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South Africa : Breeding hybrid pumpkin

General information
Project location: Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Consortium: Gebroeders Bakker Zaadteelt & Zaadhandel B.V (Bakker Brothers), Klein Karoo Seed Marketing Ltd
Project Budget: Euro 1,461,916
External financing: 50% grant funding by PSOM
Project period: July 2008 – June 2011

Pumpkin and squash are widely grown throughout Africa. International trade in these products is minimal, but at national level fruits and also seeds and leaves (for consumption as a vegetable) are important products on the local markets. African consumers value the fruit for its long storage capacity and high nutritious value. The key to the cultivation of a good pumpkin crop is the use of healthy and improved seed. The range of fungal, viral and bacterial diseases that attack pumpkin in Africa is broad. Prevention and control of pumpkin diseases requires the availability of healthy seeds of improved cultivars that have resistance to the most important diseases. High yielding improved cultivars of pumpkin that are resistant against these prevailing diseases are currently however not available. Commercial pumpkin growers in South Africa and elsewhere in southern and eastern Africa have to use either seeds derived from old open-pollinated varieties cultivars or hybrids imported from Australia or New Zealand.

Growth potential for pumpkin yields and consumption is considerable, but its realisation requires first of all improved high yielding varieties that are adapted to the growing conditions in tropical and sub-tropical Africa. In response to this wide spread demand, the project partners Bakker Brothers and Klein Karoo Seed will set up a new business venture with the objective to realise the first Hybrid pumpkin breeding facility in South Africa with Hybrids destined and appropriate for the Southern and Eastern African markets. The project partners will invest in greenhouses with irrigation equipment for winter cultivation, and a seed processing and storage warehouse with the appropriate fruit cleaning, seed cleaning and seed treatment equipment. Black empowerment through ownership is institutionalized in this project through the distribution of 20% of the shares to black employees under an Employee Ownership Scheme.

Initially 5 hectares will be planted with pumpkin seed material procured from all main production areas in the world in order to secure a wide genetic base. Inbreeding and crossings are closely cared for and supported by trained local staff and international breeders. With the assistance of a specialised laboratory the pumpkin DNA-structure will be mapped for specific characteristics (particularly disease resistance for powdery mildew and mosaic virus as well as fruit colour). From thereon, 3 crossings per year will be performed and evaluated, eventually leading to the selection of the most promising parent lines. After seven generations the first four pure parent lines will be ready for F1 Hybrid production and registration of the breeders’ rights. The commercial release of the first South African F1 pumpkin hybrids will take place in 2011. Prior to the release, demonstrations in farmers’ fields and at the pumpkin breeding station will take place to inform farmers on the improved qualities and yield potentials of the hybrid pumpkin cultivars and to attract interest of seed distribution and marketing companies to start stocking the hybrid pumpkin cultivars.

The project will create direct employment for over 40 persons. Once the Joint Ventures start to contract farmers as seed growers for the production of the Hybrids, the multiplying effect in field workers is very large. Approximately, one will need around 6 semi-skilled fieldworkers per hectare to produce the Hybrids. Hence, during the two years spin off phase, the project will indirectly generate another 1175 additional jobs.

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