Earliness and Yield of Tropical Winter Squash Improved by Transplants, Plastic Mulch, and Row Cover

in HortScience
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  • 1 Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-0910

Field studies were conducted in 1998 and 1999 in Massachusetts to assess the effects of transplants, black polyethylene mulch, and polyester spun-bonded row cover on early fruit set and total yield of two squash (Cucurbita moschata Duchesne) cultivars: `C42 × La Segunda' calabaza and `Waltham' butternut. Treatment comparisons included direct-seeded or transplanted squash, with or without black polyethylene mulch, and with or without the addition of a row cover in all combinations. The use of transplants was more effective at stimulating early fruit set and highest total yield than the use of mulch and row cover. The initiation of fruit set using transplants was advanced 9 days relative to direct-seeding. Mulch and row cover treatments significantly advanced early fruit set by 7 and 5 days, respectively, but only in 1998. Yields for both winter squash were 45% higher using transplants compared to direct seeding, 19% higher using mulch compared to bare soil, and 16% higher using row cover compared to no row cover. Total yields were higher for both cultivars in 1999 (warm, dry season) than in 1998 (cool, wet season). Use of transplants with plastic and row cover compared to the use of direct seed with neither plastic nor row cover increased yield of calabaza by 100% in both 1998 and 1999. Only the direct seeded plus plastic plus row cover treatment had yields that were similar to any of the transplanted treatments. Transplant treatments also increased number of fruit per plant and fruit size for both calabaza and butternut.

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