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Cabbage (Repolyo) Cultivation Guide

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. capitata) locally know as repolyo is probably the most popular green leafy vegetable on the market and enjoys a year round demand. Basically a temperate vegetable that belongs to the cruciferae or mustard family. Some heat tolerant varieties can be produced under warm or tropical conditions. Cabbage production is a lucrative business. It is one vegetable that you will often find in many dishes. It is reasonably easy to produce. Cabbage can be eaten fresh, cooked or combined with other foods.

Cabbage is an important cash crop and livelihood of about one-third of the people in Benguet. It can be grown the whole year in any place in Benguet, and some areas of Mountain Province, particularly Mt. Data, Bauko.

Nutritional importance

  • Cabbage is considered an important part of a well balanced human diet.
  • Important source of vitamins A and C, minerals like Calcium, Phosphorus, Protein and Carbohydrates. It is also a source of fiber in the diet.

Soil requirement

  • Cabbage requires deep, well drained loamy soil rich in humus (organic matter). Loamy sand is also good provided that there is adequate irrigation.
  • pH: 6.0 - 7.0 (optimum). Cabbage does not very well suit in a highly acidic soil. A pH range of 5.6 to 7.3 gives a good yield.
  • Requires Boron and Molybdenum
  • Moisture level: not less than 25 cm deficit on the root zone

Climatic requirement

  • Rainfall: Cabbage has a high water requirement. Well distributed rainfall of at least 500mm through out the growing period is required.
  • Temperature: Cabbage performs better under cool temperature. Cool night and warm day temperature of 14 to 24 degrees centigrade average night-day temperatures is optimal. Temperature up to 28 degrees centigrade can still give good head. Soil temperature of 18 to 35 degrees centigrade is for seed germination. Flower initiation in cabbage is largely affected by temperature but not sensitive to day length.
  • Light: Ample light. Full sunlight (open field), diffused sunlight (plastic house)

Cultural Management Practices

Cultivated Varieties

Lowland Types (Heat tolerant varieties for low elevation areas)

  • F1KK cross:
    Heat tolerant, matures in 58 to 68 days, grown year round in low elevation, superior during dry season than F1KY cross, head is flat and compact with a dark green and bloomed leaf with purple pigmentation at the stem mid-vein and margin and has a yield potential of 21 t/ha.


  • F1KY cross:
    Heat tolerant, matures in 58 to 64 days, can be grown year round in low elevation, it is better adapted to wet season than F1KK cross but inferior to F1KK during the dry season, it’s compact head is enclosed by loosely inward curved leaves with purple pigmentation at the stem petiole, mid-vein and margin and has a yield potential of 21 t/ha.
Highland Types (Varieties for the cool high elevated areas)
  • Marion Market
    It has a round compact head, light green and less bloomed leaves. Resistant to downy mildew and can be grown year round. It is only during dry season (cool months) that it can be grown in low elevations. Matures in 58 to 68 days in low elevations with a yield potential of 12 tons per hectare. In the high land it matures in 90 days with a high yield potential of 25 to 30 tons per hectare.
  • Scorpio F1 Hybrid (dry season):
    It has been the Philippines standard for round head cabbage for more than 15 years. The bluish green leaves have a purple pigmentation on its main vein. It matures in 70 to 75 days after transfer with ball shaped heads that are very firm and short cored. Very popular for its good shipping ability, superior taste and good shelf life. Grown year round but best during dry season. Tolerant to black rot with a yield potential of 20 to 25 tons per hectare

    Image Source: Allied Botanical Corporation
     
  • Rareball (RB) (rainy season):
    Head is round, compact dark-dull green thick wrapper leaves without purple pigmentation. It can be grown year round but best during rainy season.

    Tolerant to black rot. Matures 70 to 80 days with a yield potential of 20 to 25 tons.

    Other cultivars: Green Express (Round), Green Impulse (Flat, heat tolerant ), Helios (Semi-flat, heat tolerant)

Land Preparation

Land preparation (tillage) for both nursery soil beds and production field is done to provide good growing medium for easy and better crop establishment.

Primary tillage (plowing) using animal/machine drawn plow or digging with a hoe and secondary tillage (harrowing) to pulverize and level the soil using comb tooth harrow, Japanese hoe is done to loosen the soil, destroy weeds, insect pests and diseases and to hasten organic matter decomposition.

Tillage maybe done more than once depending on the kind of soil, presence of weeds and other vegetation.

Plots (ridge) or furrows (flat surface) are made using animal/machine drawn plow or digging hoes

Where plots (ridge)(1 m wide, 30 cm high) are used, double row holes are made on top of the plot spaced at 30 to 35 cm x 30 to 35 cm between hills and rows following square or triangular plant arrangements. Wider spacing maybe done for bigger and late maturing varieties.

On flat surface, furrows (using machine/animal drawn plow or hand hoe) are made spaced at 50 cm between rows and at transplanting time, seedlings maybe set at 30 to 35 cm within the row.

Put the needed basal fertilizers (2 handful of compost/composted chicken manure and 1 tbsp complete fertilizer) in the holes/furrows then mix thoroughly with the soil a day before transplanting.

An ideal bed after tillage is one where soil particles increases in size as it moves to the surface. Work the soil when soil moisture is just right. Use herbicides in minimum/zero tillage.

Seedling production

Seedlings can be propagated using soil beds, individual plastic pots, seed box or plastic seedling tray.

Prepare the soil bed thoroughly (see land preparation).

Soil bed/growing media should have a proportion of 1/3 loamy soil, 1/3 sand and 1/3 compost supplemented by complete fertilizer.

Soil beds/growing media should be disinfected, not sterilized. Drench the soil with insecticide solution to control insect pests (ants, mole crickets, etc.) and fungicide solution for diseases (damping-off, mildews, etc.).

Heat can also be used by pouring boiling water on the soil bed/growing media. Heat the growing media, without drying the soil, for about 45 minutes.

Three methods of seedling production, namely:

1. Bare root with pricking and without pricking

  • With pricking - seedlings are first raised in smaller seedbed. 1 to 2 weeks after emergence, prick the seedlings in a bigger seedbed at a distance of 2 to 3 cm both ways. Best to prick late afternoon/cloudy days. Set seedlings to the growing fields 2 weeks after pricking (45 leaf stage).
  • Without pricking- seedlings are raised directly (2 to 3 cm apart) in a bigger soil bed. Allow seedlings to grow 25 to 30 days (4 to 5 leaf stage) then transplant to the permanent growing field.
  • In both cases seedlings are pulled out from the soil bed with little or no soil attached to their roots. Hence, the term “bare root.”
  • Water the seedlings at least an hour before pulling to reduce severe root damage and so that some soil will still be attached to the roots.

2. Pot sowing

  • Individual pots (plastic cups/bags of 5 to10 cm diameter) are filled with the right soil media. For good drainage, puncture the bottom of the pot.
  • Sow one seed per pot. At 4 to 5 leaf stage (25 to 30 day old), seedlings are set to the permanent growing field.
  • Lift the seedlings out from the pot with the root and whole soil media fully intact when setting the seedlings to the growing field.

3. Seed box / Plastic seedling tray

  • Seed box, 18” x 26” x 3”, can be made out of scrap materials.
  • Fill seed box/plastic seedling tray with the desired growing media.
  • Seed box: same procedure in producing bare root seedlings without pricking.
  • Plastic seedling tray: sow one (1) seed per module.
  • At transplanting, bring the seed box/ modulated plastic trays to the growing field.
  • Seed box: using a knife, slice the growing media into small square piece and then lift-up the seedlings like bare root then set the seedlings in the growing field.
  • Plastic seedling tray: transplant the seedlings just like in the pot sowing.

For all the three methods, cover the seeds just enough using the same disinfected soil media. Remove the rice straw used as mulch on the seedbed to conserve moisture upon seedling emergence. Depending on the vigor of the seedlings, light fertilization can be done using three (3) tbsp urea per 16 liters of water.

Seedlings can be raised under plastic tunnel to protect growing seedlings from excessive heat or continuous heavy rains. Roll plastic sheet during the day when there is no rain. Seedling age and spacing can affect the size of the harvestable crop (head).

Transplanting 40 or more day-old seedlings may produce small to medium heads.

Close spacing of 25 to 30 cm both ways may produce small to medium heads while wider spacing (35 to 45 cm both ways) may result to large and often uneven head sizes.

Transplanting (Setting out seedlings in the production field)

  • For bare root seedlings (with pricking), transplant two weeks after pricking(4 to 5 leaf stage).
  • For the other methods, transplant 25 to 30 days after seedling emergence(4 to 5 leaf stage).
  • Transplant only 1 seedling per hill. Press the soil at the base of the seedling after transplanting to have better root contact with the soil. The soil should not cover the first leaf after transplanting, or else it would be too deep.
  • Water the seedling at least 1 hour before transplanting so that the soil will stick to the roots. Water after transplanting.
  • To provide enough moisture in the soil during transplanting, the field should be watered a day before transplanting.
  • It is best to transplant in the afternoon or during cloudy day to lessen transplanting shock. Handle seedlings properly.
  • Number of plants per hectare is 36,000 to 40,000. The population maybe increased to 55,000 or more depending on the desired size of cabbage head.

Inter Tillage

  • Cultivate the soil in between rows or hills of crop to loosen the top of the soil to reduce evaporation, control weeds, destroy breeding place of insect pests.
  • Done before side dressing (fertilizer application).

Integrated Nutrient Management (INM)

a. Base Dressing- Apply either of the following fertilizers before transplanting:

  • Complete fertilizer: 236 kg/ha, 14-14-14
  • Potassium: 245 kg/ha, 0-0-60
  • Chicken manure: 3 t/ha
  • To prevent “burning” mix the fertilizer very well in the soil where the seedlings are to be set before transplanting.

b. Side Dressing- fertilizer applied after weeding inter tillage.

  • Nitrogen: 102 kg/ha, 46-0-0 (Urea)
  • Boron: 1 kg/ha of borax if deficiency shows
  • Molybdenum: 250 g/ha sodium molybdate
  • Fertilizers can be applied as band, ring, liquid feed or foliar
  • Hilling up is done after fertilizer application
  • Delay in the application of side dressed fertilizers (a month or more after transplanting) tend to enhance the production of medium cabbage heads.


Water Management

  • Appropriate time
    Critical period of irrigation are before transplanting, during transplanting and at the start of heading. Maintain field capacity (using light irrigation) throughout the growth duration of the crop. Water stress during its vegetative stage up to the last two weeks before harvest can significantly reduce yield and affects head quality.

  • Frequency
    After transplanting to seedling establishment, provide frequent (daily) but light irrigation. After seedling establishment, reduce frequency (once every two days) but maintain light irrigation because cabbage has dense but shallow root system.

  • Irrigate either by bucket sprinkling, flooding (flat production areas), rain burst sprinkler, drip irrigation and rain fed.

Plant Protection

1. Insect Pests
Diamond-back moth (DBM), cut worm, loopers, etc., are controlled by the following either singly or in combination:

  • Biological - use of other organisms like diadegma, growth regulators;
  • Chemical – Green and yellow labeled chemicals following recommended rate; and
  • Cultural –Thorough land preparation, clean culture and cropping systems.


2. Diseases
Classified and controlled based on causal organisms:

  • Head rot (fungus) - Infected plant decay at the base of non-wrapper leaves which later wilt and become pallid. Soon plants turn brown then black and then decay. Plants are attacked before early head formation and maturity.

  • Clubroot (fungus) - Cause the formation of enlarge ginger-like root system

  • Alternalia blight (fungus) is most destructive during the seedling stage. Plants show spots which appear as small, circular, yellow areas which later produce concentric ridges with black sooty color. Spots on old leaves turn brown and reach 20 to 30 mm in diameter

  • Black rot (bacterium) shows affected tissues turning yellow (chlorosis) and the yellow progresses towards the center of the leaf, usually in V-shape. The infected leaf dehydrates and becomes brittle. Later on abscission layers at the base of the affected leaves may develop early and cause premature and falling-off the leaves

  • Control may be chemical following manufacturer’s recommendation, cultural control like disinfecting implements, soil fumigation (club root), clean culture (proper disposal of diseased plants in the field), seed/soil treatment and crop rotation.


3. Weed Control

  • Field weed free within the first 30 to 45 days after transplanting.
  • Control done by hand weeding or using selective herbicides.
  • Weeds classified as grasses, broad leaves and sedges.

Liming

  • Done if the soil becomes acidic, below soil pH of 6.6.
  • Local liming materials such as Manila lime or Irisan lime can be used.
  • Ashes from burned rice hulls/straws/grasses can be substitute (burning these materials should be avoided if at all possible to prevent environment pollution).
Head Size

Aside from its genetic characteristics, cabbage head size may be controlled or manipulated by the following techniques:
  • Spacing: Close spacing of plants at 25-30 cm on both ways, will encourage smaller or medium heads while wide spacing at 35-45 cm on both ways will encourage bigger heads.

  • Seedling ageing: Seedling that are allowed to stay for more than 40 days in the seedbed before transplanting tend to produce medium to small heads.

  • Delayed fertilization: delayed application of side dress fertilizers tend to enhance the production of medium or small heads. These occur when the crop is fertilized beyond one month.

Harvesting

Harvesting is the process of gathering the crop from the area of production. Index to maturity (ready to harvest when):

  • Head Solidity /firmness - The head is firm and compact. Press the cabbage head with your thumb and if it makes no depression, then the head is compact. Bursting heads are over mature.
  • Full head size - cabbage head fully developed
  • Senescent loose leaves - outer wrapper leaves losing their green color

Time of maturity: 58 - 90 days

Expected yield: 20 to 25 t/ha

Method of harvest: Manual either selective harvesting or one time harvest

Containers used: Bamboo baskets, plastic bags, plastic crates

Post Harvesting

  • Trimming
    Trim diseased, discolored and insect-infested leaves to prevent infecting the healthy ones. Retain 2 to 3 wrapper leaves (to protect the heads from bruises and weight loss) with the head before packing and transporting.

  • Packaging
    Wrap cleaned heads with used newspapers, to keep them fresh, before packing them in plastic cellophane. This will minimize transfer of diseases during transport which will subsequently affect quality and self life of the heads. It will also absorb the excess moisture inside. Pack only healthy heads by discarding diseased ones. Packing materials may include plastic bags, wooden crates or bamboo baskets. Bamboo baskets are lined with newspaper or fresh banana leaves to reduce mechanical damage to cabbage head.

  • Transporting
    Refrigerated vans or bulk transport using open jeepneys or trucks. If containers are used, they should be arranged in the vehicle in a way that will allow free air circulation to prevent deterioration. When the baskets used are not sturdy, provide horizontal platform dividers during loading and stacking in trucks and jeepneys. Without these dividers, the bottom container will carry the weight of the load on the top, damaging the former.

    Avoid the heads to be exposed to too much sunlight. This will minimize severe wilting of the newly harvested heads.

  • Storage
    Cabbage can be stored 4 to 6 months in low temperature (0 degrees centigrade) and high relative humidity (95 to 98%). Cabbage should be wrapped in cling wrap where they should stay fresh for one (1) week. Cabbage may also be canned or frozen. To freeze the cabbages, select only crisp heads and shred them into large pieces. Blanche for 1 minute and pack into freeze bags once cooled. Cabbage should be grown in cool weather to prevent rotting due to hot and humid weather.

Marketing

Marketing is either by contract or by the kilo. It should be done very early in the morning to preserve its freshness. Market price is a major consideration for profit.



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