Plant Population Affects Pumpkin Yield Components

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  • 1 North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, P.O. Box 1690, Verona, MS 38879.
  • 2 Dept. of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University, Box 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762.
  • 3 Experimental Statistics Unit, Mississippi State University, Box 9653, Mississippi State, MS 39762.

Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo, C. moshata) were grown in northern Mississippi during 2000 and 2001 for the purpose of more narrowly defining plant population recommendations for commercial production in the humid southeastern United States. Four plant populations were examined for `Aspen': 908, 1361, 2045, and 3068 plants/acre (2244, 3363, 5053, and 7581 plants/ha, respectively) and for `Howden Biggie': 605, 908, 1361, and 2045 plants/acre (1495, 2244, 3363, 5053 plants/ha, respectively). Plant populations were adjusted by varying in-row spacing while holding between-row spacing constant at 8 ft (2.4 m). Plant population significantly affected yield of `Aspen' and `Howden Biggie'. Linear and quadratic terms were significant for `Aspen', with maximum yield (ton/acre and fruit/acre) for the quadratic relationship occurring at about 2045 plants/acre. In contrast, yield of `Howden Biggie' decreased significantly (ton/acre) and nonsignificantly (fruit/acre) in a linear relationship as plant population increased from 605 to 2045 plants/acre. Plant population significantly affected fruit weight and size. As plant population increased, weight and size decreased slightly but significantly in a linear relationship for `Aspen' (lb/fruit and inch3/fruit) and `Howden Biggie' (lb/fruit). The quadratic relationship for `Howden Biggie' (inch3/fruit) was significant and the minimum value occurred at about 1361 plants/acre. Plant population significantly affected pumpkin yield components associated with plant productivity. As plant population increased, number and weight of fruit per plant decreased sharply in a quadratic relationship for `Aspen' (lb/ plant and fruit/plant) and `Howden Biggie' (lb/plant). The linear relationship for `Howden Biggie' (fruit/ plant) also decreased significantly. At the highest plant populations for `Howden Biggie', 40% of the plants did not produce marketable pumpkins. In conclusion, recommendations of optimum plant populations for a semi-vining cultivar such as `Aspen' should be centered on about 2045 plants/acre. Published recommendations from Kentucky appear sound, advocating plant populations within the range of 1360 to 2720 plants/acre (3361 to 6721 plants/ha). For a vining cultivar such as `Howden Biggie', recommendations can be as low as 605 plants/acre. Published recommendations from Kentucky and Georgia, along with those published in the Vegetable Crop Guidelines for the Southeastern U.S., advocate plant populations for vining cultivars of approximately 725 to 1465 plants/acre (1790–3620 plants/ha). Our results with `Howden Biggie', a cultivar that produces larger pumpkins than most other vining cultivars grown for the wholesale market, indicate that producers of vining cultivars should use plant populations from the lowest values of these recommendations or use even lower values. Our results also indicate that growers can control size and weight of pumpkins by varying plant population, with increasing populations resulting in a slight decrease of size and weight.

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Contributor Notes

E-mail: kcushman@ra.msstate.edu.E-mail: dnagel@pss.msstate.edu.E-mail: pdg1@ra.msstate.edu
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