Butternut is a tasty, orange squash that is very popular in our South African gardens and kitchens. Also in oven roasts, rocket salads, as a mash, or even as a creamy soup.
Farmers growing butternuts from seedlings can get around 20t – 30t per hectare with appropriate spacing and irrigation. Harvesting takes place a month after the fruits have set and once the fruits show hardening of the outer skins. The butternut fruits are harvested before they are fully ripe in order to ensure maximum yield.
Butternuts can be stored for up to 90 days in rooms away from direct sunlight and with good ventilation between the fruits. To ensure a long storage life, it is important to cure the fruits. This can be done on the field for a period of about 12 days in warm weather without rain. Or in rooms using artificial heating to ensure temperatures of around 26°C and humidity of 78 to 82%.
The crop can be propagated in many types of soil but performs best in organically rich soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.6. It is essential to transplant the seedling to well- drained soil. Clay soil can be a suitable medium but water logging can lead to lower crop yield and dirty fruits. The plant is sensitive to frost and it is best to avoid planting it on fields at risk of experiencing frost.
It is possible to grow up to 30 000 plants per hectare. Spacing of 30 to 40cm should be maintained between the butternut seedlings and 1,2m between rows.
The plant has a deep root system, making it necessary to water deep and well. A certain level of drought stress can be handled, but it is best to keep the soil moist. Sufficient irrigation is needed during the growth period to ensure sufficient water around the root Zone for optimal nutrient uptake and good fruit setting.
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