Cucumbers Essay, Research Paper
This paper will focus on cucumbers. It will discuss their relationship to other plants, the region of its origin and the plant part used by humans. The way cucumbers are harvested and the value of the harvest will also be touched on. Diseases and insects that threaten cucumbers will briefly be discussed.
From the times of the bible through Henry VIII reign and into the modern era, cucumbers have survived through the ages. Cucumbers have many uses such as providing food, lotion, perfume, and can be made into an emetic, to name a few. There are many different species of cucumbers and there are many ways to prepare them. Harvesting can be a tedious or quick process depending on the type of cucumber. Cucumbers are one of the most produced vegetables, or should it be fruits, in the world.
Name and Classification
The cucumber?s scientific name is Cucumis sativus (Linn). The genus name is Cucumis and the species name is sativus. It belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae. The common name is cucumber and is sometimes shortened to cukes.
Relationship to any other economically important plant species or families
The cucumber is in the same family as pumpkins, gourds, squash, watermelon and cantaloupe. Cucumber is the second most cultivated vegetable in greenhouses, contested only by tomatoes.
Country/Region of Origin
There is a considerable amount of conflicting views on where cucumbers originated. Some claim it is native to India, while others claim Asia, and still others claim it is native to Greece. The largest cultivation of it is in Asia. Where- ever the cucumber is native it is now cultivated all over the world.
Plant Part Used by Humans
The part of the cucumber that is used by humans is the fruit. The ovary at the base of the female flower develops into the fruit. The male flower?s purpose is to fertilize the female.
Description of harvesting techniques
Cucumbers are a warm season crop. The most favorable growing temperature is 82F, but cucumbers do well in temperatures ranging from 65 to 75F. Frost and high temperature will damage the crop. Cucumbers can grow in many different soil types, provided they are well drained. They are a quick-growing crop and must be well supplied with fertilizers. Cucumber seeds are generally planted two inches deep into the soil with plants spaced two to six inches apart. Row spacing varies from twelve to thirty inches apart. Fresh market cucumbers are picked by hand. The fruit is twisted and snapped off of the vine to ensure there is no damage done to the vine or root of the plant. In most regions machine harvesting has been accepted for pickling cucumbers. Cost of labor to hand pick cucumbers has gone up so machines are used. The drawback of using machines to harvest is that the crop can only be given a ?once over? because the machines damage plants as they go down the rows. Cucumbers are hydro cooled after picking to remove any field heat left over. Fruits ripen rapidly in temperatures over 50F so they are stored in coolers to prevent this. When a cucumber ripens it turns yellow and is inedible.
Annual Harvest in pounds or kilograms
The major portion of commercial crop is used for processing pickles. Processing cucumbers yield an average of five tons per acre across the United States, but can yield from four tons per acre in the East and eighteen tons per acre in California. Fresh market cucumbers are hand picked and range from about three tons per acre in the eastern U.S. to sixteen tons per acre in California. China is the lead producer of cucumbers, with India next in production, followed by USSR and the U.S.
Diseases and Insects reducing or threatening crop yield
Insects are one of the main problems that cucumber farmers face. Although there are quite a few that plague cucumbers the two most dangerous are cucumber beetles and pickleworm. There are two kinds of cucumber beetles, striped and spotted. The larvae feed on the roots and stems of the plant while the adults feed on the cotyledons and new leaves in the spring. The insect can also carry bacterial wilt and cucumber mosaic virus. Pickleworm is even more dangerous than the cucumber beetle. These are mainly found in the Carolinas but can move north. The worms eat the leaf buds and flowers and tunnel into the vines and fruits. Once the pickleworm is inside the fruits it is impossible to kill them and will only be found after the cucumber is processed. These insects can be easily controlled with early detection and the use of insecticide.
Diseases can be controlled through the use of fungicides, crop rotation, and resistant cultivars. If a cucumber crop gets infected with a disease it can result in a huge loss. Mosaic is one of the most common diseases. It is a viral disease that is also referred to as ?white pickle?. It will stunt the growth of plants, mottle and yellow the plant and wrinkle the leaves. Young plants sometimes outgrow the symptoms. Insects and workers in the field can spread it. Scab is a fungal infection that causes sunken, dark brown spots on the fruits. A green mold can also grow over the spots. This disease favors cool weather. Bacterial wilt is caused by the bacteria Erwina tracheiphila. These bacteria wilt the plant and eventually kill it. Cucumber beetles carry it. These diseases can devastate a crop if not properly controlled.
Spaniards brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494. They were then somehow brought to the Americas. When colonial settlements were being formed cucumbers were discovered in Native American crops. Cucumbers became very popular with the colonists but during the 1600s a widespread prejudice developed against fresh fruits and salads. Cucumbers were said to bring on a train of summer diseases and should be forbidden, especially to children. When diet reform swept the nation and emphasis was put on fresh vegetables and less meat cucumbers were still not eaten. It was said that they were ?fit only for consumption by cows,? hence the name ?cowcumbers?. Cucumbers were shunned up until 1872 when a hybrid was formed. From 1880 until the present much interest has been shown in growing and eating this vegetable.
The cucumber is a widely produced and used plant. The cucumber is a fragile plant, but when properly cultivated can have a high yield. It can be of great benefit to humans for the purposes of food and luxury. Cucumbers will remain one of the most cultivated and processed vegetables.
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