Increased plant density and shade affects flowering and fruiting of pumpkin (C. pepo)
Wien, H C
Nyankanga, R O
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Increase in plant density often results in reduction in reproductive potential of individual plants in cucurbits. The reduction may be due to reduced female flower production or a reduction or a delay in fruit set or to decreased fruit size. To determine the cause of the reduction, flowering, and fruiting of two pumpkin cultivars was evaluated in four field experiments under four plant densities ranging from 4483 plants/ha to 23,910 plants/ha and in a greenhouse using three levels of shade. Weekly flower and flower bud counts were made in the field experiment starting at first anthesis. Flowers were determined to have either set or aborted or not have reached anthesis. Increasing plant population from 4483 plants/ha to 23,910 plants/ha resulted in an increase in number of flowers per unit area up to 11,955 plants/ha, beyond which there was a steep decline. Increased plant density also resulted in an increase in aborted female flower buds that did not reach anthesis. Increase in plant density only reduced fruit set at very high populations. Number of fruits per area increased linearly with plant density up to 11,955 plants/ha, but decreased at higher plant populations. Reducing incident light by 30%, 60%, and 80% in a greenhouse experiment resulted in reduction of both male and female flowers. At 80% shade, there was a complete suppression of female flowers, whereas male flowers were still being produced. The number of female flowers reaching anthesis was positively correlated with total shoot dry weight while floral buds and male flowers were not. Reduction of individual plant biomass under high-density plantings might therefore be limiting female flower production and yield.