|Updated : 21/9/2014|
Vegatable Climate Requirements
Vegetables originated in different parts of the world: some came from tropical or subtropical countries and others from temperate zones; some from humid areas and others from more arid climates.
Each kind of vegetable has its own optimum growth requirements, with some more fastidious, and others less so. Breeding and selection of new cultivars have allowed for a greater adaptability to less favourable growing conditions than was possible in the past, but the inherent climatic requirements of a specific kind of vegetable have not changed materially. The following climatic factors are important :
Temperature Temperature is the most important climatic factor to be considered in vegetable production. It determines when and where a certain crop can be grown, and vegetable crops can be broadly classified according to their temperature requirements. However, such groupings should not be seen as absolute, because of various factors:
In spite of such factors, the following information can be helpful in determining probable production seasons for various vegetable crops. Reliable temperature records must be available for the production site.
Table 1. Classification of certain vegetable crops according to their adaptation to field temperatures.
Some crops can be planted as temperatures approach the correct tolerance range. For example, broccoli or cauliflower may be planted in hot weather in summer in order for the crop to mature in cooler, more favourable conditions. The ideal temperatures for various vegetable crops are listed in Table 2. It must be borne in mind, however, that crops can survive and still produce good yields, even though temperatures at times may, for short periods, fall outside the minimum and maximum ranges listed.
Table 2. The approximate temperatures for best growth and quality of some vegetable crops.
Note : At temperatures below about 7°C, many of the biennial crops (beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, parsley, parsnip, spinach, Swiss chard and turnip) may be stimulated into producing seed prematurely. The severity of bolting induced is dependent on the degree and length of the cold period experienced. Cultivars of each vegetable react differently from one another.
Conversely, a crop such as lettuce may be induced to bolt to seed when temperatures rise above 30°C. At such high temperatures, particularly under dry or windy conditions, vegetable crops such as beans or tomatoes may shed some of their flowers, with a resultant poor fruit set. High temperatures may also detrimentally affect pollination of sweet corn, and give rise to poorly-filled ears. Cucurbits (the pumpkin and squash family) tend to produce mainly male flowers under high temperature conditions; as a result few fruits are set.
Prevailing temperatures also play a role in the speed of germination and emergence of vegetable crops, as can be seen from Table 3, and can also affect the plant stand (percentage emergence).
Table 3. The number of days to emergence of various vegetable crops, from seed sown 12 mm deep, at various soil temperatures.
N = No germination likely - = Not tested
From the table one can see that the cool-season crops have poor germination at temperatures of 35°C (celery 25°C), and that seed of warm-season crops lose germination ability at temperatures of 10°C or lower. For most vegetable crops, a mean soil temperature of 20°C to 30°C appears to give the most rapid emergence.
This fast emergence is most important for the following reasons:
Rainfall and humidity Rainfall is one of the most important factors, especially when vegetables are grown under dryland conditions. Adequate soil moisture is necessary for good crop establishment, good yields and good quality. This moisture may be obtained from rainfall or irrigation. High rainfall episodes may cause flood damage, partial drowning on certain soil types, and will often favour disease development.
Humidity, or air moisture content, may also play a role. High humidity tends to temper the effects of high temperatures. Crops such as cucurbits prefer dry air and a high temperature, while leafy vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce prefer more humid conditions. High humidity is more conducive to heavy dew at night, which can be beneficial in reducing moisture stress, but which can favour the development of certain diseases, such as leaf rust and leaf spots, on some crops.
Sunshine and day-length The day-length, or period of sunshine each day, may have a tremendous influence on the productive capacity of vegetable crops. As a classic example, one could cite the case of onions, where long-day cultivars will bulb only when planted below latitudes where summer daylight hours are long enough. Cloud or mist might also reduce the amount of light a crop receives, and thereby lower the potential yield of the crop.
Wind Wind can cause significant damage from mechanical injury to plants, increased transpiration of plants and desiccation of the soil. On very sandy soils wind-blown grit can cause severe damage to plants. Obviously, very windy areas should be avoided as far as possible, unless adequate provision is made for the establishment of windbreaks.