This page provides a single source compilation of various reports, graphs and data about pumpkin production to assist the mass media (journalist, magazine and newspaper writers, tv/radio reports) and farmers who may be considering growing pumpkins commercially in analysis. If your looking for Halloween information, see this page of current Halloween facts and statistics)
In 2005, Illinois was number one among the top five
pumpkin producing states, with almost 4.97 million pounds, followed by
California with almost 1.6 million pounds, Ohio with 1.33 million
pounds, Pennsylvania with 1.31 million pounds and Michigan with 854
The top five states for value of pumpkin production in 2005 were Ohio with $26.1 million, New York at $21.9 million, Pennsylvania at $16.2 million, Illinois with slightly over $16 million and California with nearly $14.4 million
The next graph shows the total U.S. pumpkin crop production annually for years 2001 through 2006. The source of this data is the US Department of Agriculture. ("Crops and Plants"->"Fruits"->"Pumpkins"->Search). This graph shows that production was steady until 2004 when it increased by 20% and has held steady since then.
Every year since 2004 there have been regional difficulties. A frost, drought, flooding rains, pests or even deer damaging crops. Areas affected by Katrina (August 25, 2005) reduce that year's crop. Katrina wiped them out and many farms left the business not to return. 2007 heavy rains in the Midwest and Texas affected those crops.
As the large chain stores put more of the national crop under contract, there is much less available in bulk or wholesale for smaller operations; such as local festivals and pumpkin fundraisers. Many churches and community organizations use pumpkin patches and Christmas tree sales to help raise money for their organizations. If they are forced to buy their pumpkins at retail prices, it dramatically reduces their income. This creates an opportunity for more farmers to get into the business. Add to this the popularity of Halloween (it is actually a global phenomenon: it's become very popular in Japan and France, for example), which has raised the overall demand for pumpkins against a reduced supply.
Pumpkins do have the advantage of tolerating most soil types and many climates. They just don't do well is very sandy soils, under water or when pests (such as borers) are prevalent. They also require a long growing season, and cannot tolerate any frost. This makes them a bit less advantageous as a succession crop, except preceding a winter green cover crop and following a Spring (June-bearing) strawberry crop (or similar). Many pick-your-own farms plant strawberries (notably "Chandler") in the Fall, open a pyo strawberry field in April to June, then plow the strawberries under to plant pumpkins for an October crop and pumpkin patch.
Squashes prefer a well-drained sandy loam with high organic matter and a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. The Cooperative Extension Service or a soil-testing laboratory can provide nutrient recommendations based on soil tests. Conventional production recommendations (when soil-test results are not available) are to apply 50 pounds N, 100 pounds P2O5, and 100 pounds K2O per acre before planting, with two additional applications of 25 pounds N and 80 pounds K per acre at 3 and 6 weeks. Should you wish to convert these standard recommendations to organic fertilizer rates, visit the site from the University of Georgia Circular 853 How to Convert an Inorganic Fertilizer Recommendation to an Organic One. That is a useful point as more consumers are willing to pay for organic crops, although, since large decorative pumpkins are rarely eaten, the value of the organic proposition would be greatest in the edible varieties and for those farmers opening their fields for direct consumer pick-your-own pumpkin patch sales.
Pumpkins are warm-season annuals, preferring 75° to 86° F daytime and 64° F nighttime temperatures. The seeds germinate most rapidly when the soil temperature is 86° F. Winter squash and pumpkins can be direct-seeded as soon as the soil temperature reaches 60° F. They need 90 to 120 frost-free days to reach maturity. Plastic mulches of various colors can be used to increase the soil temperature and speed early-season plant growth.
The worst pests are squash bugs, cucumber beetles and squash vine borers. Of these, the worst is the borer: a fat, 1-inch-long, brown-headed white caterpillar, the larva of a ¾-inch-long moth with dark front wings, clear hind wings, and a red abdomen. The moths lay single eggs in late spring or early summer along the stem near the base of a vine. The larvae emerge in about a week and bore holes to enter the stem. Evidence of borer activity are the small hole and a pile of tan or greenish sawdust (excrement) beneath the hole. The vine wilts suddenly and dies.
For some organic solutions to these pests, see:
Other Pumpkin Growing Resources:
Free Guide from Penn State: Agricultural Production of Pumpkins
Here are some of the most popular Halloween costumes for children this year. For more choices, see our Halloween costumes pages.
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