Maximizing cauliflower production
Muhammad Amjad Ali
Vegetable crops are the eminent source of human nutrition. Among the vegetables cauliflower is of much importance and cultivated about all over the year. It is a ‘Cole crop’ grown world wide for its head which is also called ‘curd’. It is a nutritious vegetable crop in the fact that unripe heads contain 7-10% dry mass, 4% carbohydrate, 2-3% protein, 60 mg vitamin C/100 g and other vitamins as well as minerals in traces.
Pakistan is a large producer of cauliflower. It is best grown in plain areas of Punjab. During the year 2005-06 the crop was grown on an area of 11303 hectares producing about 0.2 million tons of the curds. The share of provinces in acreage was Punjab 65%, Sindh 12.2%, NWFP 10.15% and Blochistan 12.7% and in production 75.7%, 6.7%, 6.2% and 11.3% respectively being Punjab the main producer.
A large quantity of this vegetable is also exported in fresh and chilled form to many countries of world especially that of Middle East. Cauliflower added a value of Rs. 42.729 millions to the foreign exchange by exporting about 4 thousand tones in the previous year (Fruit, Vegetables and Condiments Statistics, 2005-06).
Demand for fresh or canned vegetables is increasing in the national and international market. Therefore, an area under vegetable crops cultivation is increasing overall in Pakistan and also in province wise. But increase in area under production of any crop alone is of no use until yield per unit area is not boosted up. So, here, some recommendations and suggestions are provided to maximize cauliflower yield.
Varieties: Selection of best yielding and well adapted varieties is of prime importance for good production. Early and mid season varieties include Faisalabad-1 and Faisalabad-2 respectively where as, the varieties Champa, Chino Late, Snow Drift and Snow Ball are recommended for late and cool season.
Soil and climate: Cauliflower is grown on different types of soil, but does best in a rich, well drained soil with a high moisture-holding capacity. Neutral or slightly acid soil (pH 6.0 to 6.5) with high humus content is excellent. If a soil is low in organic matter, stable or green manures can be supplied. Cauliflower is basically a crop of cool and moist climate but in Pakistan the early varieties are planted from May up to October. It is very much sensitive to temperature. A temperature range of 15-21°C is considered as optimum for growth and curd formation of the crop.
Sowing time: Cauliflower can be produced abundantly from June until early December. There are mainly three seasons for seeding of this crop as given under;
Transplanting into Field
May – June
July – August
August – September
September – October
: About 1 Kg seed for early cultivars and 500 g for mid and late varieties is sufficient for raising nursery required to plant one acre. Raised beds of size 3 x 0.6 m and 10-15 cm in height are prepared. About 70 cm distance is kept between two beds to carry out intercultural operations such as watering, weeding, etc. The surface of beds should be smooth and well levelled. Well-decomposed FYM @ 8-10 kg/m is added at the time of bed preparation. Sowing should be done thinly in lines spaced at 5-7 cm distance. Seeds are sown at a depth of 1-2 cm and covered with a fine layer of silt followed by light watering by hand sprinkler.
The beds should then be covered with dry straw or ‘sirki’ to maintain required temperature and moisture. The watering should be done by hand sprinkler as per the need till germination is completed. The cover of dry straw or grass is removed immediately after emergence of seed sprout. If there is over crowding of seedling due to thick sowing, the extra seedlings should be thinned out.
Transplanting of the Nursery: Usually the seedlings should be transplanted within 4-6 weeks of sowing. In case of early crop 5-6 weeks old seedlings have better establishment and less mortality in the field while in mid-season and late varieties 3-4 weeks old seedlings may be transplanted. Initial moisture requirements of the transplanted seedlings should be fulfilled by applying irrigation to the ridges prior to transplanting. At the time of transplanting seedlings should be treated with proper fungicides to avoid initial diseases.
The recommendations are made here for the application of 15 to 20 carts of well decomposed organic fertilizer for the betterment of the fertility of soil. The field is ploughed to fine tilth by giving 4 to 5 ploughing and planking should with proper leveling.
The transplanting should be done on the flat land, ridges or in furrows with 30 to 45 cm P× P and 75 cm R × R distance depending upon climate and soil conditions. For early planting, ridge method is suitable especially in areas where the rains occur at the time of planting. In saline soils, planting in furrows and in dry areas transplanting on flat beds is recommended.
Weed Control: Normally, the crop should be kept free of weeds by 2-3 hand weedings and 1-2 hoeings. Pre-emergence application of proper weedicides is also good for weed control. Earthing up should be done 30 days after transplanting to avoid toppling of the plant during head formation. Blanching is an important operation to protect the curds from yellowing due to direct exposure to sun. To avoid this, the tips of the leaves are drawn in and tied together or the curds are covered with leaves 4-5 days prior to harvest.
Fertilizer Requirements: Soil should be tested to determine lime and fertilizer needs. Cauliflower requires a rich soil. In absence of a soil test, a general recommendation would be 45 Kg of nitrogen, 35 Kg P2O2, and 25 Kg of K2O plus 10 to 15 Kg of borax per acre. Without boron, hollow stems with internal brown discoloration may result. These fertilizers should be broadcasted or mixed along the row.
Irrigation: First irrigation should be applied after 3 days of transplanting and subsequent irrigations are given at an interval of 7-10 days depending upon the season and soil conditions. For early and mid-season crop usually lesser number of irrigation are needed because of rains Moisture during both growth and curding phase should be adequate to maintain an even growth and proper development of curd.
Disease Management: Cauliflower diseases include head rot, black rot, powdery and downy mildew, early and late blight, wilting and alternaria leaf spot. For recommendations on chemicals for disease control consultation should be made with the county extension agent.
Insect control: Caterpillars of American worm and army worm attack on leaves and heads causing yield loss and quality deterioration.Aphid, jassid, white fly, leaf minor and mealy bugs are major sucking pests of cauliflower. To control these insects instructions of local extension worker should be followed.
Buttoning (premature initiation of floral buds) and riceyness cause by factors like unsuitable temperature at curding stage, disease and insect attack can also degrade the quality of heads.
Harvesting: Cauliflower is ready for harvest at 60-90 days after transplanting. Depending upon the variety the curds should be harvested promptly when they are of full size but still compact, white and smooth. Delayed harvesting results in the curds turning loose, yellowish and ricey.
Following these suggestions/recommendations and there sound implementation could be helpful for the best crop production of cauliflower.