COMMERCIAL VEGETABLE PRODUCTION

Course CodeBHT222
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Grow Vegetables for Small or Large Scale Commercial Farming

Vegetables have the advantage of giving a relatively quick return. Most vegetables only take 6 weeks to 6 months between planting and harvesting. However, vegetables can be a gamble. Prices can change overnight. You might hope to sell your crop at a reasonable price, but you can't count on it ... you sometimes make a lot out of a crop ... other times you lose! When growing vegetables it is essential to be sure you know and keep in tune with the market place
 
Once you understand the specific cultural needs of a range of vegetables it is easier to determine which plants are best suited to your region, your farm, and your finances.

With commonly grown vegetables, better returns are often obtained if your crop is grown to mature early or late in the season. Less commonly grown vegetable varieties can offer good returns. However, the potential market for rarer products should be researched before establishing an expensive production run.

 
 

Lesson Structure

  1. Introduction to Vegetable Growing
    • Making the farm Pay
    • Understanding economic principles -supply and demand, scale of economy, etc.
    • Planning for the farm
    • Production planning
    • Financial planning and management
    • Land care and land management
    • Marketing
    • Personal welfare
    • Risk management -spreading risk, quality management, contingency planning, liquidity
    • Creating a sustainable farm enterprise
    • Planning for sustainability
    • Planning for drought
    • Crop selection
    • Monocultures
    • Alternating crops, broadacre or row crops
    • Growing Brassicas -Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Pak Choi, Broccoli, Radish, Turnip
    • Growing Legumes -Beans, Broad Beans, Peas
    • Growing Lettuce, Onions, Potatoes
  2. Cultural Practices for Vegetables
    • Explain general cultural practices used for vegetable production.
    • Crop rotation
    • Soils
    • Plant foods
    • Cover Crops
    • Legumes and inoculation
    • Growing various cover crops -Barley, Buckwheat, Canola, Lucerne, Field pea, Lupins, Oats, Sorghum, Clover, etc.
    • Ways of using a cover crop
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Compost
    • Crop Scheduling
    • Planting Vegetables -seed, hybrid seed, storing seed, sowing seed
    • Understanding Soils
    • Dealing with Soil Problems
    • Plant nutrition and feeding
  3. Pest, Disease & Weed Control
    • Weed control -hand weeding, mechanical, chemical and biological weed control methods
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Nonchemical pest control
    • Understanding Pesticide labels
    • Understanding the law in relation to agricultural chemicals
    • Plant Pathology introduction
    • Understanding Fungi
    • Understanding insects, virus, and other pathogens
    • Insect control -quarantine, clean farming, chemicals, biological controls
    • Review of common diseases
    • Review common pests
    • Review common environmental problems
    • Review common weeds
  4. Hydroponic and Greenhouse Growing
    • Introduction to hydroponics
    • Types of systems
    • Nutrient solutions
    • NFT and other systems for vegetable production
    • Growing in a greenhouse (in the ground or hydroponics)
    • Components of a Greenhouse System
    • Types of Greenhouses and common greenhouse designs (venlo, mansard, wide span, multi-span, polytunnel, Sawtooth, Retractable roof, etc)
    • Shade houses, Cold Frames
    • Environmental Control -heating, ventilation, lighting, etc
    • Controlling moisture (misting, fog, etc)
    • Review of various vegetables -Cucurbits (Cucumber, Melon, Pumpkin, Watermelon, Zucchini)
  5. Growing Selected Vegetable Varieties
    • Determine specific cultural practices for selected vegetable varieties.
    • Tropical Vegetables - Sweet Potato and Taro
    • Less common vegetables - Globe Artichoke, Jerusalem Artichoke, Asparagus, Chicory, Endive, Garlic, Leek, Okra, Rhubarb
    • Other Crops -Beetroot (Red Beet), Capsicum, Carrot, Celery, Sweet Corn, Eggplant, Parsnip, Spinach
  6. Irrigation
    • Water and Irrigation
    • Infiltration
    • Internal Drainage
    • Flood, Sprinkler and Trickle irrigation
    • The objective of irrigation
    • Transpiration and Wilting Point
    • When to irrigate Timing irrigations
    • Detecting water deficiency or excess
    • Understanding soil moisture
    • Pumps, sprinklers and other equipment
    • Water hammer
    • Improving Drainage
    • Managing erosion
  7. Harvest & Post-Harvest
    • Introduction to harvesting
    • Post-harvest treatment of vegetables
    • Cooling harvested produce
    • Harvesting tips
    • Storing vegetables
  8. Marketing Vegetables
    • Introduction
    • Standards for cost efficiency, quality, and quantity
    • Options for Marketing Produce
    • Market Research
    • How to sell successfully

Aims

  • Select appropriate vegetable varieties for different situations.
  • Explain general cultural practices used for vegetable production.
  • Explain the management of potential problems in vegetable production, including:
    • pests
    • diseases
    • weeds
    • environmental disorders
  • Explain alternative cultural techniques, including greenhouse and hydroponic production, for vegetables.
  • Determine specific cultural practices for selected vegetable varieties.
  • Determine the harvesting, and post-harvest treatment of different vegetables.
  • Develop marketing strategies for different vegetables

What You Will Do

  • Here are just some of the things you will be doing:
  • Compile a resource file of forty sources of information regarding vegetable varieties.
  • Describe the classification of different vegetables into major groups.
  • Prepare an herbarium collection of twenty-five different vegetable varieties.
  • Determine three appropriate cultivars from each of five different species of vegetables to be grown on a specified site.
  • Prepare a planting schedule of vegetable varieties, to be planted over a twelve month period, in your locality.
  • Differentiate between soil management practices for ten different vegetable varieties.
  • Explain the establishment of vegetables by seed.
  • Explain how to establish three different vegetables from seedlings.
  • Prepare a table or chart showing the planting distances, and planting depth of seed for different vegetable varieties.
  • Describe the application of pruning techniques to the production of vegetables.
  • Prepare a crop schedule (ie. production timetable) for a specified vegetable crop.
  • Prepare a pressed weed collection of different weeds.
  • Differentiate between eight different specific techniques for weed control in vegetable crops, including different chemical and different non-chemical methods.
  • Determine pest and disease problems common to ten different specified types of vegetables.
  • Identify appropriate control methods for the pest and disease problems you determined (above).
  • Develop pest and disease control programs, for the lifespans of different vegetables.
  • Determine the environmental disorders occurring with vegetable crops inspected by you.
  • Explain the methods that can be used to prevent and/or overcome different environmental disorders affecting vegetables.
  • Determine the potential benefits of greenhouse vegetable production.
  • Differentiate between the characteristics of different types of greenhouses.
  • Compare vegetable growing applications for different environmental control mechanisms used in greenhouses, including:
    • Different types of heaters
    • Shading
    • Lighting
    • Different types of coolers
    • Vents
    • Fans
  • Describe how a specified commercial vegetable crop might be grown in a greenhouse.
  • Compare vegetable growing applications for major types of hydroponic systems
    • Open and closed systems
    • Aggregate
    • Water
    • Aeroponic culture
  • Determine reasons for choosing to grow vegetables in hydroponics rather than in the open ground.
  • Explain how a specified vegetable can be grown in an hydroponic system.
  • Determine commercially viable varieties suited to growing in a specified locality, from each of the following different types of vegetables:
    • Brassicas
    • Cucurbits
    • Tomatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Onions
    • Potatoes
    • Legumes
  • Determine specific cultural requirements for growing different vegetable varieties .
  • Describe the culture of less commonly grown vegetables.
  • Produce a log book, recording all work undertaken to grow a crop of eight different vegetable varieties.
  • Describe different harvesting methods, including both manual and mechanical techniques, used in vegetable production.
  • Identify the appropriate stage of growth at which different types of vegetables should be harvested.
  • Evaluate commonly used harvesting techniques of vegetables.
  • Evaluate four commonly used post-harvest treatments of vegetables.
  • Determine post-harvest treatments to slow the deterioration of different specified vegetables.
  • Develop guidelines for post-harvest handling, during storage, transportation, and marketing.
  • Analyse vegetable marketing systems in your locality.
  • Explain the importance of produce standards to marketing in different vegetable marketing systems.
  • Explain the impact of quarantine regulations on the transport of different types of vegetables, in your locality.
  • Explain an appropriate procedure for packaging a specified vegetable for long distance transport.
  • Develop marketing strategies for three different specified vegetables.

TIPS FOR GROWING SELECTED NICHE VEGETABLE CROPS

Artichoke (Cynaria scolymus - Globe Artichoke): Asteraceae
Growing conditions:
• These are perennial plants which need moist conditions both in the air and root environments
• They do not tolerate extreme temperatures and hot, dry conditions reduce the tenderness of the crop.
Nutrient requirements:
• Plants require higher than average potassium levels
• Ideal pH is 6.5 to 7.5.
Suitable Growing Methods:
• Hydroponics: perlite at 25cm depth or greater gives good results
• Raised soil beds.
Planting:
• Propagate from stem cuttings or offshoots containing roots
• Seed grown plants give unreliable crops
• Replant after 5 years
• Space plants at around 1 metre intervals.
Special cultural techniques:
• Frost protection and summer shading are needed
• Normally, cut back hard after harvest in late spring or summer.
Problems:
• Water stress causes bud to not be compact
• Pest problems can include rodents, snails, slugs, leaf miners, caterpillars, and aphids
• Disease problems can include fusarium wilt, botrytis, and viruses.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• The swollen, immature flower bud is harvested continuously from late autumn to late spring
• Harvest when buds reach the preferred size
• These plants produce the best crops in the 2nd and 3rd years.
 
 
Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus - Jerusalem Artichoke): Asteraceae
Growing conditions:
• These plants do not tolerate extremely hot conditions, although they can do well in tropical climates if shaded
• They require temperatures between 19 and 27° Celsius.
Nutrient requirements:
• Ideal pH is 6.5
• They are sensitive to higher than normal levels of boron
• Nutrient requirements are as for globe artichoke but much higher levels of phosphorus are needed.
Suitable growing methods:
• Hydroponics: plants grow very well in aggregate culture (particularly sand)
• They are not suited to Rockwool or water culture
• Perlite at a minimum depth of 25cm gives good results
• They can be field grown in raised beds.
Planting:
• Plant divisions at 35 40cm apart in late winter.
Special cultural techniques:
• Provide shade in very hot weather
• Pull the media up around the stems periodically as the plant grows so as to ensure that the tubers are well covered
• Remove flowering shoots.
Problems:
• Fungal rots, particularly Sclerotium rolfsii, are difficult to control once they attack
• Pests are rarely serious.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• Harvest 3 to 4 months after planting when the foliage dies down.
 
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis): Liliaceae
Growing conditions:
• Asparagus grows best at temperatures between 15 and 25° Celsius
• They require a deep, well aerated medium.
Nutrient requirements:
• Asparagus is a heavy feeder
• Phosphorus and potassium should be maintained at high levels
• Ideal pH is 6.0 to 6.8
• Plants have a high boron requirement.
Suitable Growing Methods:
• Asparagus needs to be planted deeply
• Beds must consist of a loose soil or medium to at least 30cm deep.
Planting:
• Plants can be propagated by seed or division
• Seedlings take 2 3 years before the first harvest
• Lift seedlings during the dormant period (winter), trim roots, cut off remains of old leaf stalks, and store in moistened peat moss until the buds begin to swell (late winter/early spring). Then transplant into a permanent position spacing the plants 15cm apart.
Special cultural techniques:
• Intercropping can be conducted in the first 2 years whilst the plants are establishing.
Problems:
• Occasionally aphids, whitefly, and caterpillars can be a minor problem
• Insect damage is rarely serious
• There are relatively few fungal problems. In some places crops are sprayed with copper fungicides (e.g. Bordeaux or Kocide) to prevent fungal diseases.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• Cut spears at or below the ground level before the buds burst open
• The yield per unit area is relatively low making asparagus less suitable for commercial hydroponics than other vegetable crops.
 
Chicory (Cichorium intybus): Asteraceae
Chicory may be grown in two different ways:
1) By producing a leafy head in spring from sprouting roots which were kept under the soil during the winter months.
2) By producing large heads (like a lettuce) during autumn.
Growing conditions:
• Chicory likes a well-drained soil with a moderate amount of compost and a sunny position
• Sprouting crowns: keep at 13 to 15.5° Celsius planted in pots in total darkness until the shoots are approximately 18cm tall, then harvest.
Nutrient requirements:
• Use a general all-purpose fertiliser before sowing
• Ideal pH is 5.5 to 6.0.
Planting:
• Plant roots between winter and spring, leaving the crown exposed.  Cover the exposed crown with a large pot to keep away all light
• To produce lettuce-like heads in autumn takes about 18 30 weeks from planting to harvest.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• Harvested shoots which are thoroughly blanched have the best flavour
• Flavour deteriorates as the harvested shoots turn green.
 
Endive (Cichorium endiva):  Asteraceae
Growing conditions:
• Endives have similar growing conditions to chicory.
Nutrient requirements:
• As for chicory
• Ideal pH is around 5.5.
Suitable Growing Methods:
• Hydroponics: NFT pipe systems have given good results
• Aggregate culture has also been successful
• Raised beds can be used, preferably with a light sandy loam.
Planting:
• Similar to lettuce.
Special cultural techniques:
• They can be blanched by tying leaves up to stop light reaching the centre or 'heart' of the plant
• Blanching reduces the bitterness of the crop.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• Cut at ground level and remove outer green leaves at harvest. 
 
 
Garlic (Allium sativum): Amaryllidaceae
Growing conditions:
• This is a cool season crop and is best planted in late autumn or early spring
• Cooler temperatures are needed to achieve a fast growth rate
• Higher summer temperatures are needed to initiate bulb or clove formation.
Nutrient requirements:
• Similar to onions
• Ideal pH is 6.0.
Suitable growing methods:
• Hydroponics: most types of aggregate are successful with a minimum 10cm depth.
• Can be grown in raised soil beds.
Planting:
• Divide and plant cloves in spring.
Problems:
• Aphids can attack foliage
• Fungal rots can attack roots and cloves in overly wet conditions.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• Lift autumn planted crops in early autumn, and spring planted crops in late autumn. It can take up to 10 months from planting to harvest.
• Store in a dry, dark place after harvest.
 
Leek (Allium ampeloprasum): Amaryllidaceae
Growing conditions:
• These are similar to onions but leeks are a cool season crop which is planted in summer for winter maturity.
Nutrient requirements:
• Leeks are heavy feeders needing frequent applications of nutrients
• Phosphorus is most important followed by nitrogen and then potassium
• Ideal pH is 6.5 to 7.0.
Suitable systems:
• Plants are suitable in raised beds or hydroponic aggregate culture.
Planting:
• Sow seed into propagating mix or Rockwool propagation blocks and then transplant into a permanent position.
Special cultural techniques:
• Cutting the taproot will reduce the chance of plants going to seed in warm conditions
• They can be blanched by placing a collar on the stem or by tying paper around it.
Problems:
• Similar to onions.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
It takes approximately six to seven months from planting to harvest.
 
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus): Malvaceae
Growing conditions:
• These plants need good aeration and drainage
• They also require frequent irrigations
• Plants need ample warmth (around 24 to 26° Celsius).
Nutrient requirements:
• A good nitrogen supply important
• Okra is a heavy feeder
• Ideal pH is 6.5.
Suitable Growing Methods:
• On a trellis in a raised bed or well-drained position
• Hydroponics: NFT has been used to grow okra successfully.
Planting:
• Soak the seeds in water for 2 days before sowing.
Special cultural techniques:
• Plants require a support system.
Problems:
• Verticillium wilt is a particularly serious problem. Several other fungal diseases can occur including fusarium wilt and some leaf spot fungi
• Aphids and a number of other insect pests may present a problem.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• Harvest daily starting 8 to 10 weeks after planting
• If pods are allowed to stay on the plant after they attain full size (i.e. 10 to 15cm long) then the quality deteriorates fast
• On harvest, rapid cool and store at 7 to 10° Celsius and 90% humidity. Lower temperatures can injure fruits.
Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum): Polygonaceae
Growing conditions:
• Temperatures below 25° Celsius
• The root environment should be well aerated but with a constant supply of water and nutrient.
Nutrient requirements:
• Nutrition must be maintained at reasonable levels at all times
• Phosphorus is particularly important
• Ideal pH is 5.5 to 6.0.
Suitable growing methods:
• Rhubarb can be grown in any well-drained position.
Planting:
• Plant so that the crowns barely appear above the surface of the soil
• Rhubarb can be propagated by division.
Special cultural techniques:
• Shading is sometimes used to produce crops in warmer weather.
Problems:
• Frost and a few fungal rot diseases are the only major problems.
Harvest and Post-Harvest:
• 
When leaves turn down on the leaf stem they should be removed by pulling gently from the plant (do not cut)
• Stems are eaten but the leaf is poisonous.

 

WHY STUDY THIS COURSE?

If you are serious about growing vegetables commercially you need a solid background - both practical skills and theory. The underpinning knowledge covered in this course will help you to set up a profitable and viable vegetable growing concern.

Our tutors are there to help you through your course - they are all professional horticulturists with years of industry experience. Our tutors are dedicated to facilitating your learning by supporting you on a one to one basis.

Learn from professionals!

 

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