Friday, 2 March 2012

Grow Zucchini squash for income generation in Kenya

Courgettes plants are also called zucchini, summer/winter squash. Zucchini squash belongs to the family cucurbitaceae .These squash are grown for their immature fruits which are used in salads and pickles. The market for zucchini is good in the urban areas of Kenya and consumption of the vegetables is becoming increasingly popular in the rural areas. Zuchini are chiefly warm climate vegetables requiring an optimum temperatures of 17º-22ºC.Zuchini squash requires an optimum water supply of 800mm during the vegetables growing period. With irrigation the vegetables can be grown in dry areas with little rainfall. The squash can be grown from 500 to 2000M altitude, and a wide range of well drained light loam, manure or compost enriched soils, with PH of 5.5-7.5.Zucchini squash is propagated by seed at a rate of 6-8 kg per Ha. Deep soil cultivation is recommended and moulds or ridges 15-20cm high are made cougettes are directly planted on the ridges or moulds spaced at 90cm×90cm.2-3 seeds per hole are planted which are thinned to one plant per hill about 2 weeks after emergence.

One to two shovels of manure per hill (up to 20 tons/ha) and 5g of phosphate fertilizer such as TSP OR DAP (150-200kg/ha) per hill should be applied and mixed well with the soil. After thinning, the vegetables are top dressed with 5g of CAN (26%N) 150-200kg/ha applied prior to flowering.Excessive application of nitrogenous fertilizers and manure to courgettes/zucchini should be avoided because it induces the plants vegetative growth at the expense of fruit setting.Weeding should be done regularly during growth to reduce competition for nutrients. The vegetables should be mulched to retain soil moisture and keep them clean. Strict crop rotation should be practiced using cereals, beans, cabbages, potatoes but never with cucurbitaceae crops.Courgettes plants are affected by various fungal diseases which include powdery mildew, downy mildew and anthracnose. The diseases can be controlled using recommended fungicides.

The vegetables are also attacked by a variety of pests such as cucumber mosaic virus, melon fly, Tobacco whitefly, and aphids which can be controlled through field hygiene and use of recommended pesticides.Zucchini squash harvesting starts 2-2 ½ months after planting and the crop lifespan is 5-6 months. Immature tender vegetables are picked twice a week at a length of 15-20cm.Fruits should not be left to ripen on the vine as the plant growth will stop. Courgettes/zucchini squash can yield 10-12 tons/ha.