Squash Farming Guide:
Introduction of Squash Farming: – Squash is one of the most versatile and delicious vegetables grown throughout the globe and it also pack good vitamins and an excellent health benefits. Squash is an herbaceous annual viny, creeping and trailing plant and produces vegetable that is large and variable in shape, size, colour and markings with a peduncle that is corky on the surface. This vegetable belongs to the family of “Cucurbitaceae’ and genus of “Cucurbita”. There are mainly two types of squash; winter squash and summer squash and most summer squash have a bushy growth habit, unlike the rambling vines of many winter squashes. Some of the common names of squash vegetable are winter squash, zucchini (summer squash), butternut, pumpkin, gourd, cushaw and marrow. Squash is a rich source of vitamin A, phosphorus & calcium. Generally, the young and tender shoots are used in culinary (cooking) purpose. As the squash is warm season crop, India would be the best place to grow squash commercially. Squash can be grown in greenhouse, poly house and under shade net as well. Squash can be grown in pots, containers and backyards as well.
Health Benefits of Squash: – The following are some of the health benefits of squash.
- Squash is good for immune health.
- Squash helps in managing diabetes.
- Squash has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Squash has antiseptic, antimicrobial & antifungal properties.
- Squash is good for lungs health.
- Squash helps in neural tube defect situations.
- Squash is good for heart health.
- Squash is good asthma patients.
- Squash helps in blood circulation.
- Squash is good for eye and skin health.
- Squash is good for bone health.
Varieties of Squash:– There are two groups of squash available; summer squash and winter squash. Within these groups, there are many improved varieties available. Acorn Squash, Ambercup Squash, Autumn Cup Squash, Banana Squash, Butternut Squash, Buttercup Squash, Carnival Squash, Delicata Squash, Fairytale Pumpkin Squash, Gold Nugget Squash, Hubbard Squash, Kabocha Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Sweet Dumpling Squash and Turban Squash are some of the varieties grown throughout the world. Butternut squash is gaining popularity do to its keeping quality and sunburn is not a major problem.
Climate Requirements for Squash Farming:- Squash is a warm season crop and thrives better in the hot climatic conditions. Squash cannot tolerate any frost conditions. The optimum monthly average temperature for good quality and yield of squash is 22 °C to 29 °C. Squash seeds germinate best at 28°C to 32°C. Planting/sowing of squash is recommended when the soil temperatures are high enough to germinate the seeds and last frost season is passed.
Soil Requirements for Squash Farming:- Squash can be cultivated on wide range of soils. However, they thrive best in well-drained sandy loam soils and clay soils rich in organic matter. But if they are grown in clay soils, it will be difficult task to harvest the crop in the wet field and also it requires extra labour to clean them. Low-lying fields should be avoided. If they are grown on large scale, soil testing should be done to find out the nutrient deficiencies in the field. The optimum soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 would result in good yield and quality of fruit.
Propagation and Seed Rate in Squash Farming:- Propagation of squash is mainly done through seeds. However, plants can be reproduced vegetatively via cuttings. One can expect early fruiting from rooted cuttings than with plants from seed. Generally summer squash is directly seeded or transplanted for early marketing. Usually, one hectare land requires 2 to 4 kg of seeds.
Land Preparation, Sowing Time and Method in Squash Farming:- Prepare the field by giving 2 to 3 ploughings and harrowing and then furrow the field at 2 meter apart. Furrows should be made with a native plow or tractor to a depth of 15 cm . Remove any weeds from previous crops. It is advised to dig holes at a distance of 2 to 3 meter between hills. Sowing of the seed 2.5 to 4 cm deep in moist soil is recommended. When it comes to spacing, medium-vined squashes should be planted in rows 2.0 to 2.0 meter apart, with plants spaced 0.5 to 0.6 meter apart in rows. For larger varieties, provide extra spacing.
Irrigation in Squash Farming:- Frequent irrigation should be carried out in dry and drought conditions for better output. Furrow irrigation should be carried after every 10 days interval especially planting, vegetative, and flowering and fruit set stage. Avoid irrigation after fruit maturity. Drip irrigation can be adopted for better water management.
Weed Control in Squash Farming:- Weeding is very important activity that needs to be carried out on regular basis to get good yield. Hand weeding and hoeing should be done in squash farming. Carry out shallow cultivation when the plants are about 2 weeks old to control the weed growth. This shallow cultivation of squash plants is required before the vines cover the ground to keep the soil in good tilth stage and free from weeds. Vines can be trained to grow on a trellis or fence.
Manures and Fertilizers in Squash Farming:- Planting time, early vegetative growth, flowering and fruiting time are critical stages for applying fertilizers. However, the rate of application depends on the soil analysis. Apply 20 to 25 tonnes of well rotten farmyard manure per hectare during the preparation of land. Apply four bags of complete fertilizer at planting time together with farmyard manure. This must be mixed will the soil at the rate of 1 to 2 kg per hill. After 2 to 3 weeks after planting when the vine is about 30 cm long, side-dress with 3 bags of urea at the rate of 1 to 2 tablespoons per plant. After one month of planting and when the vine of the plant reaches about 90 cm, side-dress 1 bag of muriate of potash in 1 to 2 tablespoons per plant. Additional urea and potash may be applied every 2 weeks whenever necessary.
Pests and Diseases in Squash Farming:- Powdery mildew, Downy mildew, Gummy stem blight, Bacterial wilt, Phytophthora crown and root rot, Verticillium wilt, Fusarium crown and foot rot, Cucumber mosaic, Squash vine borer, Squash mosaic, Squash bug, Striped cucumber beetle, Yellow squash beetle, Armyworms, Aphids, Downy mildew, Powdery mildew, Cutworms, Leafminers, Stinkbugs ,Thrips, Cercospora leaf spot, Alternaria leaf spot, Septoria leaf spot, Angular leaf spot, Aster yellows, Blossom-end rot, Alternaria leaf blight, Bacterial leaf spot and Zucchini yellow mosaic are the main pests and diseases found in squash farming. For the symptoms and control measures, contact your local or nearest horticulture department.
Harvesting In Squash Farming:- For better fruit quality, harvesting should be done at the right stage. To use as fresh vegetables, summer squashes, such as zucchini and pattypan, should be harvested at immature stage. Squash develops very fast after the flowering, so they must be harvested before the rind begins to harden. Harvest before fruit is fully ripe or when the peduncle starts to dry up. It is best to harvest the fruit with a part of the peduncle attached to prolong storage life.
Yield in Squash Farming:- Basically any crop yield depends on many factors, such as soil type, irrigation, cultivar and field management practices. Most winter squash cultivars could yield about 20,000 kg/ha.
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