Sunday, January 6, 2013

Results of the 2012 Pumpkin Variety Trial: by Tom Butzler


Pennsylvania usually ranks somewhere in the top five every year with the number of acres in pumpkin production.  While Illinois is number one in planted pumpkin acreage for the US, almost all of that is for the canned pumpkin market, most of Pennsylvania’s acreage is devoted to the ornamental market.   “I think we had somewhere around 6,500 -7,000 acres in pumpkins this year,” said Dr. Mike Orzolek, Vegetable Specialist with Penn State University, “and our growers had a pretty good year”.

To help growers determine what pumpkin varieties grow best in our area, I conduct a variety trial every year with Dr. Orzolek. We typically look at a range of pumpkin sizes from small to large, although there seems to be more and more acreage devoted to medium sized pumpkins. 

Yield in terms of fruit numbers and weight is always important but it is the beauty of the future porch decoration that is most important.  Although somewhat objective (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) we try to evaluate the pumpkins for color (I like the deep orange), shape, texture (is it deeply ribbed or smooth), and stem quality.

While one could argue about color preference or shape (some like perfectly round pumpkins while others like tall ones), there is very little disagreement on stem issues.  A good stem must be green, (brown stems usually indicate some disease issues during the growing season) stout, and strong.  People pick pumpkins up by the stem and they need to be able to handle the abuse as they are carried around.

The perceived shift toward more and more acreage for medium pumpkins is reflected in the numbers of mediums in our trial in which seed companies submitted sixteen varieties for us to evaluate. Some were recently released named varieties while others are still numbered and being evaluated by the seed companies for overall performance in our trial and others.


Progress - 2012 Penn State Pumpkin Variety Trial

The one that intrigued me the most in the medium category was ‘Progress’, a pumpkin with some powdery mildew resistance, from Outstanding Seed Company.  Our plots almost averaged 4 fruit per plant in which each fruit weighed right around 10 pounds.  It was somewhat of a flat round shape with a nice orange color but it was the stem that set it off.  The stem was a dark green, but long and twisting which set if off from the other mediums in the trial.




Twelve varieties were evaluated in the large category and it was a toss-up between Abbott and Cobb’s numbered variety ACR 1132 and Outstanding Seed Company’s Apogee.  ‘ACR1132’ averaged about 40 pounds per pumpkin and was the most uniform of all the varieties trialed out.  Each orange, tall oblong 'ACR1132’ pumpkin looked very similar to the other ACR1132 pumpkins- very little variability from one pumpkin to the next.  The only knock I had on this one was the stem; it could have been a bit longer.  ‘Apogee’ was similar in color and shape to ‘ACR 1132’ but somewhat smaller at around 30 pounds per pumpkin, however; the stems were of better quality.

Apogee - 2012 Penn State Pumpkin Variety Trial

ACR 1032 - 2012 Penn State Pumpkin Variety Trial

 Only six small varieties were trialed out.  I couldn’t decide what I liked best; Johnny’s Selected Seed entry of ‘JPN 61571’ or Abbot and Cobb’s ‘ACR 1033’. They were both very similar in orange color and very good stems.  ACR 1033 was just a little bit of a ‘flat round’ and weighed about six pounds whereas ‘JPN 61571’ was very round at about four pounds.  

ACR 1033 - 2012 Penn State Pumpkin Variety Trial

JPN61571 - 2012 Penn State Pumpkin Variety Trial
I didn’t need to worry about exercise that week as I figured I picked 1,359 pumpkins at 22, 890 pounds.  You also need to figure in the fact that after each pumpkin was picked and placed at the row front; it had to be eventually placed on a scale and removed from the scale, back to the ground. Needless to say, ibuprofen and I were friends for several days.

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