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Fluted pumpkin (Telfaira Occidentalis Hook F) is a creeping vegetative shrub that has large lobe leaves and a long twisting tendrils (Horsfall and Spiff, 2005). In Africa, fluted pumpkin remains popular in rural areas where it is often considered to be more nutritive than exotic vegetables (Horsfall and Spliff, 2005). Fluted pumpkin is one of the most important vegetable grown in southern Nigeria, which Akwa Ibom State, Uyo Local Government Area is inclusive, it is regarded as a seed and leaf vegetable with edible leaves and shoots. The leaf has a high nutritional, medicinal and industrial values being rich in protein (29%). Fat (18%) minerals (22%) and vitamins (20%) (Akanbi, Awodun, and Akoroda,  2007). The nutritional value of pumpkin seed is different from that of leaves.

The protein content of seed is 20.3g while that of leaves is 2.9g. The fat and carbohydrate content of seeds and leaves are 45.0g and 1.8; 23.0 and 7.0g respectively. The crop is a perennial dioecious grown in domestic garden (Messian, 2005) which climbs by means of coiled tendrils. Vines may grow up to 30cm in length. (Esiaba, 2000).

The leaves have (3-5) palmate arranged leaflets which varies in size according to the cultivars in local farms. The flowers are dioecious that is: the male and female flowers are produced in clusters in separate plant. Fluted pumpkin has small purple flowers with petals being delicately filled at the top and creamy white with riddish centers.

Telfaira occidentalis is a fruit and leafy vegetable commonly known as fluted pumpkin (Ugurel, 2002). It is of the West African origin belonging to the family of the cucurbitacge. The family consists of one hundred genera and over eight hundred and fifty (850) species widely distributed in the tropical and subtropical regions.

Fluted pumpkin is cultivated mainly for its succulent young shoots, the leaves of which are used in preparing various vegetable soups in Nigeria. According to Esiaba (2000) and Manzara (2003) fluted pumpkin could stay in a field to produce edible leaves and succulent stems for long period as compared to short season leafy vegetables like the Amarathus SPP which are rarely harvested more than three times in the life cycle of the plant. Telfaira should be cultivated at the beginning of the rains which is March or towards the end of the wet season which November but may also be planted at any time, if sufficient water is available. However, in traditional agriculture, it is a rain feel crop and water deficiency during the dry season reduces its productivity. Most homestead growers of the crop adopt form of irrigation or water conservation. Temperature within the range of 180C-270C is suitable for maximum production. Rainfall of about 2,000mm parannum is suitable for its growth. The fluted pumpkin is propagated by seed sown on beds, mounds or flats. The distance between the seed holes is 1m and the length of each bed is about 12m for this study. Three seeds are planted per hole at a depth ranging from 4-6cm.

Fluted pumpkin requires a welled drained loamy soil rich in organic matter (Hugues, Fetuga, Falade and Onyenuga, 2001). Soil pH range of 4.0-6-0 is suitable. The best soil for Telfaira growing normally occur in valley or alongside the banks of streams and Rivers. Production trend of fluted pumpkin in south-south and Akwa Ibom State, Uyo particularly is low.          

According to Amaetula (2006) the rate of fluted pumpkin production has not met the demand rate due to the increasing population in Nigeria. The total hecterage produced since 2006 keep increasing but cannot meet the demand of the teaming populace. The reason for low supply is that cultivation of fluted pumpkin is done only in the rural area by peasant farmers who only cultivate for their households. Aro and Agwu (2005) reported that factors such as finance and farm input contributed to the low production of fluted pumpkin. It is estimated that one quarter (1/4) of population in the Akwa Ibom State, Uyo eat fluted pumpkin every day and during the off season they are hardly found.

Among the important indigenous vegetables, Telfaira occidentalis seems to be widely eaten in Nigeria. According to Schlippers (2000), pure fluted pumpkin stands are becoming more common in Nigeria for market gardening. This important crop plays a crucial role in human and livestock nutrition and also serves as a cheap source of protein, oil and fat. The tender leaves and vines are consumed by man as vegetables as well as by livestock (sheep, pigs and goats) as forage, while the young seeds are eaten as human food. Akoroda, 2002, Badify and Ogunsua, 2003. The young shoots and leaves are used in soups and sauces especially in the preparation of several delicacies in Nigeria including the popular “Edikan Ikong soup” The production of fluted pumpkin has been quite profitable and financially viable for investment, not only as a backyard crop but also as a commercial crop to provide an appreciable cash income to large farm producers (Akoroda, 2002).

The leaves have a high iron and protein contents, south pacific food (2000) reported that pumpkin has dark leaves which make and store protein, which the body needs to grow and stay healthy. Grubben and Denton (2004) also noted that fluted pumpkin is very rich in minerals such as calcium which is necessary for healthy bone formation and iron, which invigorates/strengthens. The iron content makes the pregnant women and the patient suffering from anemia use of leaf juice to strengthen the blood. The level of iron seems to provide a basis that fluted pumpkin leaf extract can be administered as a blood tonic to convalescent person.

Essien, Ebana and Udo (2001) stated that the fruit and pulp of fluted pumpkin which constitute 64% of the whole fresh fruit weight can be used as feedstuff for livestock, manure and as much by farmers. The seed also serves as an excellent medicinal value basically in treating stomach ache (Essien, Ebana and Udo, 2001). The pectin content in the pulp (10%) is reported to be used in the production of marmdade. The leaf which is rich in Mg, Fe and fibre are used in curing anemia, preventing night blindness and rough skin. (Ossom, Igbokwe and Rhykerf, 2003). Longe, Faniru and Fetlga (2006) reported that Telfaira seeds contain 10mg of iron, 0.2mg of thiamine, 0.2mg of riboflavin, 2.0mg of nicotinamide and 84mg of carbohydrates.

The seed is also reported to have an excellent pattern of amino acid with 94% that contains a higher level of most essential amino acids (except lysine) than soyabean meal 93.7% (Longe, Fanird and Fituga 2006).

Telfaira seed cake may be suitable for feeds fortification and the seed oil serves as food oil for making margarine. The oily seeds have lactatory properties and reasonable amount of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen (CHO), which can provide energy needed by the body during heavy work (Schipper, 2000). The high oil content makes it a potential source of raw material for the vegetable oil industries in Nigeria.

This justifies the apparent increase in its production in Nigeria. although the oil in the seeds is non-drying, it is useful in the manufacturing of soap and for cooking.

In recent time, fluted pumpkin has been reported to have gained medicinal and agricultural recognition through the edible seeds and leaves which are high in nutritional value (Taylor, Fetuga and Onyenuga, 2006). In recognizing all the nutritional values of Telfaira, it is imperative to know the problem/challenges facing fluted pumpkin production in Uyo Local Government Area and what could be utilize to encourage for high productivity.

The problem facing fluted pumpkin production includes lack of planting facilities, lack of funds to purchase farm inputs such as the fertilizers.

This causes the movement of youths to the cities, leaving behind the old and weak people in the farms. Most rural farmers engaged in fluted pumpkin cultivation are poor and lack the capital to invest in production, especially money to purchase fertilizers, agro-chemicals and improved seeds.

Some of the rural farmers are powerless and lack collateral security to borrow from banks. The incidence of pest and disease is high in the tropics including Nigeria. Pest and diseases attacks caused by high humidity lead to losses in quantity and quality of produce. In this way, they reduce the income of farmers by increasing the cost of production.

Where some level of mechanization has been introduced, such as the use of tractor, many farmers do not have access to them, some of the implements are not adopted to the soil and indigenous farming systems and may cause damage to the soil (Akoroda, 2002).

According to Manzara (2003) the weather becomes a critical factor to success or failure of crop production. A poor rainfall regime leads to drought and consequent crop failure and animal mortality. Over the years, government policies and programmes have changed as new regime comes into office (Esiaba, 2005). For instance a sceneries occurred in the fertilizer subsector in the nineties when government liberalized importation and subsequently brought in fertilizer at subsidized rates. As population increases and exploit natural resources uncontrollably, different types of damage are inflicted on the environment. Improper disposal of non-degradable substances for example impede cultivation and root growth.

In a bid to curb the menace faced by farmers who cultivate fluted pumpkin, some of them should be encouraged to pool their contigious land to attain some economic advantage of scale through some level of mechanization. There should be a concerted effort toward rural development such development should attempt to develop basic infrastructural facilities that can attract and attain young people in the rural areas. There is also an urgent need for the central bank or Nigeria to intervene and reduce interest rates in commercial banks. Local fabrication of storage and processing equipment should be encouraged and farmers and processors should be given incentives to access them. Government on their part should hands off input supply and concentrates on making policies that will attract investors in supplying inputs.

Mechanisms should be put in place to train farmers on easy identification, prevention and control of common pest and diseases (Denton, 2004).

Pesticides and other agrochemicals should be supplied at subsidical rates, farmers should be encouraged to farm production groups, which give them scale advantage to purchase or rent machinery or equipment. Irrigation facilities which are technologically simple to manage should be provided to the rural farmers.

According to Schipper (2001) training of young people for entrepreneurial agriculture with incentives to adopt modern method will draw youth into fluted pumpkin cultivation. Government should formulate short, medium and long term agricultural policies that should not be open to the whilms of the political class. Farmers should be encouraged to use less chemical fertilizers by integrating organic manure in soil fertilization.

However, in Nigeria farmers realize the need for soil amendments by using available resources such as crop wastes, farmyard manure and poultry waste. The use of organic fertilizer as source of nutrients to crops has recently received comprehensive review by (Awodun, Akambi et al 2011). This fertilizer type improves soils physical, chemical and biological conditions which in turn improve crop growing environment and culminate in the better production of economic plant parts.




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