Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 13, Issue 1 - June, 2020

Yield and Handle Quality of Twenty-One Carving Pumpkin Varieties

Butzler, T. , Horticulture Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension
Sánchez, E.S., Professor, Pennsylvania State University
Elkner, T.E., Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
Lamont Jr., W., Professor, retired, Pennsylvania State University
Pollock, R., Extension Educator, Penn State Extension

ABSTRACT

We evaluated 21 varieties of 15-25 lb orange, smooth-faced pumpkins at 3 Pennsylvania locations in 2016-17 to provide farmers with recommendations for selecting carving pumpkins. Based on yield, no variety was consistently different than the standard ‘Gladiator’ with weight ranging from 13-27 lbs. Handle (peduncle) quality was assessed on a 5-point scale, with 5 being highest. Based on handle quality, all varieties except ‘Camaro’ (2.6), ‘Spartan’ (2.3), and ‘Challenger’ (2.3) are recommended as they were lower than ‘Gladiator’ (3.3). Based on these results, farmers have many high yielding options for carving pumpkin cultivars and may consider growing a combination of varieties with different ornamental qualities to accommodate consumer preference.


Introduction

Pumpkins are a unique vegetable crop in that they are grown not only for consumption, but also for their ornamental characteristics. All U.S. states produce some pumpkins for commercial markets but in 2012, about half were grown in just six states and about 80 percent were grown in just 16 states (U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2017). Illinois is the largest producer, harvesting two to four times as many pumpkin acres as any of the other top states. It should be noted that most of these pumpkins are grown for the processing market for use in products including baby food and puree. In Pennsylvania, 6,871 acres were devoted to pumpkins on 1,305 farms in 2017, ranking second and first in the nation, respectively (USDA, 2017) with the majority destined for the ornamental market as carved pumpkins.

About 70% of Americans planned to celebrate Halloween in 2018 (Statista, 2019) with 45% planning to carve a jack-o-lantern (National Retail Federation [NRF], 2018), slightly down from 46% in 2017 (NRF, 2017). Carving pumpkins are available in many sizes with most in the range of 10 lb to 50 lb. They are typically rounded in shape with variations resulting in some being oblong. There can be differences in the degree of ribbing on the fruit with a preference to various shades of orange although yellow, white, and pink are available. Customers wanting a quality carving pumpkin are advised to pay attention to handle (peduncle) quality (Boeckmann, 2018).

Farmers growing carving pumpkins have numerous varieties to select from on traits such as fruit quality, yield, and disease resistance. It is not uncommon for a variety to perform well in one region or state and poorly in another. This can make selection time-consuming and leave farmers unsure about how new varieties will perform on their farms. In a participant survey at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, 70% of respondents (n=139) stated that variety trials were important to very important for their success (Butzler et al., unpublished data). Seventy-two percent also stated that it was important to very important that variety trials be conducted in areas like theirs. 

We evaluated 21 varieties of 15-25 lb orange, smooth-faced pumpkins in 2016-17 at three locations, using varying production practices, to provide farmers with recommendations for selecting carving pumpkins. Top rated varieties can be considered widely adaptable to the Mid-Atlantic region as they exhibited consistent yields and quality regardless of site, year, and production methods.

 

Methods

Twenty-one pumpkin varieties (Table 1) were grown in conventional systems in 2016-17 in southwestern Pennsylvania at Yarnick’s Farm in Indiana (lat. 40°39'30.9"N, long 79°16'05.4"W), in central Pennsylvania at the Russell E. Larson Research and Education Center in Pennsylvania Furnace (lat. 40°42’45.04”N, long 77° 57’12.44”W), and in southeastern Pennsylvania at the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Manheim (lat. 40° 07’05.11”N, long 76° 25’45.69”W). Locations were selected to represent major production areas across the state representing different soil types and climatic conditions (Table 2).

 

Table 1. Varieties, seed sources, maturity date of cultivars evaluated at three locations in Pennsylvania in 2016-17.

Variety

Source

Maturity1

Early King2

Abbot & Cobb, Feasterville, PA

90

Ares

Harris Moran Seed Co., Davis, CA

115

Gladiator

115

Kratos

100

Magic Lantern

110

Magic Wand

115

Rhea

105

Zeus

110

Camaro

Hollar Seeds, Rocky Ford, CO

110

Challenger

100

Hannibal

Hybrid Seed Co., Feastervillle, PA

105

Cargo

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Winslow, ME

100

Orange Rave

Rupp Seeds Inc., Wauseon, OH

105

Solid Gold

100

Bayhorse Gold

100

Eagle City Gold

100

Gold Challenge

105

Earlipak

Sakata Seed America, Morgan Hill, CA

95

Honky Tonk

105

Mr. Wrinkles

100

Spartan

100

1Based on seed catalogs, days from planting to harvest

2All seed were FarMore treated.

 

 

Table 2. First and last frost dates for three locations in Pennsylvania.

Location

USDA Hardiness Zone1

Average Last Spring Frost

Average First Fall Frost

Southwestern Pennsylvania

6a

June 1-102

October 1-103

Central Pennsylvania

6b

May 14

October 114

Southeastern Pennsylvania

7a

April 114

November 14

1USDA, 2012
2Plant Maps, 2019b
3Plant Maps, 2019a
4NWS, 2012

 

 

Each site used different production systems. The southwestern site production methods were determined by the farmer cooperator: a raised bed system, six feet apart center-to-center, three feet in-row spacing, and without plastic mulch. When beds were formed, 70 lb/acre nitrogen (N), 15 lb/acre phosphorus (P), and 54 lb/ potassium (K) were applied in 2016 and 60 lb/acre N, 34 lb/acre P, and 65 lb/acre K in 2017. Seed were planted on June 25, 2016 and June 20, 2017. A single line of drip tape was installed over each bed in 2016 to facilitate germination but was not used in 2017.

Pumpkins were hand harvested on October 8, 2016 and October 10 and 13, 2017 and were categorized as fully orange, turning orange, mature green (full sized and dark green) and unmarketable.

At the central site, a plasticulture system, using a single line of drip tape (T-Tape model 508-12-450; John Deere, Moline, IL) centered on beds and black embossed plastic mulch (Sigma Plastic Groups, Allentown, PA) was used. Beds were shaped, and plastic and drip tape were installed on June 10, 2016 and June 12, 2017. Beds were 8 feet apart center-to-center. In 2016, 50 lb/acre of K was added, and based on soil test results no P was applied. In 2017, no K was applied but 65 lb/acre of P was added.  Additionally, 50 lb/acre N was broadcast preplant on May 23, 2016 and June 12, 2017. An additional 25 lb/acre N was fertigated throughout the growing season. Plants were provided with 1-1.5 acre-inches of water each week. Pre-emergent herbicides were applied on June 10, 2016 (S-metolachlor at 1.5 pt/acre and ethalfluralin and clomazone at 4 pt/acre) and June 6, 2017 S-metolachlor at 2 pt/acre and ethalfluralin and clomazone at 5 pt/acre (Medal EC; Syngenta Crop Protection, Wilmington, DE and Strategy; Loveland Products, Loveland, CO). Seed were planted on June 13, 2016 and June 22, 2017 using a plant spacing of 4 ft between plants in a single row.

Pumpkins were cut from vines on September 16 and 20, 2016 and harvested on September 29.  In 2017, harvest took place on October 5. Pumpkins were counted and weighed in these categories: fully orange, turning orange or mature green and unmarketable. Immature green fruit were left in the field.

At the southeastern site, glyphosate (Credit 41; Nufarm Americas Inc., Burr Ridge, IL) was applied on May 25, 2016 and 2017 for burn-down of winter rye (Secale cereal).  Pre-emergent herbicides were applied on May 31, 2016 and 2017 with bensulide (Prefar 4-E; Gowan Company, Yuma, AZ) and clomazone (Strategy; Loveland Products, Loveland, CO). Seed was planted into a no-till system using winter rye residue on June 7, 2016 and June 8, 2017 with 8 ft bed spacing and 4 ft between plants in a single row. Based on soil test recommendations, P and K were not applied. Nitrogen was applied at a rate of 90 lb/acre with 50 lb broadcast preplant and the remainder fertigated throughout the growing season. A single line of drip tape (T-Tape model 508-12-450; John Deere, Moline, IL) was centered on each row.  Plants were provided with 1-1.5 acre-inches of water each week.

Pumpkins were harvested on October 14, 2016 and October 11 and 16, 2017. At this site, harvest occurred when all fruit were fully orange (no fruit were turning orange).

Diseases and insect pests were managed locally using recommendations from the Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Production Guide (Sánchez et al, 2016).

Quality of the handles (peduncles) was visually rated at this site using a 1-5 scale with 5 indicating the highest quality. Quality criteria included color, thickness, uniformity, and strength of attachment.

All treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications, six plants per replication, at each site. Data were combined by site and year and analyzed using SAS’s mixed procedure. When Variety x Year interactions were observed, data were analyzed separately by site and year. Means were separated at the 5% level using pdiff.

 

 

Results 

Yields

Gladiator was the standard variety to which all other varieties were compared. Mean marketable yield in weight is presented in Table 3 with marketable numbers in Table 4.

 

Table 3. Marketable yield (lb/6 plants) of 21 pumpkin varieties grown at three locations in Pennsylvania in 2016-171

 

Southwestern Pennsylvania

Central Pennsylvania

Southeastern Pennsylvania

Cultivar

2016

2017

2016-17

2016-17

Ares

34.2 B

27.1 BCD

289.4 ABC

224.4 ABC

Bayhorse Gold

58.3 AB

57.2 A-D

250.9 CD

202.3 ABC

Camaro

41.1 AB

77.4 AB

332.6 AB

194.0 ABC

Cargo

31.1 B

39.4 A-D

232.9 CDE

201.6 ABC

Challenger

54.1 AB

95.3 A

338.9 A

266.7 A

Eagle City Gold

68.3 AB

47.2 A-D

262.4 BCD

199.5 ABC

Earlipak

23.6 B

15.4 BCD

242.1 CDE

201.7 ABC

Early King

49.7 AB

7.3 CD

344.6 A

245.4 AB

Gladiator

27.5 B

4.0 D

198.5 DE

192.6 ABC

Gold Challenger

33.1 B

28.1 BCD

215.2 DE

150.5 C

Hannibal

51.1 AB

69.9 ABC

207.9 DE

169.7 BC

Honky Tonk

42.7 AB

23.9 BCD

249.2 CDE

189.3 ABC

Kratos

57.6 AB

47.6 A-D

293.9 ABC

260.9 A

Magic Lantern

59.3 AB

11.32 CD

253.0 CD

174.6 BC

Magic Wand

61.5 AB

11.1 CD

233.1 CDE

193.5 ABC

Mrs. Wrinkles

83.1 A

0.0 D

225.0 CDE

189.0 ABC

Orange Rave

71.6 AB

25.3 BCD

261.5 BCD

198.4 ABC

Rhea

61.6 AB

29.6 BCD

255.4 CD

201.7 ABC

Solid Gold

55.7 AB

43.1 A-D

264.5 BCD

211.4 ABC

Spartan

33.4 B

27.0 BCD

255.7 CD

222.1 ABC

Zeus

25.9 B

14.0 BCD

178.6 E

187.9 ABC

1Values are the mean of 4 replications; data were analyzed using GLIMMIX. Means were separated at the 5% level using pdiff. Variety x Year interactions for marketable weight were significant at the Southwestern site and data were analyzed separately by year. Variety x Year interactions were not significant for marketable weight at the Central site and Southeastern site; therefore, data for year were combined. Different letters following values in a column indicate significant differences.

 

 

Table 4. Marketable yield (no./6 plants) of 21 pumpkin varieties grown at three locations in Pennsylvania in 2016-171

 

Southwestern Pennsylvania

Central Pennsylvania

Southeastern

Pennsylvania

Cultivar

2016

2017

2016

2017

2016-2017

Ares

1.5 BC

1.3 BC

16.3 A-D

11.0 B-E

11.5 A

Bayhorse Gold

2.8 BC

2.8 ABC

13.3 BCD

13.0 A-D

11.9 A

Camaro

1.8 BC

5.3 A

13.3 BCD

16.9 A

10.4 A

Cargo

1.8 BC

1.8 BC

11.8 CD

8.0 E

9.5 A

Challenger

1.5 BC

2.8 ABC

17.0 A-D

10.5 CDE

12.4 A

Eagle City Gold

3.5 AB

2.5 ABC

13.5 BCD

15.3 AB

11.3 A

Earlipak

1.0 C

1.0 BC

13.3 BCD

9.7 CDE

9.4 A

Early King

1.8 BC

0.5 BC

15.0 A-D

13.0 A-D

11.9 A

Gladiator

1.0 C

0.3 C

15 A-D

9.5 DE

11.9 A

Gold Challenger

1.5 BC

2.0 BC

11.5 D

11.0 B-E

8.4 A

Hannibal

2.0 BC

3.3 AB

13 BCD

10.5 CDE

9.3 A

Honky Tonk

2.3 BC

1.5 BC

20.0 A

12.3 A-E

12.5 A

Kratos

1.8 BC

2.5 ABC

17.0 A-D

12.8 A-D

13.8 A

Magic Lantern

2.5 BC

1.0 BC

18 AB

14.5 ABC

12.5 A

Magic Wand

2.5 BC

0.8 BC

18.0 AB

11.5 B-E

12.3 A

Mrs. Wrinkles

5.3 A

0.0 C

12.5 BCD

12.3 A-E

12.3 A

Orange Rave

3.8 AB

1.5 BC

17.5 ABC

12.8 A-D

12.0 A

Rhea

2.0 BC

1.5 BC

17.3 A-D

9.8 DE

10.8 A

Solid Gold

2.3 BC

2.5 ABC

13.0 BCD

10.8 B-E

10.1 A

Spartan

1.5 BC

1.5 BC

14.8 A-D

10.5 CDE

12.8 A

Zeus

1.0 C

0.8 BC

13 BCD

11.0 B-E

12.8 A


1Values are the mean of 4 replications; data were analyzed using GLIMMIX. Means were separated at the 5% level using pdiff. Variety x Year interactions for marketable number were significant at the Southwestern and Central site and data were analyzed separately by year. Variety x Year interactions were not significant for marketable number at the Southeastern site; therefore, data for year were combined. Different letters following values in a column indicate significant differences

.

Southwestern Site

Yields in 2016 were lower at this site compared to other sites. In 2016, planting was delayed due to very dry conditions. Then, dry weather occurring post emergence through the third week of July resulted in slow and uneven germination and growth. In 2017, extended wet weather created favorable conditions for phytophthora blight (caused by Phytophthora capsici) which limited yields.

In 2016, ‘Mrs. Wrinkles’ produced heavier pumpkins compared to ‘Gladiator’ (Table 3). All other varieties were not different from ‘Gladiator’. In 2017, ‘Challenger’, ‘Camaro’ and ‘Hannibal’ produced heavier pumpkins than ‘Gladiator’. All other varieties were not different from ‘Gladiator’.

In 2016, ‘Mrs. Wrinkles’, ‘Orange Rave’ and ‘Eagle City Gold’ produced more marketable pumpkins than ‘Gladiator’ (Table 4). All other varieties were not different than ‘Gladiator’. In 2017, ‘Camaro’ and ‘Hannibal’ produced more marketable pumpkins than ‘Gladiator’. All other varieties were not different than ‘Gladiator’.

In 2016 and 2017, mean unmarketable number of pumpkins ranged from 0.0/6 plants to 3.8/6 plants from all varieties and was not different from ‘Gladiator’ or each other in both years (data not shown).

 

Central Site

Over both years, ‘Early King’, ‘Challenger’, ‘Camaro’, ‘Kratos’, and ‘Ares’ produced heavier marketable pumpkins than ‘Gladiator’ (Table 3). All other varieties were not different than ‘Gladiator’. Overall mean marketable weight was 243.8 lb/6 plants in 2016 which was significantly lower than 2017, 269.1 lb/6 plants.

In 2016, the mean number of marketable pumpkins for all varieties was not different from ‘Gladiator’ (Table 4). In 2017, ‘Camaro’, ‘Eagle City Gold’, and ‘Magic Lantern’ produced more marketable pumpkins than ‘Gladiator’. All other varieties were not different than ‘Gladiator’.

Over both years, the mean number of unmarketable pumpkins ranged from 0.0/6 plants to 0.8/6 plants for all varieties and was not different from ‘Gladiator’ (data not shown). Mean number of unmarketable pumpkins was not significantly different between 2016 and 2017, 0.2/6 plants in both years.

 

Southeastern Site

Over both years, the mean number and weight of marketable pumpkins and the mean number of unmarketable pumpkins were not different than ‘Gladiator’ (Tables 3 and 4). In 2016, the overall mean number of pumpkins was significantly higher, 12.4 pumpkins per 6 plants, compared to 2017, 10.4 pumpkins per 6 plants. In contrast, overall mean marketable weight was significantly higher in 2017, 225.9 lb/6 plants, than in 2016, 181.4 lb/6 plants.

Over both years, the mean number of unmarketable pumpkins ranged from 1.1/6 plants to 3.0/6 plants for all varieties and was not different from ‘Gladiator’ (data not shown). The mean number of unmarketable pumpkins was significantly lower in 2016, 1.3/6 plants, than in 2017, 2.1/6 plants.

 

Handle Quality

Over both years, mean handle quality for ‘Gladiator’ was 3.3 on the 5-point scale, with 5 being highest (Table 5). ‘Ares’, ‘Rhea’ and ‘Solid Gold’ had higher mean ratings of 4.9, 4.8, and 4.3, respectively. ‘Camaro’, ‘Spartan’, and ‘Challenger’ had lower ratings of 2.6, 2.3, and 2.3, respectively. All other varieties were not different than ‘Gladiator’. 

 

Table 5. Mean handle (peduncle) ratings of 21 pumpkin cultivars grown in southeastern Pennsylvania in 2016-17.

Cultivar

Rating1

Ares

4.92 a

Rhea

4.8 ab

Solid Gold

4.3 b

Gold Challenger

3.5 c

Bayhorse Gold

3.4 cd

Hannibal

3.4 cde

Kratos

3.3 c-f

Cargo

3.3 c-f

Gladiator

3.3 c-f

Magic Wand

3.3 c-f

Eagle City Gold

3.3 c-f

Mrs. Wrinkles

3.2 c-f

Orange Rave

3.0 c-g

Zeus

3.0 c-g

Earlipak

2.9 d-g

Honky Tonk

2.9 d-h

Magic Lantern

2.8 e-i

Early King

2.8 f-i

Camaro

2.6 ghi

Spartan

2.3 hi

Challenger

2.3 i

1 1-5 rating scale; 5= best.
2Data for 2016 and 2017 were combined.

 

 

Conclusions

Based on yield, no variety was consistently different than the standard ‘Gladiator’. Farmers growing carving pumpkins should also consider fruit quality including color, shape, and degree of ribbing when selecting varieties. Fruit description and size based on this evaluation as well as from information listed by seed companies is provided in Table 6. Lawson (2006) and Stanghellini et al. (2003) also indicated that fruit quality characteristics can influence consumer preference. Determining which fruit quality characteristics consumers prefer in carving pumpkins is an area warranting future research. Based on results here, farmers have many options for carving pumpkin varieties without sacrificing yield. Growing a combination of varieties with different fruit quality can help ensure consumer preference is met.

Stem quality is an important indicator of fruit health and contributes to fruit aesthetics (Coolong and Seebold, 2009; Stanghellini et al., 2003). It has been suggested that consumers may prefer long, thick handles compared to short thin ones (Stanghellini et al., 2003). Based on handle quality, all varieties except ‘Camaro’, ‘Spartan’, and ‘Challenger’ are recommended.

 

 

Table 6. Fruit description and size of pumpkin cultivars evaluated in three locations in Pennsylvania in 2016-17.

Cultivar

Fruit descriptions

Fruit weight, average

(lb)1

Fruit weight range (lb)2

Listed fruit weight range in catalog

(lb)3

Ares

Very tall, oblong; fairly deep ribbing; stout, green handle, orange rind

21

16 -26

22 - 28

Bayhorse Gold

Round to slightly oblong, orange fruit; dark green handle

19

13 - 21

15 - 20

Camaro

Orangish-yellow rind; mostly round with dark green handles; slight ribbing

20

14 - 24

20 - 23

Cargo

Dark orange; somewhat round shape; average to deep ribbing; green handle

22

17 - 29

20 - 25

Challenger

Round with orange coloration; slightly ribbed

28

18 - 36

22 - 27

Eagle City Gold

Faint ribbing; round pumpkin starting to trend flat; average handle but green

18

12 - 22

18 - 24

Earlipak

Very round; bright orange; strong, green stem

21

15 - 27

18 - 22

Early King

More tall than round; orange color, slight ribbing; thick handle

23

14 - 28

22 - 28

Gladiator

Dark orange, round fruit; medium ribbing; thick handle

18

13 - 27

20 - 25

Gold Challenger

Dark orange rind; round with medium to deep ribbing; strong green handle

19

14 - 22

20 - 24

Hannibal

Round shape; orange rind; strong green handle; average ribbing

20

16 - 26

18 - 22

Honky Tonk

Dark orange with deep ribbing; very round

16

12 - 20

20 - 25

Kratos

Dark orange pumpkin; round with slight oblong shape; medium ribbing with long, curvy handles

22

15 - 32

20 - 30

Magic Lantern

Orange to dark orange rind; slight ribbing; round

16

11 - 24

16 - 24

Magic Wand

Very round shape, orange rind; medium ribbing; green handle

17

13 - 24

15 - 25

Mr. Wrinkles

Round, dark orange pumpkin; very deep ribbing; strong green handle

17

13 - 22

20 - 30

Orange Rave

Round to slightly oblong; orange color; green stems; medium ribbing

17

14 - 19

15 - 25

Rhea

Round to flat shape with dark orange rind; average ribbing; dark, long handles

22

14 - 31

20 - 30

Solid Gold

Orange coloration with medium ribbing; round shape

21

17 -25

18 - 25

Spartan

Big, round pumpkin with deep orange color; nice handle length and quality

20

15 -27

20 - 25

Zeus

Very round pumpkin with deep orange coloration; ribbed; long, green handles

17

12 - 26

16 - 20

1Average fruit weight over 3 sites and two years (2016-17).
2 Range of fruit weight over 3 sites and two years (2016-17).
3 Range of fruit weight listed in seed catalogs.

 

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Board for funding this project.  

 

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