Guide to Successful Squash Production – SQUASH is commonly grown in the Philippines throughout the year. Although it is not as popular as its relatives in the Cucurbitaceae family are, it has its own fair share of the market.
In recent years, processing has added value to this vegetable. Fresh fruits are no longer simply cooked and served in households. Squash is now served as soup and pies in hotels, cafes and restaurants. Not only that, squash soup is now being canned and fruits are even processed into noodles. Even the roasted seeds are popular as snack food.
Now that natural sources of vitamins and minerals are in great demand, squash being a good source of Vitamin A is now slowly finding its way to the consumers’ table. And not just the fruits, even the squash flowers are found to contain lutein, a plant phytochemical that prevents cataracts.
Because of its variety of uses as food and the potential health benefits from eating squash fruits and flowers, demand for this vegetable may continue to increase and farmers should be prepared to meet this demand. All it takes would be a simple production guide plus a capital of about P40,000 to P50,000 per hectare. On the average, net income from a hectare is estimated to range from P50,000 to P90,000.
Squash is a dry season crop and may grow on many types of soil as long as it is will drained. However, it grows best on sandy loam or clay loam with pH between 6 and 6.5. It also requires a relatively dry, warm climate for fruit setting.
One can choose from various varieties of squash, depending on one’s preference. At Ramgo International Corporation, varieties adapted to both dry and wet season at the same time high yielding and tolerant to insects and diseases are available.
Land Preparation & Planting
Squash can be grown with minimum tillage but for best result, plowing and harrowing the field two to three times is recommended. Furrow the field and prepare beds that are 0.75 to 1 meter wide and 2 meters apart. Prepare hole/hills spaced one meter apart. Incorporate organic fertilizer or decomposed animal manure/compost to the soil at plating time to improve soil structure.
Plant one to two seed per hill and apply rice straw or plastic mulch to maintain soil moisture and minimize growth of weeds. The use of mulch also protects the fruits from coming in contact with the soil, thus preventing infestation by soilborne pathogens.
Squash can tolerate drought but regular irrigation, especially during dry season enhances crop performance. Weekly furrow irrigation is best for squash. Irrigate also after every fertilizer application. Stop irrigating when fruit are already mature green.
Apply 5 tons per hectare of well-decomposed chicken manure and 3 to 4 bags of complete fertilizer (14-14-14) at planting time. Sidedress with one to two bags of 50-50 mixture of urea and muriate of potash every four weeks. Place fertilizers at least 10 cm away from the plants to prevent chemical injury. Cover the fertilizer with a thin layer of soil to avoid nutrient loss through volatilization.
Weeds may be controlled by hand pulling or by shallow cultivation. Start weeding 7 to 14 days after seedling emergence. The frequency of weeding will depend on the presence of weeds. Weed growth can be prevented by using plastic mulch.
PEST AND DISEASE CONTROL
Squash is susceptible to squash and lady beetle, aphids, thrips, cutworms and to fruitfly. Cutworms and beetles can be controlled by spreading ash on the leaves while fruitfly can be controlled with the use of attractants. A fruitfly trap with attractant is effective.
Disease is commonly infecting squash are mosaic virus, downy and powdery mildew, and bacterial wilt. Mildews and viruses can be avoided by using varieties tolerant to so much diseases. Bacterial wilt can be minimized by applying compost or animal manure. Another way to avoid the spread of disease is to pull all diseased or infected plants then burying or burning them.
In case insect’s pests or diseases become serious, spray the appropriate chemical pesticide (e.g.. Sugod, Kilabot, Cardinal, Pilarich, Pilarzeb, etc.) following the manufacturer’s guide on dosage, timing and frequency of application found on the product label.
One way of minimizing problems in pests and diseases in growing squash is to select the disease and pest-resistant varieties.
Fruits are mature or ready to harvest 30 to 40 days after pollination or when the rind becomes hard. Another indicator of maturity is when the peduncle starts to dry up. When harvesting fruits, it is best to leave a portion of the peduncle still attached to fruit because this will prolong storage life. If squash is to be cooked without peeling, it is best to harvest fruits that are still immature.
For further information about squash production, you can contact the Business Development Department of Ramgo International Corporation at tel. (02) 371-3485 or 371-3487.
Source: Ramgo International Corporation