Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) called kashiphal, sitaphal, kaddu or komhara in Hindi, occupies a prominent place among vegetables owing to its high productivity, nutritive value, good storability, long period of availability, better transport qualities, and extensive cultivation in subtropical and tropical parts of the world. It is used both in immature and mature stages as a vegetable. Preferences for use of immature and mature fruits for cooking as vegetables vary from place to place in the country. It is also consumed as processed and livestock feed. The flesh is delicious when fried, stewed, boiled, or baked. The fruits are sweet when fully mature and can be used in preparing sweets, halwa/barfi, confectionery items, candy, or fermented beverages. Yellow or orange-fleshed pumpkins are rich in ß-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A which is higher in mature fruits than immature fruits. Pumpkin seeds are used in confectionery. In India, it is grown mainly in Asom, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Bihar. The total area under pumpkin in India is 16.17 thousand hectares with a total production of 372.82 thousand tonnes annually.
Table of Content (toc)
Climate and soil
Pumpkin can be grown in various kinds of soil but sandy loam to loam soil rich in organic matter is ideal. A well-drained field should be incorporated with organic fertilizers before planting. The soil pH of 6.5 6.8 is optimum.
Pumpkin is a warm-season crop, which requires a long and warm growing season with 25-30°C temperature in the day and 18-20°C at the night. An average temperature range of 18-30°C for 3-4 months is essential to obtain. quality fruits. Short days, 18-30°C temperature, high relative humidity, and bright sunshine period are ideal for its cultivation. It cannot tolerate frost. Temperatures below 10°C can cause chilling injury to green mature fruit and result in poor color and more fruit decay. Temperatures above 40°C have an adverse effect on flowering and fruiting. Pumpkin is a relatively deep-rooted (1.2-1.8 m deep) crop hence, can fairly tolerate dry conditions. However, a prolonged dry period results in poor fruit set and fruit development. In north India, pumpkin varieties flower under long-day conditions (April-May) in January sown /February transplanted crop. But in south India, August-September sowed crop flowers under short-day conditions in November December.
Varieties and hybrids
Ambilli: This variety, developed at Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur, has a spreading habit. Fruits are flat, round, and green, weighing about 6 kg each. The flesh is 4.3 cm thick. Each vine bears 15-38 kg of fruit. The average yield is 30-40 tonnes/ha.
Arka Chandan: This variety, developed at the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Bengaluru, has round fruits with flat blossom end and medium size (2-3 kg). The rind gets light brown on maturity. The flesh is thick, firm, sweet (TSS 8-10°Brix), bright orange, and rich in carotene (3,331 IU/100 g of flesh) with a pleasant aroma. The yield is 32.5 tonnes/ha in 120 days. It is recommended for cultivation in humid to semi-arid western Ghats and Karnataka. It does not set any fruit in the northern plains of the country hence, not suitable for growing in the northern plains of India.
Azad Pumpkin 1: This variety, developed at CSAUAT, Kanpur, is spreading type, early fruiting, close fruit-bearing, green fruits with yellowish stripes, thick flesh, fewer seeds, and spherical flat. It has a yield potential of 42-45 tonnes/ha and is recommended for cultivation in Uttar Pradesh.
Co 1: The variety, developed at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, is a late-maturing variety (150-160 days) with globular fruits weighing 7 kg and flattened at the base. The flesh is 4-5 cm thick. The first harvest can be done in 115 days. Each vine produces 6-7 fruits. The average yield is 25-30 tonnes/ ha. This variety is shy bearer in the northern plains of the country.
Co 2: The variety, developed at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, is an early maturing variety. Each vine produces 10-12 fruits. Fruits are small in size, slightly ridged with bright orange-colored flesh. Each fruit weighs on an average of 1.5-1.8 kg. The fruits contain 10.8% TSS. The first harvest can be done in 95-100 days. The crop duration is 135 days with a mean yield of 22.65 tonnes/ha. This variety is shy bearer in the northern plains of India.
Kashi Harit: The variety, developed at the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi, has short vines, dark green leaves with white spots. Fruits are green, spherical, weight 2.5-3.0 kg at the green stage; yield of 30-35 tonnes/ha in 65 days of crop duration. This variety was released for cultivation in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Jharkhand.
Narendra Abhooshan: An F, hybrid between Narendra Agrim and Narendra Amrit, was developed at Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology, Faizabad. It is suitable for February-March sowed summer crop. It bears near round, dark green striped, and highly attractive fruits. The fruits have thick and deep orange color flesh at maturity. It is an early, prolific bearer hybrid with a yield potential of about 70 tonnes/ha in mid-February is sown summer crop.
Narendra Agrim: This variety, developed at Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology, Faizabad, is a short vined very early variety. The first picking of tender fruits is done in 55 days. Green fruit weight is about 2 kg and mature fruit weight 3 kg. It is suitable for February-March as a sown summer crop. The fruits are small, round, and stripeless dark green. The fruit yield is 30-40 tonnes/ha. Narendra Agrim is released and notified for cultivation in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Bihar, Haryana, and Gujarat.
Narendra Amrit: This variety, developed at Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology, Faizabad, is a medium maturing variety and gives its first picking in about 65 days. It is suitable for February March as sown summer crop. The green fruits are of 3 kg average weight. Fruits are near round in shape and light green mottled in color. Mature fruits weigh 5-7 kg, have papery skin, 5-6 cm thick flesh, and a small seed cavity. The average fruit yield of the variety is 35 tonnes/ha. It is released and notified for cultivation in Uttar Pradesh.
Narendra Amrit 4: This variety, developed at Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology, Faizabad, has tender fruits with a yellowish-green strip while mature fruits are attractive, creamy, almond in color. Full-grown fruit has an average weight of 6.5 kg with papery skin, thick flesh of about 6 cm, small seed cavity, light orange flesh color at maturity. The average mature fruit yield is 43 tonnes/ha.
Narendra Upcar: This variety, developed at Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology, Faizabad, is an early variety and gives its first fruits in about 55 days. Fruits are small, round, and striped dark green. It has shown a high degree of field resistance against pumpkin mosaic disease. Therefore, it can successfully be grown in summer as well as rainy seasons. The average fruit yield is 40 tonnes/ha. It is released for cultivation in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Pusa Hybrid 1: This is the First F, hybrid and was developed at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. It is suitable for growing in Punjab, Kerala, and the Delhi region. Its fruits are round flat, weighing on an average 5.0 kg each. Fruits mature in 120 days, yielding 45 tonnes/ha.
Pusa Vikas: This variety, developed at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, has small size fruits, weighing on an average 2.5 kg each, round, flat with yellow flesh. Since it matures in 115 days, it is suitable for both home gardening and commercial cultivation in the northern plains of India. Its average yield is 30 tonnes/ha.
Pusa Vishwas: This variety, developed at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, has light brown, spherical with thick, golden-yellow flesh fruits, weighing up to 5 kg. Its yield is 40 tonnes/ha in 120 days. This is ideal for growing in the western Himalayan region, sub-humid Sutlej-Ganga alluvial plains, humid eastern uplands, and humid to the semi-arid Western Ghats and Karnataka Plateau.
Saras: This variety, developed at Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur, has elongated, orange-fleshed and medium-size fruit each fruit weighing 2.7 kg. It has a yield potential of 39-41 tonnes/ha.
Sooraj (CM 350): This variety, developed at Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur, produces medium size globular fruits with orange colored thick flesh. The average fruit weight is 3 kg. It has a yield potential of 35-40 tonnes/ha. It is recommended for cultivation in West Bengal, Asom, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala
Swarna Amrit: This variety, developed at ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region Research Centre, Ranchi, has dark green fruits, each weighing 2.5-3 kg with 6-8 kg yield per plant tonnes/ha. The average yield is 30-40
Land preparation and sowing
Pumpkin is grown in three main seasons, viz. spring-summer, early autumn, and rainy season. February-March is sowing time for a summer crop in north Indian plains, whereas April May is for rainy season crop in West Bengal and June July in north India. In Tamil Nadu, July-August is the best sowing time. In north-Indian hills, it is sown in April-May.
The seed rate of 6-7 kg/ha is optimum. The seeds should be soaked in a fungicidal solution @ 2 g of captan/of water for 3-4 hr. Soaking the seeds overnight in water before sowing also helps in better sprouting. Seed priming before sowing is found beneficial in enhancing seed germination and plant growth. Seeds are sown directly in the field on raised beds, in furrows, trenches, or pits. Different methods of sowing are mentioned below:
Ridge sowing/channel and hill system: The channel and hill system of cultivation is most useful and scientific for higher yield. After preparing the field, 45 cm wide and 25-30 cm deep channels, are made preferably from east to west 3 4.5 m apart. The northern slope of each of the channels is prepared for sowing seeds or planting the seedlings at a spacing of 60-75 cm; 2-3 sprouted seeds are sown per hill in spring-summer and adequate moisture is maintained at the time of emergence. The vines are allowed to spread in-between space of channels.
Shallow pit or flatbed method:Shallow pits of 60 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm are dug and left open for 3 weeks before sowing for partial solarization. Each pit is filled with a mixture of soil and compost (4-5 kg per pit), urea (50 60 g), single superphosphate (100-120 g), muriate of potash (80 g), and Furadon (1.5 g) before sowing seeds. After filling the pits, 3-4 seeds per hill are sown at a depth of 2-3 cm.
Deep pit and trench method: Deep pit method is practiced for raising pumpkins in riverbeds. Circular pits of 60-75 cm diameter and 1.5 m depth are dug at a 3 m distance. In the trench method, trenches of 60 cm width are dug at a distance of about 2-2.5 m up to a depth of clay layer. Trenches are filled with a mixture of well rotten farmyard manure and fertilizers (NPK); 3-4 pre-germinated seeds are sown at 2-3 cm depth in trenches at a distance of 50-60 cm.
Mound method: In this method, 15-20 cm raised mounds are prepared, and 3-4 seeds are sown at a depth of 2-3 cm in each mound.
Pumpkin is considered a nutrient exhaustive crop. Farmyard manure @ 20-25 tonnes/ ha is mixed thoroughly in the field. The application of inorganic fertilizer varies according to soil and agro-climatic condition. In general, 100 kg N, 80 kg P₂O, and 60 kg K₂O/hectare are recommended for open-pollinated improved varieties. A full dose of P and K and half of N are applied at the time of land preparation. The remaining N is applied in 3 split doses at the time of initial growth (20 days after sowing), vining (40 days after sowing), and at full blooming (60 days after sowing). In boron deficient soils, two foliar sprays of borax at 0.03% applied at 30-day intervals are beneficial to increase fruit yield. Soil application of boron is also equally effective. Application of biofertilizers such as Azospirillum and phosphobacteria along with inorganic fertilizers has been reported to enhance fruit yield in pumpkin.
About 2-3 hand weedings and hoeings are required for raising a good crop, starting from 20 days after sowing. Pre-emergence application of [email protected] 2.5 kg a.i./ha controls weed population effectively. The soil at the base of the plant should be loosened before top dressing with nitrogen fertilizers followed by irrigation. Pumpkin vines can be trained over a low trellis of 1.5 m high or trailed over the dried twigs spread over the ground for proper growth.
Summer crop requires more frequent irrigation than rainy season. In summer, the crop should be irrigated at 4 5 days intervals. During maturity, the frequency of irrigation should be reduced. Vine growth, flowering, and fruit development are the most critical stages for irrigation. Moisture deficit during flowering and fruiting may cause wilting and drying of the apical portion of the developing fruits. Frequent and heavy irrigation should be avoided. Proper drainage is important, particularly during the rainy season.
Pumpkin is well-suited for off-season (late-winter and early-spring season) cultivation in plains by raising its nursery (seedling) in a playhouse during winter (December-January). The seedlings are planted in the first week of February. Thus, its harvesting can be advanced by one or one and a half months than the normal sowing in the first fortnight of March. This technology fetches bonus prices due to marketing of the product early in the season. The seedlings are raised in small polythene bags or plug trays protected from cold winds and frost by putting them under a playhouse made up of polythene sheets. The raised seedlings are planted in January-end or in the first week of February. By adapting the flooring system of bamboo, more polythene bags can be accommodated and the space of the polythene houses is efficiently managed.
The preponderance of staminate flowers is due to excessive nitrogen application, over-irrigation, high-temperature conditions, and long day length. It can be reduced by avoiding excess irrigation and excess nitrogenous fertilizer use and applying ethephon/ethrel (2-chlorethyl phosphonic acid) @ 250 ppm four times, first at two true leaves stage and subsequently at the 7-day interval.
Diseases and pests
Important diseases attacking pumpkin include Downy mildew (Pseudoperonoopora cubensis), Powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea and Erysiphe cichoracearum), and mosaic [pumpkin mild mosaic virus, cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), watermelon mosaic virus (WMV)].
Insect pests commonly attacking pumpkin are Fruit fly (Bactrocera cucurbitae), Red pumpkin beetle (Aulacophora foveicollis), Red spider mite (Tetranychus urticae). Root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita) incites root galls causing poor and stunted growth of the infested plants.
Harvesting and post-harvest management
Pumpkin fruits reach maturity 75-180 days after sowing depending upon variety and season. These can be harvested at the tender green stage as well as the ripe stage. At full maturity, the green skin color turns reddish-brown, fruit stalk dries and separates easily from the vine. Fruits should be cut from the vines leaving an 8-10 cm peduncle attached with fruit to check the entry of fungi and bacteria, which may cause rotting during storage. Since mature fruits have long storage life, they can be easily transported to distant markets. The yield of pumpkin varies from 25-40 tonnes/ha.
The harvested fruits are cleaned and deformed, and wounded fruits should be discarded. The fruits are graded according to shape, color, and maturity. Well, mature pumpkins may be stored for 5 months at 10-12°C as holding temperature at 50-70% relative humidity in a well-ventilated chamber. Very high humidity promotes decaying and lower humidity causes excessive weight loss and texture deterioration in fruits. At higher storage temperature (18-20°C), pumpkin fruits lose their greenness, become undesirably yellow and acquire a stringiness of flesh in 5 weeks. During storage, enough air circulation should be provided to avoid fruit rotting and fruits should not be stacked on top of one another. During storage, starch is rapidly converted to sugars.
Pumpkin is highly allogamous in nature. Hence, maintaining proper isolation distance between the cross-compatible varieties or species is necessary. Honeybees are chief insect-pollinators for pumpkin and are the most reliable and cost-effective pollinating agents. They feed on the nectar secreted from a ring of tissue surrounding the style of flowers. Keeping beehives in the open-pollinated seed production field increases the efficiency of pollination and seed yield. Cross-compatible species like C. pepo and C. mixta should be planted in isolation from pumpkin (C. moschata). It is also observed that the pollen grain of non-crossable species sometimes stimulates the ovary of pumpkin (C. moschata) and that leads to the development of parthenocarpic fruits which ultimately reduces the seed yield. Therefore, for higher seed yield as well as to avoid mechanical mixtures, the desired variety of pumpkin should be grown at 1,000 m in isolation against other varieties and species. Roguing diseased and off-type plants from the seed crop before they start flowering is also an important criterion to produce good quality seed. Roguing of off-types based on vine, leaf, and ovary character begins before anthesis and should continue up to the mature fruit stage. Deformed fruits should be removed.
Fruits are harvested at a complete ripe stage. The maturity in pumpkin for seed production is judged by change of fruit color to yellow-orange or straw color, the peduncle becomes straw-colored and the vines start drying. Ripe fruits after harvest should be stored for few days at room temperature in a cool dry place in a single layer with a space between the fruits. The fruits are cut in half and the seeds are scooped out by hand. The placenta remaining with the seeds is separated by rolling and raking simultaneously. The seeds are washed with water in trays. The washed seeds should be dried quickly by spreading on trays and placing them in the shade and gradually in sun to dry up to 7% moisture level. Frequent turning of seeds is necessary to ensure uniform drying. A large number of seeds may be dried more rapidly in a drier or dehydrator at 38-42°C and forced air circulation.
The dried seeds are finally winnowed to remove the chaffy seeds and placed in containers and stored in a cool, well-ventilated dehumidified room with protection from rats and other pests. Tin can with moisture-resistant polyethylene or aluminum foil as wrap or liner can also be used for storage.
Seed yield: Average seed yield varies from 300-500 kg/ha depending upon the cultivar, pollination, and cultural management.
Hybrid seed production
Hybrid seeds can be easily and economically produced commercially by pinching all male flowers before they open from female parents and by allowing the male parents to grow side-by-side with female parents for natural cross-pollination. Male and female parents can be grown in a 1 : 3 ratio. The F, seeds can be extracted after harvesting mature fruits from the female lines. Since male flowers in pumpkin are quite showy, large in size, and less in number compared to other cucurbits, pinching or removal of male flower buds can easily be done by any person who can differentiate between male and female flowers. Care should be taken that no male flower is allowed to remain open on plants of female lines. The F, seed crop consisting of the two parental lines (male and female) should be raised under isolation with no other pumpkin variety within a radius of at least 1000 m.