable. The skin of the fruits harden during the curing process and once curing is completed, the fruits can be stored for up to 90 days if they are kept at a temperature of 10 °C and a humidity level of 60%.

Harvesting is done when the skin of the fruits shows signs of hardening and becomes dull in appearance. It is important to not leave the fruits on the ground for a prolonged period after the leaves have withered, since the sun and moisture from the soil can damage the fruits. That said, harvesting and collection should be done once the stems show signs of cracking and the plant’s vines have dried off. If pressing on the skin with a finger leaves a dark-coloured bruise, the plant should be left a while longer, as it has not yet become mature enough to be harvested. Crop rotation is also essential to ensure optimal yields.

Pumpkin seedlings can be ordered from Hishtil South Africa for bulk delivery directly to farmers across the country.

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