News and knowhow for farmers

Guide on butternut pumpkin farming

Butternut pumpkin/squash is a pear-shaped golden yellow fruit that has a shelf life of up to six months compared to normal pumpkins that can be stored for three months. It is resistant to diseases such as powdery mildew, cucumber mosaic virus, and cucumber beetles.  

The crop grows easily and is used as food. It is rich in vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber.

Dried seeds of butternut squash are a source of protein. On average it takes 85 to 90 days to maturity and it produces good uniform fruits weighing about 650 to 1000 gm.

There are two varieties of butternut squash that farmers can plant; Waltham and Atlas F1.

Waltham variety matures 90 to 100 days after transplanting and can yield five to six tonnes per acre.

Atlas F1 variety when mature yields fruits weighing two to three kilos each with potential yields of 12 to 18 tonnes per acre.

The seeds are available in 10g, 25g, 50g, 100, 250g, and 500g at certified agro-vets.

In one season, it costs Sh87,900 to grow one acre of butternuts. Each acre gives 6,000 butternuts. Each fruit is sold at Sh30. This is a total income of Sh180,000 Therefore: the expected income of Sh180,000  earns farmers a profit of Sh92,100 per acre.

The production costs will cover herbicides Sh4500 and labor Sh7000 during the first week of growing. Miscellaneous costs are set at Sh5,000.  

At planting use 80kg of fertilizer per acre DAP or NPK 17:17:17.

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The crop requires enough sunlight to thrive and ample space for the vines to grow. Each hill should have three feet of space around it. Farmers are advised to plant four or five seeds on a small hill, about three to five centimeters deep and thin down to two or three when they sprout.

The crop should be watered after planting and then every two to three days until germination. Squash grows best in moderately moist soil therefore farmers should be careful not to saturate the ground. Since they like rich soils, it is advisable to feed them regularly with liquid manure.

Top dressing of the crop is done when the vines are 30cm. 100kg of CAN will be needed and this will cost Sh1500 per 50kg bag.

To store for a longer period of time, farmers should allow butternuts to cure out in the sun after harvesting for a couple of dry afternoons before putting them into storage in a cool dry place with good ventilation.

In order to reap maximum yields, farmers are observed to observe certain farm management practices like practicing crop rotation to reduce the chances of pests and disease attacks on the squash. When a farmer decides to spray they should do it late in the afternoon or early evening in order to spare pollinators that are active during the day.

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