288 Use of Transplants, Rowcovers, and Black Plastic to Improve Yield and Earliness of Butternut and Calabaza Squash

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  • 1 Plant and Soil Sciences Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003

The population of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in Massachusetts is ≈6% of the total state population. Latinos have begun to request certain commodities native to their culture at Farmers' Markets and retail stores. One of these commodities is a winter squash [Cucurbita moschata (Duchene Poir)] called calabaza in Puerto Rico and auyama in the Dominican Republic. Calabaza has also been found in Asian markets. In order to have the crop ready for market by August in the Northeast, cultural practices which hasten maturity would need to be used. Eight treatments were tested: 1) direct seeded in bare ground, 2) direct seeded in black plastic, 3) direct seeded in bare ground with rowcover, 4) direct seeded in black plastic with rowcover, 5) transplanted in bare ground, 6) transplanted in black plastic, 7) transplanted in bare ground with rowcover, 8) transplanted in black plastic with rowcover. Calabaza was compared to butternut squash. Three weeks after seeding or transplanting, the transplants on black plastic were just beginning to vine and those transplants on black plastic and covered with rowcover were vining and in flower. Direct-seeded plants were in the second- or third-leaf stage. Treatment effects on early growth in the spring translated to differences in earliness and yield at the end of the season. Overall, the use of transplants improved yield by 30%, black plastic improved yield 15%, and the use of rowcover improved yields by 12%. There were no significant differences among the treatments where transplants were used along with plastic, rowcover or both. Significant differences were found in the number of fruit available for harvest in August. Direct-seeded plants on bare ground or on plastic did not have any harvestable fruit in August. The transplant, plastic and rowcover treatment had 300 to 500 boxes/acre depending on the year. Even the use of transplants on bare ground yielded an August-harvested crop.

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