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Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada
Oilseed pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo pepo Styriaca) have hulless seeds containing 40-50% oil. The crop can produce 0.5-1.4 tonnes/hectare of seeds, which are high in essential fatty acids and Vitamin E. They can be used whole or processed into oil, which contains higher levels of antioxidants than extra virgin olive oil, or oil from walnuts, hemp or sunflowers.
Researchers for the Organic Science Cluster of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada are studying the organic cultivation of oilseed pumpkins -- the best varieties, weed management and fertility requirements.
A spacing of 1-1.5 plants/m2 is ideal. Plants can be 1.5-2 m apart in a row with the widest possible spacing between rows. When plants are too dense, the number of fruit per plant is reduced.
To reduce wind damage to the large-leafed plants, growers can provide wind breaks or plant in sheltered locations. Floating row covers can provide additional warmth and protect seedlings from pests. The covers should be removed before flowering.
Another method is to sow a cover crop (e.g., a cereal with a legume) in the fall or spring before planting. Incorporate the cover crop at least a month before, or flail just before, planting pumpkins. Another option is to transplant seedlings into black plastic mulch.
Once the crop is established but before the vines run, the crop can be cultivated, and a straw mulch applied or living mulch planted.
Care during growing season
Pumpkins and related cucurbits should not be planted in the same location more than once every 4-5 years. Crop rotation and providing habitat for beneficial organisms helps prevent many pest and disease problems. However, to avoid the zucchini yellow mosaic virus, it is critical to have clean seed and reduce infestations of pests (e.g., aphids and striped cucumber beetles which spread the virus). Aphids and striped cucumber beetles are deterred by floating row covers, neem oil and reflective mulches (e.g. aluminum-coated or silver plastic). The beetles can also be controlled by Surround, a kaolin clay product, floating row covers, vacuuming and using other cucurbits as trap crops.
To reduce problems with powdery mildew and other fungal diseases, provide adequate air circulation, avoid overwatering, spray milk on plants and/or treat plants with Serenade (Bacillus subtilis).
The crops can be stored for several months at 10-13°C at a relative humidity of 50-70%. Dry the seeds until their moisture content drops to 8-10%.
© 2012, Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada (OACC)