1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
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.