Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) is one of the major vegetable crops in the Philippines. It is widely used in Filipino cooking and can be processed to become noodles or flour for bread.

East-West Seed, the leading vegetable seed company in the Philippines, is the pioneer in developing hybrid pumpkin. The company’s hybrid pumpkin, Suprema F1, is one of the first hybrid crops developed in the Philippines. The introduction of the Suprema F1 to the market triggered the shifting of farmers from open-pollinated to hybrid.

Suprema is a high-yielding hybrid variety with uniform fruits and good eating quality. It is loved by traders and retailers because of its good transportability and shelf life. Suprema has been dominating the market for more than 30 years now.

However, in recent years, farmers reported that they are experiencing problems in cultivating pumpkins due to erratic weather conditions and the Squash Leaf Curl Virus (SLCV) spread by whiteflies. The virus can reduce yield significantly.

East-West Seed has developed new pumpkin varieties with resistance to SLCV to address this growing concern and the changing needs of the farmers and the market.

In 2017, the company introduced two hybrid pumpkins, Bella F1 and Pia F1. Bella produces flat-round fruits with dark yellow-orange flesh, weighing around 3 to 5 kilos each. The variety has the same superior characteristics of Suprema F1 with added vigor and disease resistance.

Meanwhile, Pia F1 is an early-maturing and high-yielding butternut pumpkin with intermediate resistance to SLCV. It has dumbbell-shaped fruits with yellow-orange, sweet, and sticky flesh.

Vicente “Tatay Enteng” Berdan is one of the loyal farmers of Bella F1 and Pia F1. This natural farming and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practitioner from Rizal has been planting both varieties since 2017. Tatay Enteng said that he found both varieties easy-to-manage and vigorous.

Vicente Berdan, a farmer from Rizal, with his bountiful Pia F1 harvest.

His IPM practices, such as regular monitoring and use of flower barriers, combined with the superior qualities of Bella and Pia, enabled him to keep his pumpkins free from pests and diseases.

Tatay Enteng also added that it is easy to market Bella and Pia because their fruits are uniform in size and their flesh is sticky and glutinous (maligat) which is preferred by most consumers. The size of Pia F1 is also a quality that most consumers like because its size is just enough for the consumption of one family.

“Ang kalabasa ng wais”

With the butternut pumpkin gaining popularity among consumers, East-West Seed introduced another butternut pumpkin this 2020, the Sophia F1.

Sophia F1 is an early-maturing, high-yielding, and small-fruited butternut pumpkin with intermediate resistance to SLCV. It weighs just around 0.75 kg to 1 kg, which is preferred by many consumers.

Sophia F1 has short, peanut-shaped fruits with smooth, yellow sticky flesh and excellent eating quality. Its taste is for consumers who prefer less sweet butternut pumpkins.

Keno Guevarra, with his wife, Rose Ann, showing off one of their Sophia pumpkins.

One of the first farmers who tried Sophia F1 is Rose Ann Guevarra from Rizal, Kalinga. According to Rose, she liked Sophia because it is very prolific and vigorous. She didn’t experience Gummy Stem Blight disease with this variety which enables her to prolong her harvesting period and get more flowers that she also sells for additional income. Rose also commended the texture and stickiness (maligat) of Sophia.

Luis Leina, a farmer from Isabela, beside his crops.

Luis Leina, a pumpkin grower from Isabela, also echoed the same impressions and added that the buyers in their area are already looking for Sophia, so marketing would be easy for him.

Interested in growing Bella, Pia, and Sophia? Contact East-West Seed Philippines on Facebook (facebook.com/eastwestseedph) or via their website at ph.eastwestseed.com.

This appeared without a byline in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2020 issue.