Diversifying with a new variety pays off for pumpkin producer
Farmer's Weekly|December 18, 2020
The demand for convenient meals and easy-to-prepare vegetables is opening up marketing opportunities for the Hokkaido pumpkin, a newcomer to South Africa. Small, and with an edible peel, the variety holds much promise for expanding cucurbit cultivation. Lindi Botha spoke to Francois Steyn about farming the Hokkaido.
Lindi Botha

FAST FACTS

  • The Hokkaido, a pumpkin variety newly introduced to South Africa, is finding a ready market as it is easy to prepare.

  • Cultivation practices are similar to those of butternuts.

  • Planting butternuts and Hokkaido allows a farmer to offer two vegetable types without complicating production practices.

Having a diverse basket of produce helps a vegetable farmer reduce production risk and cope with fluctuating market prices. The trick, though, is finding the right mix of vegetables to avoid over-complicating production.

Francois Steyn of JF Steyn Boerdery near Komatipoort, Mpumalanga, is always keen to try new varieties, provided there is a market. As part of this approach, he cultivates close relationships with buyers and third-party packhouses, putting him first in line to hear about new opportunities, and the trust flowing from this gives him greater confidence to try something new.

When he was approached to plant a pumpkin variety relatively unknown in South Africa, the Hokkaido (also called the red kuri squash), he took up the challenge, and has found that this addition to his crop mix fits in well with his production cycles and has a good, albeit small, market.

The Hokkaido is a variety of the Cucurbita family, and belongs to the Hubbard squash group.

“Although it’s an entirely different vegetable, the production practices are very similar to those of butternuts, so it’s a good fit. It’s an easy-to-grow pumpkin with a yield of around 20t in 90 days. It’s also a high-yielding variety that produces uniformly sized fruit,” says Steyn.

PREPARATION AND PLANTING

JF Steyn Boerdery has 3ha planted to Hokkaido. The land was divided in two and the sections planted three weeks apart to allow for a staggered harvest, as the market is still in its infancy and cannot afford to be flooded.

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