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No Treats In 2000 Pumpkin Patches
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mother Nature pulled a cruel trick on growers of Mississippi's non-irrigated pumpkins, and the few treats available after the hot, dry summer will be found in patches with access to water.
David Nagel, vegetable specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said growers irrigate less than 100 acres of Mississippi's 480 commercial pumpkin acres.
"With irrigation, pumpkin yields were near normal or slightly below normal and maturing three to four weeks early. Without irrigation, pumpkin yields were an absolute disaster," Nagel said. "Dryland pumpkin yields are off about 90 percent."
Nagel said he's heard of growers averaging less than one pumpkin per acre. All of the state's crop matured more quickly because of the hot growing season.
"Mississippi is traditionally an import state for pumpkins. For pumpkins that had to be harvested early, proper storage will help them last longer," Nagel said. "If stored in a dry area, out of direct sunlight, pumpkins will keep two months."
Researchers at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona planted a wide variety of pumpkins, some for spacing research and others in anticipation of the North Mississippi Garden Expo at the end of September.
"We planted early so the pumpkins would be ready by the field day, but if we hadn't planted that soon, the crop would have still been about a month earlier than normal," said Kent Cushman, a research horticulturist with the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station in Verona.
"Even with drip irrigation on the plants all day for days at a time, they would wilt down in the hot afternoons we had," Cushman said.
Because most spacing recommendations are based on northern crop needs, researchers wanted to test for Mississippi's unique needs. Results have not be tabulated, but the two varieties studied were Aspen, with semi-vigorous vines, and Howden Biggie, with very vigorous vines.
Some of the other varieties were chosen more for their unique appearance than for yield potential. Cinderella, which resembles the fairytale stagecoach, produces a blotchy color and decays around the stem -- eventually effecting the rest of the pumpkin. Prizewinner may take top honors for its size, but it will lose points for its misshapened appearance and poor coloring.
Cushman said the medium-sized white pumpkins, Lumina, are good conversation pieces but don't seem to be what people want from a pumpkin. Their tendency to rot more quickly will also prevent them from being on a variety recommendation list for Mississippi.
"The miniatures like Jack Be Little were vigorous and set hundreds of pumpkins," Cushman said. "The miniature white Baby Boo also performed well."
"Pumpkins need lots of sunshine and if we keep having summer droughts, access to irrigation will be the key to success," Cushman said.