Pumpkin Cultivation Information:
INTRODUCTION TO PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The pumpkin is one of the cultivars of the squash plant. These pumpkins originated in the North America. The related seeds of this plant were found in Mexico around 7000-5500 B.C. The pumpkin is scientifically named as Cucurbita maxima. The pumpkin belongs to Cucurbitace family. The pumpkins are smooth in texture, have slightly ribbed skin, and are deep yellow to orange in colour. It contains seed and pulp covered by a thick shell. In some parts of the world the pumpkins are used for the Halloween decoration and it is known as jack-o-lanterns.
The pulp in the pumpkin is cleaned and a bulb is inserted in the pumpkin to shine. The pumpkins are annually cultivated in warm climatic conditions. Usually, this Pumpkin crop matures in the fifth month after sowing. The pumpkins grow vigorously with extensive root system. The pumpkins have both breeds male and female, but they grow on the same plant. Queensland was the first place to have had the highest cultivated pumpkin crops with 43,783 tonnes in 2,751 hectares of land. New South Wales (Australia) has cultivated second highest pumpkin crops with 40,718 tonnes in 2,057 hectares.
CHARACTERISTICS OF PUMPKIN:
- The pumpkin is round in shape.
- They are yellow and orange in colour.
- The stem of the plant is green in color, as the fruit ripens the green stem converts into brown color. They are slightly curved and attached to the vine. It is the umbilical cord which brings nutrients into the fruit.
- For the plant, the leaves absorb sunlight. The fruit grows along with the stem and not with the leaves.
- The skin of the pumpkin is orange from outside, but the inner side of the pumpkin is yellow in color. The pumpkin has thick layer which protects the pumpkin from the insects and diseases.
- The pulp inside the pumpkin is meaty and forms the delicious part of the fruit.
PROPERTIES OF PUMPKIN:
- The 100 grams of pumpkin pulp contains 109 kilojoules (26 kilocalories) of energy.
- The pulp of pumpkin contains 6.5 grams of carbohydrates.
- 1 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein are present in pumpkin.
- The pumpkin are good source of many vitamins like Vitamins A, C, E, K.
- It also contains minerals like Calcium, Zinc, Sodium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.
CULTIVARS / VARIETIES FOR PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
- Mini blend Harvested
- Wee Be little
- Sweet sugar pie
- Blue doll
- Connecticut Field
- Harvest Jack
- Jack O’ lantern
- Pumpkin on a stick
- Red warty thing.
SOIL AND CLIMATE REQUIREMENTS FOR PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The pumpkins can efficiently grow in any range and variety of soils. The roots penetrate up to a 1 m deep. For pumpkins well drained soil is more preferable. The growth of pumpkin is good when the soil is fertile and has a pH level of 6.0-6.5. The soil could be slightly alkaline as well.
The pumpkin and other members of the same family are frost sensitive and need frost free growth periods of 4-5 months. For high yields low humidity is not conducive. For maximum production 20 – 35˚C of temperature is more preferable. For geminating the seeds 16˚C of temperature is required. They get emerged at 25˚C within four days of planting.
LAND PREPARATION AND PLANTING FOR PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The soil should be tested first for alkalinity or acidity levels. This is a free service of Ministry of agriculture, land and marine. Proper land preparation is very important for strong root development, efficient water and nutrient uptake, good aeration of soil and adequate drainage and water retention. The land is prepared by removing and cutting all the bushes and spraying Glyphosate weedicide. The soil should be ploughed thoroughly. If necessary the agricultural lime should be added to reduce the acidity. To improve the soil fertility cured manure can also be applied. The planting space between each plant should be 2-3 feet apart and the rows should be about 6-10 feet spacing. The pits of 30 x 30 x 30 cm size are dug for planting the seedlings.
PROPAGATION METHOD FOR PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The pumpkins are propagated by seeds. The soil is dug 2 feet down and in each pit two seeds should be placed. These seeds can also be sown in small pots for the germination. The pumpkins are either transplanted or directly seeds are sown on the main area. When the seeds start germinating, the seedlings should be watered regularly with an interval of 3-5 days. The fertilizer rich in phosphorous content should be applied to the plant to encourage the root development. The fertilization should be done for 4-5 days after the germination with a phosphorous fertilizer @ 5ml per 4 litres of water. For this plant only one fertilizer is required. After 10-15 days of germination the seedling will be ready for transplantation. The seedlings should be hardened by exposing them to the sunlight for 3-4 days before planting them in the field. The selection of seedlings is very important for transplanting them.
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Fertilizers and the nutrients should be applied appropriately to the crop after a soil test. The pumpkins respond well to the organic matter dressing. The fertilizers used for the pumpkin crop should be in the ratio of 5:10:19 for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium respectively and a total fertilizer mixture @ 270-363 kg per acre of land is required.
The nutrients required for the crop are 90:125:35 of urea, Single Super Phosphate (SSP), and Muriate of Potash (MOP) respectively. The usual Farm yard manure @ 8 – 10 tonnes per acre of land is supplied.
IRRIGATION METHODS FOR PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
Throughout the growing season, the pumpkin plants need water regularly. The indirect form of irrigation is also needed to the pumpkins. The mounds of the soil should be kept moist, but not wet all the times. The foliage of the pumpkin should not be watered while irrigating the plants. As the climate gets warmer they should be watered more than once a day. The plant’s leaves are the best indicators of good and bad irrigation. If there is a good water supply then the leaves look green and healthy. In case of less watering the leaves look wilted and dull.
FLOWERING AND POLLINATION IN PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The pumpkin plant produces male and female flowers on the same plant. The ratio of male to female flowers is affected by the environmental and various management factors. The numbers of male to female flowers are also determined by the soil, moisture, light, humidity and temperature. On the vine we can find the first flower is male then we can see 3 – 4 flowers of female. The male flowers development is encouraged by the high temperature, low humidity and long day – length. In the same way, the reverse conditions encourage the development of female flowers.
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For a good set of fruits, pollination plays a vital role in it. For high yields the bees play a major role. In a hectare of land 2 to 3 hives are recommended. For good development of fruit and good pollination 500- 1000 live pollen grains on the stigma of female flower should be present.
INTERCULTURAL METHODS IN PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
Along with rows the weeding and hoeing should be done regularly.
- Before the emergence of tendrils, earthling up and the application of nitrogen should be carried out.
- The foliage above the tall grass must be pulled out.
- The veins should be trained to grow with bamboo or other sticks.
Thinning of seedlings: the seedlings are thinned as they improve the air circulation around them self. If not it leads to fungal and bacterial diseases. It is important to note that for extended periods the foliage should not remain wet.
WEED CONTROL METHODS IN PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
Weed control around the field also helps in deterring other pests in the field. The below measures can be used for the weed control.
- Before planting seedlings to kill the emerging weeds we must use the pre-emergence herbicides.
- The grass which is around the crop should be killed, but it shouldn’t harm the crop. We should select the herbicides in that way.
- For controlling the weeds the soil can also be rotated along with the beds before vining so as to loosen the soil.
- The weeds can also be removed manually.
- Before the plant starts to spread, use the contact herbicides if necessary.
PEST AND DISEASES CONTROL MEASURES IN PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
Pest and Disease control:
The pest that causes harm to the plants are Pumpkin flies, Aphids, and Thrips.
- Pumpkin flies: These can be controlled by applying mercaptothion @ 35-40 litres mixture per hectare. And also we can spray the mixture of 300 grams of mercaptothion and 8 kg sugar in 35-45 litres of water under the foliage.
- Aphids: The aphid pest can be controlled by using the mercaptothion 15 – 30 kg per hectare. Mevinphos, fenthion or Dimethoate can also be used for preventing the aphids.
- Thrips: These can be prevented by spraying endosulfan or mercaptothion on both sides of the leaf or by wetting them on both sides.
- Diseases Control:
- Powdery mildew: The disease can be controlled by copper oxychloride/sulphur @ of 10-30 kg per hectare. Also benomyl can be applied @ 250-500 grams per hectare; these should be applied 3 times per season.
- Downy mildew: It can be prevented by spraying the Bravo, Cupravit or Dithane. These all should be sprayed or implemented as soon as we notice the diseases on the crops.
- Anthracnose: It can be prevented by using the Dithane or bravo spraying on the plants weekly.
HARVESTING TECHNIQUES IN PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The fruits are harvested after 55-75 days of sowing. The fruit rind is very tender initially. The skin colour changes to red. The fruits rind becomes harder from outside which indicates harvesting time. The seeds also become unfit for eating and hard. The harvesting is done by the hands. The fruits are cut with 5 cm of stalk attached to it.
POST HARVESTING TECHNIQUES IN PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The pumpkins are graded according to the uniformity like size, shape, colour and also on the appearance of the pumpkin. When pumpkins are over matured, they are more prone to injure or damage. All the pumpkins which are mostly preferred in markets are small and medium in size. The bakers and canners prefer the large one.
Storage: Pumpkins can be stored up to 1-3 months when mature. The winter varieties can also be best kept at relatively higher temperatures of 10˚ – 13˚C. For the best results the pumpkins should be stored in 50- 70% of air-moisture and under the temperature of 6˚ – 13˚C.
Marketing: Pumpkins market value is determined by their size, shape, weight and maturity. There should be lack of blemishes and decay. In supermarkets the pumpkins are sold as sections or the whole fruit. Some varieties are marketed only when they are completely ripe.
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YIELD IN PUMPKIN CULTIVATION:
The average yield of pumpkins is 20-30 tonnes per hectare annually. However, the yield mainly depends on soil fertility, irrigation, season, climate and variety.
Read: GROWING SAFFRON PLANTS.