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Friday, 26 March 2021 12:51

Cabbage Production: KEY ISSUES

Written by Zivanayi Gonzo
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Cabbage is in the Brassica family, a group that includes crops like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and rape. The cultural and nutritional requirements of all crops in this category are similar, as are most of the pests and diseases. Brassica vegetables provide high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and soluble fiber, and contain glucosinolates.


Soil and Climatic Requirements

Fertile, loamy and well-drained soils with pH ranging from 5.8-6.3 (Calcium Chloride scale) are ideal. It is important to regularly bring soil samples to ZFC Limited for analysis to enable better fertilizer decisions. The crop does best in cool, moist climates, although it may be grown throughout the year. The optimum average temperature for growth and development is 18oC, with an average maximum of 24oC and an average minimum of 4.5oC.  Most varieties are fairly resistant to frost, although they become more susceptible when there are considerable differences between day and night temperatures.



Transplanting and Spacing

When transplanting, seedlings must be young and well hardened, and this should be done on moist soil, preferably at field capacity. Planting can be done on the flat ground but for summer cropping  cabbage should be planted on raised beds to reduce water logging and consequently  stem or root rot diseases. Plant spacing depends mainly on the desired head size depending on the target market. The closer the spacing, the smaller the heads will be and vice versa. Plant populations of 40 000 to 45 000 per hectare are suggested for large-headed types.


Fertilizer Requirements

Cabbage is a heavy feeder so nutritional requirements are very high. Fertilizer programmes should be based on soil analysis. As has been mentioned above, meaningful fertilizer decisions must be based on soil analysis. ZFC Limited offers expert soil analysis services to help farmers make informed decisions when it comes to crop nutrition. The company offers a wide range of basal fertilizers that can be used on cabbage production. The bottom line is that all the basal fertilizer must be applied at or before planting.  The available options are applied either by means of broadcasting and incorporating, banding or spot applying.


In general, fertilizer amount depends on the length of season of a particular variety. As an example, a variety that matures in 110 days generally requires more nutrition than the one that matures in 65 days. ZFC Vegetable Blend (9:24:20 + B + Zn) can be applied at 500-600kg/Ha as a basal fertilizer depending on variety. Other products that can alternatively be used include ZFC Tobacco Planting Fert (5:15:12 + B), ZFC Tobacco Blend (6.28.23 + B) and ZFC Tobacco Fert (6.24.20 + B). All the fertilizer products indicated above contain the Micronutrient Boron as the crop has a high requirement for it.  Boron deficiency can produce brown and misshapen heads, corky lesions on the stem and rotting of the internal stem tissue. Care should be taken on planting to avoid the seedling roots coming into contact with the fertilizer, as this can result in seedling scorching. Two foliar sprays of Quick Start, seven days apart beginning two weeks after planting are encouraged to the crop quick take-off. 


Two nitrogen top dressings should be given, the first of 200 kg/Ha Ammonium Nitrate (AN) at 3 weeks and the second of 150 kg/Ha at 6 weeks after planting.  Care should be taken to avoid burning of the root system by ensuring the AN is not placed closer than 150 mm from the plant. Applying the AN on moist ground is advisable. Foliar sprays of Specialty fertilizers such as Quick Grow Plus and Foliar 15 are encouraged as they supply Trace Elements that conventional fertilizers do not supply. Trace elements are part of the 17 essential nutrients plants require for optimum growth. 


Weed Control

It is essential to maintain good weed control if maximum yields and quality are to be achieved and reducing labour costs along the way. Weeds also act as hosts for pests and diseases that will affect the crop. An integrated weed control approach can be taken. Herbicide use can assist greatly in this respect.


Diquat or Glyphosate will control weeds which have emerged before transplanting. Since Diquat is a contact herbicide, results occur faster and you can come in earlier  than with  Glyphosate which is systemic and taking longer up to two weeks.  Neither product leaves any soil residue. Good control of annual grasses and some broadleaf weeds can be made possible by spraying Dual Magnum at 0.7-1.2 l/Ha in 200 - 300 l water/Ha as soon as possible after the first post-transplant irrigation. For annual and perennial grass weeds, Fluazifop-p-butyl sprayed post-emergence of weeds over the top of the crop will give good control at 1-8 l/Ha depending on type and age of grass.  Do not plant maize, sorghum, wheat, barley or oats within four months of applying Fluazifop-p-butyl.


Insect Pests and Diseases

Cabbage like any other crop is threatened by a number of pests and diseases. To reduce incidences, cultural practices like crop rotation and destruction of crop residues are encouraged. If there has been a serious disease problem such as clubroot of cabbage, there should be a rotation of at least four years between Brassica crops before planting into the same soil. Crop chemicals form part of the integrated pest management. The table below summarizes ZFC’s solutions for cabbages when it comes to insect pests and diseases.


Physiological Orders


Cracking and Bolting

Uniform soil moisture and frequent light irrigations are needed to reduce the tendency of some varieties to head cracking when they are approaching maturity, especially during the hotter months.  Some varieties are inclined to bolt, producing a seed head if planted during the coldest time of the year, or if extreme variations of night and day temperatures are experienced.  Such varieties should not be planted in late autumn or winter.



The symptoms of this are wart-like swellings, especially on the undersurface of leaves.  It is caused by over-watering or prolonged rainy weather.


Frost Injury

The margins of the lower leaves become flaccid and turn brown and may die.  Often there is rupturing of the epidermis on the underside of leaves and cracking of main veins.  The latter often become spongy.

By Zivanayi Gonzo (Technical Advisor at ZFC Limited)



Read 310 times Last modified on Wednesday, 31 March 2021 18:24


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