Cabbage is a hardy, leafy vegetable full of vitamins that grow well in fertile and well-drained soils. It originated in Europe around 1000BC and today can be found around the world. The increasing demand for vegetables has helped the growing popularity of this crop. As an agripreneur who want to start a successful cabbage farming, you must understand the following:
Numerous varieties of cabbages are available in the market. Several factors
should be put in mind in selecting appropriate varieties. Yield is important to
every grower. However, it should not be the sole factor determining variety.
Disease resistance or tolerance is important in many of these crops and should be
critically examined. Buyer preference and market acceptability are also important
factors to be considered. Finally, the variety should be adapted to the area
where it is to be planted. Some common varieties are Green cabbage, Red
cabbage and Savoy cabbage.
Cabbage grows best in a relatively moist and humid climate. Leaves are affected
and the quality of the head is impaired in drier temperatures. Yield and quality
are poor in rainy season and it is also difficult to control insect pests. The
optimum temperatures for growth and development are from 18 °C to 20 °C.
Cabbage can adapt to a wide variety of climatic conditions and can be grown
throughout the year in most regions.
The water requirement for cabbage is between 380 to 500 mm per crop, depending
on the climate and length of growing season. The usage of water increases during the
Plants depend on the soil for support, nutrients and water. The degree to which
the soil adequately provides these factors depends upon topography, soil type,
soil structure and soil fertility. Under cultivated conditions, soil and fertilizer
management are two key factors that influence plant growth and yield. Tillage is a
general term for any operation that disrupts and or moves the soil, typically
within 10 to 12 inches of the soil surface. Land preparation sometimes involves
tillage operations that help loosen, pulverizes the soil and make it more
conducive to plant establishment and root growth. Growth of cabbage is
influenced (and in many cases is limited) by the soil profile. Hard pans, clay pans
and compacted soil interfere and restrict root growth. This, in turn, reduces
nutrient and water uptake, limits plant growth and reduces yields. Although
cabbage is shallow-rooted, under favorable conditions and in properly prepared
soil, roots will grow to a depth of 18 to 24 inches. Cabbage may be planted or
transplanted on flat or raised beds. A raised bed will warm up more quickly and
enhance earlier growth of the crop. Cabbage does poorly in excessively wet soils.
Raised beds facilitate drainage and helps to prevent “wet feet” in low or poorly
drained soils. However, cabbage planted on raised beds may require more
irrigation during drought conditions. Cabbage needs well-drained, fertile and
moist soil with rich organic matter.
Cabbage may be planted by direct-seeding or transplanting of seedlings. If direct
seeding is to be used, about 2 kg of seed per hectare may be required. Seedlings
should be transplanted once they have reached the desired size and only well-
hardened, young, stocky plants should be chosen. Transplanting is done on moist
soil. The soil around the roots should be firmed and irrigated as soon as possible
after the seedlings are set. In wet areas, cabbage should be grown on raised beds
or ridges to reduce water-logging, stem or root rot diseases.
Cabbage should be irrigated immediately after sowing or transplanting. Irrigation
should be applied at intervals of ten to twelve days in heavy soils or eight days in
light soils and the schedule should be followed until the heads are fully developed
and firm. Young plants should be well irrigated to enhance vegetative growth
before forming heads. Excess moisture when the heads have formed may cause
Recommendations based on soil tests result in the most effective fertilizer
management program. However, recommendations can be accurate only if valid
soil sampling procedures are used to collect the samples submitted for analysis.
To be beneficial, the soil sample must represent the field from which it was taken.
Improperly collected, compiled or labeled soil samples are of dubious benefit and
may even be detrimental. Cabbage requires supplemental fertilizer in form of
manure or compost, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Cabbage requires
about 200 to 250 kg of nitrogen per hectare. Nitrogen is supplied in split
applications, where 50 % to 66 % is broadcast and ploughed in just before
planting. Cabbage also requires micronutrients for proper growth and
development. The crop has a high requirement of calcium and deficiencies of this
nutrient may occur on acid soils, on soils with very high potassium or on very dry
soils. Cabbage is very susceptible to molybdenum deficiency.
Weeds are controlled mechanically or by hand as well as chemically through the
application of herbicides. The first weed control should be done two to three
weeks after transplanting.
Cabbage Disease Management
Cabbage is susceptible to a number of diseases that may seriously injure or even
destroy the crop. Some diseases may cause minor spotting, but because the
leaves are consumed, the quality may be reduced below market standards.
Prevention is the key to controlling diseases affecting cabbage. Some of the
diseases can be controlled with timely fungicide applications and others must be
prevented altogether. Among the pests that affect the crops are cabbage worms,
dumping off, cabbage loopers, white blister, and white leaf spot.
The decision to harvest may be based on overall appearance such as when the
wrapper leaves are spread, the head is exposed and firm to touch. Generally,
mature cabbage has good head formation and have good weight in comparison to
size. Mature cabbage has a longer post-harvest lifespan than immature cabbage.
Harvested produce should always be removed from direct sunlight and
transported to the packing shed as soon as possible. Cabbage is particularly
susceptible to wilting and other damage from high temperatures.
To maximize storage potential of cabbage, it must be stored as cold as possible
without freezing. Heads should be trimmed to remove loose wrapper leaves
before storage. Cabbage showing signs of insect damage, freezing damage,
sunscald and bruises should be discarded before storage. Harvesting cabbage as
soon as they mature will prevent cracking of heads.