Carrots are easy to grow. A detailed account of growing practices for carrot plants is given below:
Climatic Requirements: Carrot is originally a crop of temperate climates. They prefer cool, moist climate for its healthy vegetative growth and optimum tuber development. Optimum tuber development and tuber colour happens at a temperature range of 15 – 20OC. However, some tropical varieties of carrots can be grown in warmer regions and they can tolerate quite high temperatures. Carrot plants prefer full sunlight; they can be grown in partial shade also.
Soil: Carrots need a deep, loose, well-drained sandy or loamy soil for the best development of tubers. Highly acidic soils do not produce good carrots; so are rich, clayey soils and rocky soils; all these types of soils should be avoided for growing carrots. Maximum yield or tubers is obtained at a soil pH 6.5.
Propagation: Carrots are propagated by seeds. Recommended seed rate is 5-6 kg/ha. Seeds may be directly sown in the fields or seedlings may be raised in the nursery beds. In direct sowing, seeds are sown on ridges or on flat land about 1.5 cm deep. Seeds germinate within a week; a few weeks later, seedlings may be thinned to a spacing of 10cm. Thinning allows sufficient space for proper tuber development. In case of nursery-raised seedlings, they may be transplanted when they are 4-5 weeks old.
Sown Time: In the plains, carrot seeds are sown between August and December. Tropical varieties may be sown earlier while temperature is still high. In the hills, carrot seeds may be sown from March to July.
Fertilizers and Manuring: At the time of land preparation, well-rotted FYM (farmyard manure) or compost@25-30 tons/ha may be applied to the soil to increase soil fertility. Synthetic fertilizers should be applied according to soil type, plant requirements etc; a soil analysis may be done to determine the fertilizer requirements for the plants. As a standard, carrot plant requires low levels of nitrogen, moderate amounts of phosphate, and high levels of potash.
Irrigation: The soil should always be kept moist and therefore, regular watering is needed. Insufficient soil moisture results in low yields and excessive soil moisture may also decrease yield; so avoid both the extremes. Soon after planting, first irrigation is given for the plants. Irrigation is needed after every fertilizer application. Irrigation is necessary before any wilting of leaves takes place.
Insect Pest Management: Major insect-pests that affect carrots are: carrot weevils, six-spotted leaf hoppers and carrot rust flies. IPM (Integrated Pest Management) may be used for effective control of insect-pests. IPM makes use of crop rotation, destroying diseased plants, spraying of biopesticides (such as oil emulsions, nicotine extracts, and pyrethrum-based pesticides), and using beneficial insects such as ladybugs as insect-pest control measures. For weed control, manual weeding or hoeing/earthing up may be done on regular basis.
Disease Management: Major carrot diseases are: Alternaria leaf blight, bacterial leaf blight caused by Xanthomonas campestris, root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne species) that cause forked roots, and Cavity spot caused by Pythium violae and Pythium sulcatum that results in ugly root lesions. Carrot yellowing is a virus disease transmitted through the six-spotted leaf-hopper. IDM (integrated disease management) may be practiced for effective disease control. IDM makes use of cultural control practices such as crop rotation, and seed treatment with a mercury compound before sowing as well as organic control practices such as spraying of Bordeaux mixture and pyrethrum-based fungicides for controlling fungal diseases. Viral disease can be controlled by controlling leaf hoppers and by destroying the virus-affected plants.
Harvesting and Yield: Early varieties can be harvested within 90 days of sowing while late varieties take up to 120 days to mature. Before harvesting, a light irrigation is done so that soil becomes moist and loose; harvesting process will be easier in moist soils. During harvesting process, carrots are pulled out from the soil by using a spade or similar tools. The tubers are then trimmed and washed before sending them to the market. Yield varies from 20 -30 tons/ha.
Seed Production: For seed production, tubers are not harvested; instead plants are left in situ for the next growing season during which the plant completes its reproductive cycle. Flowering begins after the vegetative phase is over; numerous small flowers are produced in an inflorescence (umbel). Sometimes, good quality tubers are selected and transplanted for seed purposes; in such cases quality of seeds will be better. Seed yield is 500-600 kg/ha. (one hectare is 10,000 square meter).
Physical and Physiological Disorders: Two major physiological disorders found in carrots are, splitting of carrots and breaking of carrots.
- Splitting of carrots: A longitudinal crack along the entire length of the tuber; caused due to wide plant spacing, early sowing, lengthy growth durations, and genotype
- Breaking of carrots: It occurs after harvest due to the mishandling of the product.
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