How to Achieve Top Yield Success with Eggplant Seedlings
Known by names such as brinjal, melongene, and aubergine, the eggplant is a popular vegetable in South Africa. Many farmers propagate eggplant crops from seedlings as available from large commercial bulk-supply nurseries.
The nurseries grow the plants in special greenhouse facilities where the plugs are protected against pests and diseases. The plugs are chemically treated before delivery to the farmer, ensuring protection against pest and disease threats until the farmer can start with his normal chemical treatment plan.
Growing the vegetable from plugs reduces the time from planting to harvesting. This means reduced water usage and chemical applications. As such, the impact of crop farming on the environment can be reduced.
As a summer crop, the plant does not perform well when exposed to temperatures below 10°C. It should also not be exposed to temperatures of 35°C and higher for prolonged periods. The optimal temperature range is 26°C to 29°C.
Best Time for Plant Establishment
The best time to transplant the eggplant seedlings is climate dependent. If grown in the cooler parts of the country, then establishment is best from October to December, while in the Lowveld, good performance has been reported for plant establishment from February to May. For the Western Cape regions, the period between September and December seems best.
As with many other types of vegetable crops, the eggplant plugs should be established in well-drained soil. The plants perform best in sandy loam soil with a good proportion of nutrients. The soil should be able to retain water well.
It is imperative to prepare the soil in advance before transplanting the eggplant seedlings as the soil conditions affect the success of root establishment. Sandy soil is prone to erosion and care should thus be taken to prevent such. Crust formation is often a problem with heavier soil types. In the latter instance, the farmer should take the necessary steps to aerate the soil and prevent crust formation.
Soil preparation should be at between 20 cm and 40 cm deep. Ridges have been shown to help in preventing water clogging around the root systems. Ridges have also been reported to allow for sufficient aeration and support for good root formation.
The farmer can perform a soil analysis to ensure the soil has the correct pH and nutrient levels.
Preparing for Eggplant Seedlings
The plugs should be transplanted as soon as possible once received. This means that the necessary trellising systems must be erected before the plugs are delivered. The soil must be wet and the holes must already have been made to the same size as the seedlings. This helps to prevent rooting problems as too small holes can lead to root bending and thus issues with plant uniformity.
The moisture content of the soil must be closely monitored. Overwatering leads to waterlogging at the roots and thus the potential of root rot. The plant performs well with deep irrigation.
Harvesting is done when the fruits have gained their full colour, but before they lose their firmness.
Farmers benefit form starting their crops with disease-free and uniform eggplant seedlings. Close monitoring of soil and water conditions is essential for optimal yield success. Commercial farmers can get more information on the varieties and prices of eggplant seedlings from Hishtil SA.