Evaluating pickling cucumber plant populations to maximize yield for once-over mechanical harvest in the southeastern United States
North Carolina (NC) is one of few states that utilize a substantial amount of hand labor to grow cucumber for processing. In recent years, a greater percentage of NC production has been devoted to mechanical harvest. Goals of this research were to determine the plant populations that improve yield and the best developmental stage at which to harvest. Studies were conducted in NC in 2012 and 2013, with plant populations ranging from 74,000 to 346,000 plants ha-1. Plots were 9.1 m long, comprised of three rows and divided into subplots so that three harvests could be made at various stages of fruit development. Fruits were graded into marketable grades (sizes 1, 2 and 3), oversize grade (size 4), and misshapen fruit, and were weighed and counted from each plot. In 2012, the marketable yields were consistently high, at planting densities ranging from 123,550 to 345,940 plants ha-1. Marketable yields increased when fruits were given more time to size, and yield was maximized when 15 to 25% of the fruit were oversize. In 2013, a high percentage of the fruit were misshapen. Thus, plant population had a less discernable effect on yield. In both years, more fruits were produced per plant as the plant population decreased. A plant population of 148,000 plants ha-1 was a low density that achieved consistent high yields; while the highest plant population is this study, 346,000 plants ha-1, could potentially produce even higher yields. However, high plant population densities carry the risk of increased stresses such as limited moisture.
Schultheis, J.R., Thornton, A.C. and Thompson, W.B. (2016). Evaluating pickling cucumber plant populations to maximize yield for once-over mechanical harvest in the southeastern United States. Acta Hortic. 1123, 69-78
Cucumis sativus, processing cucumber, plant density, machine, yield, harvest timing