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Friday, 12 March 2021 13:59

Cauliflower Production Guide

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Site Selection

Soils can be medium to heavy clay loam with good water holding capacity. Sandy soils tend to require more frequent irrigation cycles and require higher levels of fertilization. PH levels should be between 5.5 and 6, closer to 6 on sandy soils. It is best to take soil samples and have them

checked prior to planting. Cauliflower responds very well to compost enriched soils. Levels of 20 to 30 tons of well-prepared compost will benefit the crop and reduce the levels of fertilizer.

Manure and chicken litter can also be used but must be well broken down and composted or root burn will occur. Manure 10 to 20 tons per hectare and chicken litter 2 to 5 tons per hectare.

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Ploughing should be done to a depth of 30 to 35cm deep making sure to break down the old plough pan. Ripping then discing is also a good way to prepare the tilth for planting. Not too cloddy or too fine tilth is necessary. During winter months if possible, plant on north facing slopes to achieve better soil warmth.

Spacing

Planting can be done on beds during the rainy season which helps with drainage and on the flat during the winter period. If beds are made, they should be 1.5m center to center with 2 rows on the top of the bed, 60cm apart and 40cm in row. Planting on the flat rows can be 60cm apart

and planting stations 40cm in row. Plant populations should be between 33,000 – 40,000 depending on market requirements. Higher plant populations tend to give smaller curd sizes.

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Fertilizers

A balanced basal Compound type fertilizer of either “A”, “B” or “C” should be applied prior to planting. This can be done using a Vicon spreader if growing on the flat or a ridger type applicator if planted on beds. Cupping with fertilizer cups by hand into the planting hole can also be done but the fertilizer must be well mixed in the hole to prevent root burn. On soil analysis results and soil types, rates of fertilizer can be applied ranging from 500kg – 750kg per hectare.

Cauliflowers will require around 400kg a hectare of AN split into 3 applications between weeks 2 and 6 after transplanting. During the rainy season if the crop is planted on lighter soils an extra top dressing might be needed after heavy leaching rains. Cauliflower plantings going into winter

should be top dressed with Calcium Nitrate, instead of AN as it is quicker acting in cool soils. Cauliflower is susceptible to Boron deficiency which causes “Hollow Stem” so be vigilant.

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Seedlings

Planting with seedlings is the most practical method. Use a recognized Nursery where strong and healthy seedlings are raised. At transplanting good seedlings give a base for a uniform crop helping with reduced costs at harvest. Plant around 10% more plugs per hectare of your selected plant population, this should ensure good seedling selection. When using seedlings or speedlings as they are also known, at transplanting make sure good plug to soil contact is made so the root system can leave the plug and quickly enter the fertilizer enriched soil. 

Plant the Speedings as soon as possible after pulling them from the trays to avoid the tiny hair roots drying out. Plant into pre irrigated soils in which the soil has been made up to field capacity.

After transplanting a light settling in irrigation is required to remove air pockets between the plug and the soil. It is recommended that you dip your seedlings in a solution of Actara to give the plants 6 weeks protection from aphids and whitefly. Also apply a foliar spray of Bion to the

seedlings to activate the plants own defense mechanism against bacterial and virus attack.

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Varieties

Selection of a variety depends on where it is to be marketed. Cauliflower is mostly a cool weather crop. Varieties vary in Curd size from 600grams up to 1kilo. Varieties must be selected for summer or winter production. Be careful in summer as cauliflower is susceptible to “Black Rot”. Varieties need to have a waxy leaf to deter Diamond Back Moth from destroying the crop.

A good self-wrapping type cauliflower is necessary such as hybrids Twister F1 and Nevada F1 and Spacestar F1 supplied by Seed Co, which saves on labour costs for tying the leaves over the head to prevent discolouration. Cauliflower is also frost tolerant. Contact a Seed Co Agronomist for advice on which variety you need for different times of the year. The hybrid Twister, with an excellent head wrapping can be grown throughout the year.

 

Harvesting

Cauliflower heads are ready for harvest when the curds start to expose themselves through the natural leaf wrapping, so careful monitoring of head size is important. Exposed heads will turn yellow to cream or brown, making them unsalable. Harvest period is normally 10 – 14 days but

growers should aim to do as few cuts as possible, which saves on labour. Depending on variety selection and season, Cauliflowers take 75 – 90 days to mature after transplanting. Once the heads are cut cooling down in field shelters with wet walls or refrigeration is advised. Quick transport to market is a must. Cauliflower heads bruise easily so be careful and pack properly.

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Irrigation

During the dry winter months irrigation is essential. Overhead sprinkler irrigation is the most common, followed by flood and more recently “drip” irrigation. If growing Cauliflower during summer, irrigation must be spot on or “Hollow Stem” will occur due to fluctuations of water in the soil. 

Approximately 600mm – 750mm of irrigation should be allowed for to produce a good crop of cauliflower. So, planning water usage from, dams, rivers, and boreholes can be worked out to match hectares to be planted. As the plant increases in size and leaf area, and the start of the “Curd” forming, the amount of water required also increases. Irrigation should be planned on a weekly basis and the soil depletion area checked regularly to plan for the next irrigation cycle. The use of an “Evaporation Pan” should help with this. On medium to heavy clay soils, irrigation should be given when approximately 25% of available water has been used. Water

stress can cause the self-wrapping protection to fail exposing the “Curd” to sunlight turning it cream or yellow also making it nonmarketable

Rotations

Never plant a Cauliflower crop following another Brassica crop i.e. Cabbage, Broccoli or Rape. Rotate with a legume or root crop.

| Prime SEEDCO

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