Growing pumpkins comes with risks in New Jersey
New Jersey farmers planted 1,500 acres of pumpkins throughout the State in 2020, according to the USDA.
With a valued production in excess of $7.8 million, pumpkins are among the top 12 vegetables grown in the state.
William Errickson, Rutgers Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Monmouth County said pumpkin farmers in New Jersey are faced with several potential sources of damage to their crops this year.
Deer, the striped cucumber beetle, and powdery mildew are three items that pumpkin farmers need to deal with in New Jersey.
“One of the biggest problems that NJ pumpkin growers face is white-tailed deer damage,” said Errickson. “Deer populations are very high throughout the state and they can cause significant damage to a pumpkin crop just prior to harvest, when the fruits are approaching maturity.
Deer will either bite into the pumpkins and consume them, or cause damage to the rinds, making the pumpkins unmarketable.
Total crop losses can occur due to deer damage.
High-tensile wire fencing or electric fencing are the only ways to exclude deer from a field, though this approach may not be practical for some operations.”
An insect that causes damage to the pumpkin crop is the striped cucumber beetle.
“Striped cucumber beetles can damage seedlings, spread disease, and chew on maturing fruits,” according to Errickson.
Crop rotation can help to keep striped cucumber populations to a minimum.
Using row covers to exclude the cucumber beetles until the pumpkins start flowering is also an effective non-chemical approach.”
According to a Rutgers University report, “the beetle is about one-quarter inch with dark head and antennae and with three black stripes down the elytra alternating with two yellow stripes.
There are two generations a year in New Jersey.
As the plants mature cucumber beetles pose less of a threat to the plants except for the spread of bacterial wilt.”
Other primary insect pests affecting the pumpkin crop, as detailed in this report from Rutgers University, included spotted cucumber beetles and squash bugs.
Secondary insect pests that impact pumpkin farmers included green peach aphids, melon aphids, two-spotted spider mites and pickleworms.
In addition to animals and insects, disease can affect the growth of pumpkins in New Jersey.
“Powdery mildew is a very common fungal disease that affects pumpkins,” Errickson continued. “This disease slowly kills the leaves, which weakens the plant and exposes the fruit to sunscald injury. Powdery mildew also affects the stems of pumpkins, making them brittle and more easily damaged.
“Planting disease resistant pumpkin cultivars will greatly help to reduce powdery mildew damage.”
(The Delmarva Jordbruk Chronicles is a news column that details agriculture in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. “Jordbruk” is Swedish for “Agriculture.” Please contact Richard McDonough at email@example.com. © 2021 Richard McDonough.)