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Fluted pumpkin (Telfaria occidentalis)

Fluted pumpkin is a vegetable crop that is widely adaptable to humid and semi-humid areas.

(i) Environmental requirements: Fluted pumpkin plant requires adequate amount of moisture within the range of 80-150mm per annum. It requires a short duration of sunshine. The leaves are sensitive to high intensity of light. The most ideal temperature lies between 20-29’C for optimum growth and yields. Optimum of fluted pumpkin is obtained when planted on loamy soils. The plant also grows well in sandy-loam soils with pH range 6.5-7.5.

(ii) Methods of sowing: Fluted pumpkin is propagated by seeds preserved from harvested fruit pod. The seeds are planted on soil with good tillage, ploughed and harrowed. The seeds are sown two to three per hole. Broadcasting of seeds is never practiced in fluted pumpkin because it exposes the seeds to rodents, and insect attack. In Southern Nigeria, sowing of fluted pumpkin is done at the start of the rains between March-April, in a seed bed, or ridges. Fluted pumpkin is a widely cultivated vegetable crop in gardens and plots in subsistence and commercial scale. It is usually sown directly into the field and does not require nursery for successful cultivation.

(iii) Spacing: Seeds are sown at a spacing of 45 x 6.0cm in seed beds or ridges. Staking is done using bamboo sticks to promote the optimum growth of the plant.

(iv) Nutrient requirements: Fluted pumpkin requires adequate supply of potassium, calcium, magnesium and Nitrogen for optimum growth. It requires regular supply of single or compound fertilisers that contain the necessary nutrients.

(v. )Weed control: Weed control is done regularly to prevent the weeds from competing with the plants in the plot. Weeding is either done manually or chemically. Manual weed control is carried out using hoes or hand picking. Herbicides are used to control weeds in large plots to effect the rapid control and promote optimum yields of plants.

(vi) Harvesting: Harvesting of mature fruits in fluted pumpkin plant is done when the mature pods in the plants become strong and the leaves begin to wither, leaving the pods on the staked materials used for supporting the plant during the early stage of growth.

(vii) Processing: The viability of fluted pumpkin pods are broken and the seeds extracted from them. The mucilages are removed from the seeds and washed. These seeds are then dried in the sun for 2-3 days. Harvested fruits that are meant for consumption are normally boiled and eaten.

(viii) Storage: The viability of fluted pumpkin seeds is prolonged when they are stored in a dry and cool area for future planting. Excessive heat causes damage to the seeds and leads to poor yields after germination due to weakened vigour of the embryo in the seed.

Diseases and pests of fluted pumpkin

Diseases of fluted pumpkin (Telfaria occidentalis)

(i) Fusarium wilt

This is a disease of fluted pumpkin caused by a fungus; Fusariun oxysporium.
Transmission: It is a disease that infects exposed root wounds and vascular tissues.
(i) Seedlings may rot in severe infection.
(ii) Mature plants wilt.
(iii) Death of the plant results eventually.
Prevention and Control:
(i) By effective practice of crop rotation.
(ii) By planting resistant varieties.
(iii) By use of fungicides. Fungicides include Benomyl, Carbendazin.

(ii) Downy mildew

This is the disease of fluted pumpkin caused by a fungus; pseudoperonospora SPP.
It is transmitted by wind which spread the spores of the fungus.
i. Bright yellow spots appear on the upper leaf surfaces.
ii. Blue-grey mould grow on the lower leaf surfaces.
iii. Fruit development and quality are impaired.
Prevention and Control:
(i) By breeding young plants away from mature plants.
(ii) By allowing adequate spacing between plants during planting.
(iii) By avoiding overhead irrigation.
(iv) By spraying fungicides – examples of fungicides include Dithiocarbamates and copper sprays.

(iii) Leaf blight (brown spot)

This is a disease of fluted pumpkin caused by a fungus: Alternaria cucumerina
It is transmitted through spores blown by wind as it is air-borne.
(i) It causes plants to defoliate, i.e. leaf falls off.
(ii) It causes sunken spots on mature fruits.
Prevention/control: Clean seeds before sowing.

Pests of fluted pumpkin

(a) Snout beetle: Baris SPP

This beetle is black in colour, about 4mm in size. It feeds on the leaves of the fluted
pumpkin plant.
(i) By spraying pesticides. Examples of pesticides include Lindane, Malathion.

(b) Aphids: Aphis SPP

Aphids are pests that are about 1.2mm long, yellow-green to black, exist in colonies, suck sap, cause leaf distortion and wilting.
(i) By spraying chemicals to kill the pests. The chemicals include Disulfoton, Pirimicarb Phorate, menazon demeton-s-smethyl, oxydemeton-methl, or derris dust.

(c) Cucurbit leaf beetle: (Aulacophora SPP)

It is a yellow beetle. Grub, which is the young beetle, is orange to yellow. Adult beetle shreds leaves, while grub feeds on roots and fruits.
(i) By spraying pesticides – examples of pesticides include Dichlorovos, trichlorphon, fenthion, thiodan, carbo nyl.

(d) Leaf-eating beetle: (Lagria Villosa)

This is a dark metallic brown, downy beetle, that is 12mm long, It feeds on leaves.
Leaf-eating beetle in pumpkin is controlled by spraying chemicals to kill the pest.
Examples of chemicals are Melathion, carbaryl, and cypermethrin.

(e) Lesser Melon fly: Dacus ciliatus

This is a large brown fly that is 8-10mm long. A larva is 10-12 mm long. Larvae tunnel in the fruit thus induces rot.
By spraying chemicals: Effective pesticides include fenthion, malathion plus sugarbated. These pesticides are sprayed against adult.

Fluted pumpkin is a vegetable crop that is widely adaptable to humid and semi-humid areas. It does not tolerate excessive intensity of sunlight. Fluted pumpkin requires adequate supply of potassium, calcium, magnesium and Nitrogen for optimum growth. The different pests and diseases affecting their production can be prevented and controlled using appropriate chemicals and breeding resistant varieties.