Courgette Farming

Courgette (Cucurbita pepo) is a small, dark green firm, fleshy vegetable belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. It can either be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, fried or roasted depending on how one chooses.

COURGETTE FARMING

Courgette (Cucurbita pepo) is a small, dark green firm, fleshy vegetable belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. It can either be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, fried or roasted depending on how one chooses. Its fruits, leaves and flowers are used as vegetables. It has a mild flavour and highly watery and is often harvested while still young.

Courgettes are also known as zucchini and are closely related to cucumber expect that they cannot be eaten uncooked.

 

Benefits of courgette

  • Its low levels of sodium and high potassium help to maintain healthy blood pressure
  • Contains high amounts of vitamin C and polyphenols, especially in the peels, which improve thyroid and adrenal functions
  • Rich in antioxidants and anti-flammatory compounds which boost immunity and protect against diseases associated with inflammation
  • Low in starch, having minimal amounts of calories which makes it a much-preferred part of the diet
  • Rich in magnesium which reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes and whose combination with potassium helps in reducing high blood pressure
  • Contains high fiber and water contents which makes burning fat off much easier
  • Vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, and calcium in courgettes assure optimal health
  • Rich in magnesium which contributes to the improvement of muscle contractions when mixed with calcium
  • Has a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, niacin, and protein
  • Due to high water content, Vitamin-C and riboflavin, maturation of collagen speed up leaving you with fresh skin
  • The copper percentage in it also helps in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • The folate present in courgettes is highly recommended for pregnant women

 

 

Ecological Requirements

Courgettes are warm climate vegetables requiring an optimum temperature of 15-220C. They require an optimum water supply of 800mm during the vegetative growth period, however, with irrigation they can be grown in dry areas with little rainfall.

They can be grown in altitudes of 500-2000 metres above sea level, and on a wide range of well drained light loam, fertile soils, with PH of 5.5-7.5.

Courgettes can be grown all-year round except during periods of heavy rains as they destroy the flowers and promote diseases like mildews.

 

Choice of seeds

This is an important factor to consider.  Hybrid varieties are preferred for better yields.

Some of the varieties grown in Kenya include Ambassador F1, Simba F1, Black beauty, Cera F1 and Green Zucchini, among others.

 

Propagation & Planting

Courgettes are grown from seed. They can be grown in a seedbed and transplanted at 3-4 leaf stage, but direct sowing in the main field works well.

Land preparation should be done early to allow for weeds to dry and decompose before planting.

Procedure

  1. Spray weeds with Clampdown® 480SL 200ml/20L, a non-selective herbicide which kills all kinds of weeds.
  2. Plough and level the land, ensuring a fine tilth.
  • Mix soil with manure and DAP. For efficient and improved nutrient uptake as well as stabilizing soil pH, mix 1kg Humipower® with 50kg DAP and /or 1 ton of manure.
  1. Plant 2-3 seeds in hills or rows, 2cm deep at a spacing of 60-100cm by 60cm. After emergence, thin to one plant per hill.
  2. Cover seeds with loose soil.

Tips!

  • Seeds germinate within 5-7days.
  • To improve the germination rate, soak seeds in Optimizer® 20ml/1L
  • Mono-cropping is usually used for commercial production

 

Weeding; This should be done regularly during growth because weeds can significantly lower the productivity potential of the crop as they compete with crop for nutrients, water and light and harbor diseases and pests.

 

Mulching; The crop should be mulched to retain soil moisture and keep the fruits clean. When decomposed, the mulch releases nutrients into the soil which are absorbed by the crop.

 

Watering/Irrigation; To grow courgettes successfully, the soil should be kept moderately moist throughout, and more when the plants are in flowering and fruiting stages.

 

Support; Growing vines need to be supported regularly to avoid breakage or touching the ground. Most varieties, however form big, sturdy non-climbing plants.

 

Crop rotation; Strict crop rotation should be practised using non-family crops like cereals, legumes, brassicas, among others. It majorly helps prevent build-up of pests and diseases.

 

Fertilizer application

At planting, apply 50kg of DAP in one acre before sowing. Alternatively, place a teaspoonful of fertilizer into each planting hole, mix it thoroughly with the soil to make sure that the fertilizer doesn’t burn the seeds and then place the seeds.

Young plants should be sprayed with Lavender Super Starter® 20ml/20L or Goldchance Super Start® 50g/20L one week after germination, which promote early crop establishment among other benefits.

Top dressing should be done using CAN, 3-4 weeks after sowing. Apply 1 teaspoonful of the fertilizer at the base of each plant in a ring or along the rows, about 15cm away from the plant at a rate of 50-100kg per acre. Other nitrogenous fertilizers like urea can also be used.

Spray the crop with Goldchance Super Growth® 50g/20L or Lavender Super Vegetative® 20ml/20L.

During the flowering and fruiting growth phases, spray the crop with Goldchance Super Flowers & Fruits® 50g/20L or Dimiphite® 20ml/20L or Goldchance Multisuper K® 50g/20L or Lavender Super Flowers & Fruits® 20ml/20L.These are rich in nutrient elements which promote production of quality fruits.

 

Maturity, Harvesting & Post-Harvest Handling

Courgettes develop very rapidly and unless grown for seed, the mature fruits are not marketable.

Harvesting starts 2 to 2 and half months when the fruits are 10-20cm long and continues for 2-3 months. It is done by cutting the fruits off the stem, leaving a short peduncle on the fruit, rather than pulling fruits off to avoid damaging the plant. Regular picking (about three times a week, or on daily basis depending on productivity) should be done to encourage production of new fruits.

Courgettes are best eaten fresh or can be stored for a few days in the fridge.

 

Pest & Disease Control

Pests

Cutworms; These are brown to black biting and chewing pests mostly found in the soil near the plant root zone. They cut down young and tender stems. Heavy infestations cause significant losses.

Drench soil with Profile® 440EC 60ml/20L or Pentagon® 50EC 20ml/20L

 

Fruit flies; The adults pierce the young fruits and lay eggs in them. The maggots feed on the internal part causing sunken, discoloured patches, distortions and open cracks. The cracks create avenues for entry of pathogens.

Spray Presento® 200SP 5g/20L or Kingcode Elite® 50EC 10ml/20L or Profile 440EC 30ml/20L

 

Aphids; These are soft-bodied green to blackish insects found on the tender shoots and leaf surfaces where they suck sap. Heavy infestation leads to stunting of shoots while leaves become curled and twisted. Aphids secrete honeydew which facilitates the development of sooty mold and may as well attract fruit flies and also transmit viral diseases.

Spray Kingcode Elite® 50EC 10ml/20L or Lexus® 247SC 8ml/20L or Pentagon® 50EC 10ml/20L

 

Red Spider Mites; These feed by piercing and sucking. Attacked leaves have a stippled appearance which turn yellowish to whitish and dry up. They form webs on the undersides of the leaves. Plants under water /drought stress are more likely to suffer damage by spider mites.

Spray Alonze® 50EC 5ml/20L or Bazooka® 18EC 10ml/20L

 

Epilachna beetles; The adults and larvae feed on the leaves leaving fine nets of veins. The infested leaves shrivel and eventually dry up. These beetles also gnaw stems and bore holes in fruits, causing significant losses.

Spray Kingcode Elite® 50EC 10ml/20L or Sinophate® 750SP 20g/20L or Presento® 200SP 5g/20L

 

Leaf miners; The larvae mine under the leaf surface, resulting into white mines/windings.  This reduces photosynthetic area, leading to eventual leaf wilting/death.

Spray Alonze® 50EC 5ml/20L or Escort® 19EC 10ml/20L or Sinophate® 750SP 20g/20L

 

Thrips; Both the adults and nymphs are destructive. They feed on the leaves and most preferably flowers by sucking the sap thus causing damages which may lead to flower damage/abortion.

Spray Alonze® 50EC 5ml/20L or Defender® 25EC 40ml/20L or Profile® 440EC 20ml/20L

 

Whiteflies; These suck plant sap causing leaves to curl and become distorted. They also secrete honeydew which encourages the growth of sooty mold, which affects plant growth. Whiteflies are vectors of viral diseases which cause significant damages to courgettes.

Spray Taurus® 500SP 10g/20L or Lexus 247SC 8ml/20L or Kingcode Elite® 50EC 10ml/20L

To get rid of the sooty mold, spray Jambo Clean® 100ml/20L

 

Diseases

Damping off; This is a soil borne disease which attacks seeds and seedlings. Diseased seeds do not emerge while seedlings rot and eventually die. The roots of these infected seedlings exhibit a white cottony growth.

Drench the planting holes/soil with Pyramid® 700WP 100g/20L

Spray the plants with Gearlock Turbo® 250WP 25g/20L

 

Anthracnose; Symptoms are mostly seen on fruits as circular black or brown sunken lesions. When wet, the centres of the lesions become purplish coloured due to a mass of fungal spores. However, water soaked lesions are also seen on the leaves and stems. On the stem, they can girdle the stem causing wilting of the vines.

Spray Ransom® 600WP 15g/20L or Ducasse® 250EW 20ml/20L or Absolute® 375SC 10ml/20L or Katerina® 720SC 40ml/20L

 

Downy mildew; Infection leads to formation of yellow patches on the underside of the leaf, and the diseased leaves curl, shrivel and  eventually turn brown and fall off.

Infected plants get stunted and die while the produced fruits may have a poor taste.

Spray Gearlock Turbo® 250WP 25g/20L or Fortress Gold® 720WP 40g/20L or Tower® 720WP 50g/20L or Katerina® 720SC 40ml/20L

 

Powdery mildew; Symptoms first develop as whitish talcum like powdery growth on upper leaf surface. As infection progresses, the stems also get infected. Severely infected parts turn yellowish and eventually wilt.

Spray Ransom® 600WP 15g/20L or Domain® 250EC 10ml/20L or Absolute® 375SC 10ml/20L

 

Mosaic; This is a viral infection and the virus is mechanically transmitted and also spread by several species of aphids in non- persistent mode. Leaves show symptoms of reduced size, patches of dark-green tissue alternating with yellow-green. The plant becomes stunted and fruits develop water soaked lesions with central solid spots.

Control vectors (aphids) with Kingcode Elite® 50EC 10ml/20L or Pentagon® 50EC 10ml/20L or Lexus® 247SC 8ml/20L

Spray Optimizer® 10ml/20L to boost the crop’s immunity.

 

Remarks!  

  • In all foliar sprays, mix the chemical with Integra® 3ml/20L, which is a sticker, spreader and penetrant which increases the efficacy of the product.
  • Use Cadilac® 800WP 50g/20L, which is a preventative fungicide against diseases including anthracnose and downy mildew.
  • Optimizer® is an organic bio-stimulant which is essential for plant growth and stress management. It can be applied at all or any growth and development phase of the crop.
  • Minimum handling of the fruits should be ensured because they are quite fragile and prone to breakages and bruising
  • Post-harvest interval (PHI) and re-entry interval (REI) for all the applied chemicals should be observed.
  • Soil analysis is highly recommended in order to determine the soil fertility level.
  • All basal fertilizers should be mixed with Humipower® at a rate of 1kg of Humipower® into 50Kg of fertilizer.

 

Last updated on Friday, March 17, 2023 at 10:14 am

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