Cucumbers are cultivated gourds scientifically known as Cucumis Sativus. Varieties of cucumber include pickling, slicing and seedless. Cucumber as vegetable can be eaten fresh or prepared as part of food. Fresh Cucumber contains about 90% water and rich in vitamins, Carbohydrates and minerals.
Cucumber plants grow under tropical conditions. Cucumbers can be grown under protected cultivation (Greenhouses, poly-tunnels or net-houses) and in open fields. Hitherto, cucumbers are mainly cultivated in the Northern part of Nigeria. In the past few years, farmers in the southern belt of Nigeria have embraced cucumber farming.
In spite of the profitability of cucumber farming, there are several pitfalls.
Planting Poor Quality Seeds
The use of poor quality cucumber seeds is a major factor contributing to poor yield in cucumber farming in Nigeria. Farmers are encouraged to plant good hybrid cucumber seeds like Darina F1, Murano F1 and Tokyo F1 etc. Hybrid seeds ensure good disease resistance and great yields. Farmers should plant cucumbers seeds suitable to the climate of their region. In our trials in Nigeria, we have seen cucumber seeds that yielded over 25 tonnes per acre; we have also seen cucumber seeds that hardly yielded 7 tonnes per acre given same growing conditions.
Poor Soil Management
Cultivating cucumber in poor soil is a recipe for failure. Cucumber plants need nutrient dense soil that is rich in organic matter. The soil pH must range between 5.5-7.0. Poor Soil must be amended with manure, microbial inoculants, humates (humic acid and fluvic acid) and fertilizers if need be. Good soil ensures a healthy start for the seedlings till harvest time. Introducing beneficial microbes to soil guarantees problem free farming. These beneficial microbes inhibit the proliferation of harmful soil microbes. Soil test is advised to be carried out before planting.
Poor Water Management
Irrigation is key in cucumber farming especially during the dry times. Drip Irrigation is advised as the best type of irrigation for cucumber farming as it saves water, reduces labour need, allows fertigation and very efficient in root zone wetting. Poor water quality may spell doom for cucumber plants. Water must be tested for pH and minerals, any inadequacies in the water quality must be quickly remedied.
Several cucumber farms where insufficient fertilizers and manure were used, these farms recorded very low yield. Cucumber plants are heavy feeders, they guzzle nutrients voraciously, when these nutrients are not enough, the plants punish the farmer with low yields. Soil must be amended with loads of manure. For drip irrigation users, soluble fertilizers like Potassium Nitrate, Mono-ammonium Phosphate, Mono-potassium Phosphate, Chelates, Urea, NPK and Calcium Nitrate etc must be used to ensure good yield. For organic Farmers, manure, nutrient solubilising microbes, humates and organic fertilizers must be used for great yield. Fertilization schedule based on soil test result is advised
Poor Pest and Disease Management
Diseases and pests can wipe away acreages of cucumber plants within days if proper strategies have not been put in place to prevent and attack pest and diseases. Prevention is always better than cure in plants’ disease management. Different pesticides should be used to guard against resistance issue. Pesticides must not be sprayed speculatively. Crops with good and healthy growth are better prepared to withstand disease and pest attack. Some beneficial microbes like Bacillus spp and Trichoderma spp prevents and attacks diseases and pests when they strike.
Cucumber leaves are attractive to insects; good insecticides can resolve insect attacks quickly. Downy Mildew is a fungal disease cucumber farmers fight year in, year out in Nigeria. Cucumber farmers are advised to raise the pH of their leaves by spraying humic acid, Potassium Silicate or Bicarbonate of Soda. Downy Mildew hardly survives in alkaline environment. Kaolin spray on cucumber leaves also prevents Downy Mildew. Fungicides with copper and Mancozeb are also effective for prevention.
It should be noted that careless usage of Nitrogen fertiliser may aggravate Downy Mildew, other fungal infections and insect attack problem. Potassium imbalance during cucumber fruiting may also worsen fungal attacks on cucumber leaves.
Weeds are unwanted plants growing side by side with your crops. They may host harmful pests and diseases, they compete for nutrients and water with your crops and they generally inhibit healthy growth of your crops. Weeds should be removed as soon as possible on your farm. Herbicides may be used but Veggie Grow Limited encourages physical removal of the weeds instead of herbicides. Weeds can reduce cucumber yield by as much as 70%.
Not Staking your Cucumber Plants
Unstaked cucumber plants can get infected by soil borne diseases easily. They also take space and make it difficult for the Farmer to work on his farm. Cucumber plants are better staked as this makes it easy for Farmers to increase their planting density. In most cases, staked cucumber plants perform better with great yields.
Reckless Usage of Pesticides
Uncontrolled application of chemical pesticides can negatively impact the growth and yield of cucumber plants. During flowering, chemical insecticides should be avoided. Chemical Insecticides kills pollinating bees, this may affect pollination of flowers and ultimately lead to poor fruiting. Farmers are advised to use less chemical insecticides and fungicides during flowering. In the case that pesticides are necessary, it is preferably they are sprayed in the evening when bees are less active.
Not Harvesting on time
Leaving big fruits on the cucumber plants can stress the plants and make the plants stop production of further fruits. Frequency of harvest is beneficial to cucumber plants as it makes them fruits profusely. It is good to harvest cucumbers every two days for maximum yield.
Cucumber farming is lucrative in Nigeria. However, Farmers are expected to do their marketing analysis before planting. Organised supermarkets pay premium prices for cucumbers grown in a healthy way. Cucumbers are also sold in the open markets throughout Nigeria. There are peak and off-peak seasons for fresh cucumbers sale in Nigeria.
Source: Veggie grow