Burgersfort is probably not the first place that most people associate with pumpkin production, particularly late in the season. Werner van Vreden has been growing the grey varieties STAR 7026 and STAR 7028 on the farm Soetbas Sitrus in the area for several years. The objective is to market the product through the winter months, so plantings are done as late as possible. This means that storage time is minimised and takes place during the coolest months of the year.
With late summer plantings there is always a danger of cold conditions setting in before full maturation of the crop. Using records, forecasts and experience, Werner times his sowing dates so as to allow 90-100 days for the pumpkins to reach maturity. The winter of 2020 had a surprise waiting and was earlier and colder than those of the recent past. Areas which rarely have frost frequently dropped below freezing point, causing damage and slowing development on many farms in the region.
The frost also occurred early, and plants were frosted 81 days after sowing. The frost severely damaged the foliage and there was great concern over whether the fruit would mature sufficiently for marketing. When the plants eventually died back an exceptional yield was revealed. Brix content was good, as was the appearance of the fruit and Werner managed to nurse his plants through to produce a yield of 1,600 bags/Ha.