My Commercial Cucumber Farming Experience

I have farmed cucumber twice. I started at a very small scale and then scaled up a little. This enabled me to learn the ropes and keep loss to a minimum. My first trial was a near disaster as diseases nearly wipe out everything. Second trial was better as I made a reasonable net profit (1.33 ROI but without including cost of fixed assets like knapsack sprayer, boot etc, ROI was about 2). Below are some of the things I learnt:

1. Humid Condition Attracts Diseases: I planted when the rainy season started. At the peak of rainfall when rain fall almost daily, disease struck. I suspects downy mildew. This disease first appear as yellow spots on the leaves which later turn brown. It expands and kill the whole leaves and the plants soon die. I knew little about fungicides when I started.

2. Fungicides are Important: I used mancozeb fungicide on the second trial and it helped in delaying the onset of diseases. But the problem I had was rain washing away the fungicide. Sometimes rainfall will start soon after fungicide application. By then I knew little about systemic fungicide.

During periods of high rainfall, it is best to combine systemic and contact fungicides. Systemic fungicides enters into the plants’ system and work from inside. So rain can’t wash them away. You need to combine them with contact fungicide to prevent fungicide resistance from developing.

Some pests I encountered. Unfortunately, cucumber beetle - the most destructive in my experience - is not in this picture

Some pests I encountered. Unfortunately, cucumber beetle – the most destructive in my experience – is not in this picture

1. Systemic Insecticides Save Time: On both trials, I used insecticides that acts from the plant surface (i.e. contact insecticides). As a result, rain usually wash them off and I saw myself spending more time battling insect pests. After some research I came across systemic insecticides like Imidacloprid and Dimethoate. I plan using them in my next trial. These insecticides will act from inside the plant. You also have to use insecticides in such a way to prevent insecticide resistance from developing.

2. Hybrid Seeds are Good: I have not experimented on this, but it is generally believed that hybrid seeds give higher yield and are more resistant to pests and diseases.

 

 

Some photos from my first farm

Some photos from my first farm

1. Organic Farming is Important:  I made use of chemical insecticides, herbicides and fungicides unprotected! Effect of prolong exposure to these chemicals range from cancer, infertility, birth defect etc. Base on these, I find organic farming attractive. But I’ve not seen or read about large-scale organic farms and I think it is risky to depend solely on organic methods when tackling pests and diseases. So in my next trial I’ll still use chemicals, but with protective gears and I’ll observe the Re-entry Interval (REI) and Pre-harvest Interval (PHI) to minimize or eliminate the risks.

5. my second farm with a lot of un-trellised cucumber plant 6. Bountiful harvest of cucumber 7. Diseased plants in the second farm 8. Diseased cucumber fruit

5. my second farm with a lot of un-trellised cucumber plant 6. Bountiful harvest of cucumber 7. Diseased plants in the second farm 8. Diseased cucumber fruit

6. Cucumber Grow Fast! Have the Stakes Ready on Time: Staking few plants on my first trial wasn’t difficult at all. But staking over 1000m2 of land was a huge task I underestimated. I didn’t start staking on time and before you know it, I was battling weeds and there was no time. I called in a laborer to help with the staking. In the end when the stakes were on, I didn’t trellised 10% of the plants when I finally gave up. So next time as the ridges are being made, I’ll be staking and getting the trellis ready.

  9. trellised cucumbers 10. Making a copper fungicide 11. Diseased cucumber fruit 12. Cucumber fruit eaten by a rodent 13. A maturing cucumber fruit on my first farm 14. Cucumber fruit eaten by a rodent


9. trellised cucumbers 10. Making a copper fungicide 11. Diseased cucumber fruit 12. Cucumber fruit eaten by a rodent 13. A maturing cucumber fruit on my first farm 14. Cucumber fruit eaten by a rodent

7. Applying Foliar Sprays Takes Time: Using a knapsack sprayer to apply fungicides, insecticides, foliar fertilizers, etc takes time. Don’t underestimate it. I’ll be hiring laborers to do that on my next trial and hopefully, I’ll buy a motorize sprayer in the future or construct a boom sprayer that can handle 2-4 rows at a go. I’ll use the boom sprayer for other crops like peppers, soybeans, tomatoes etc because I don’t think it will work on trellised plants like cucumber.

Protective gears for Agro-chemicals I’ll like to use

Protective gears for Agro-chemicals I’ll like to use

8. Harvesting Cucumber Takes Time: You have succeeded in growing your cucumber and it’s now harvest time. You’re happy and that’s good. But know that harvesting is a work that can be back-breaking. So better get additional helping hand.

9. Weeds Are Monsters: Using manual means to control weeds is both time-consuming and back-breaking. It can also be very costly. Better alternatives include the use of herbicides and plastic mulch. You can also minimize weed pressure with the stale seedbed method.

These are the most important things I can remember and I’ll like experienced farmers here to advise me. And if you know any successful, large organic farm, please let me know. Questions are also welcome. Thanks.

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