Vegetable Growing

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vegetable Growing


(1) The sector of agriculture concerned with the raising of vegetable plants. Vegetable growing includes the cultivation of plants of the genera Citrullus, Cucumis, and Cucurbita. Vegetable plants may be grown in the open ground or under cover. They are raised in the open ground in the spring-summer and autumn periods for obtaining vegetables and seed. Vegetables are raised under cover, often out of season, when climatic conditions make it impossible to grow a crop in the field. Seedlings that will subsequently be planted in the open ground are often raised from seed under cover. Both types of vegetable cultivation complement each other, making vegetables available year-round.

Vegetable growing involves much transplantation. The raising of vegetables under cover entails forcing, that is, obtaining vegetables from reserve nutrients previously deposited in the plant. Often, two or more crops are grown on the same plot in the course of a growing season. Repeated sowings and plantings of seedlings are also common.

In the USSR, approximately 60 different vegetable plants are raised in the open ground. A number of spice plants, including tarragon, garden cress, coriander, and mint, are also cultivated. Among the crops most commonly raised in the open ground are cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, and beets. Plants grown under cover include cucumbers, tomatoes, onions (forced for their tops), cauliflower, lettuce, and radishes.

The first mention of vegetable growing in what is now the USSR dates to the fifth century. In the 11th to 15th centuries, vegetable raising reached a relatively high level of development in Russia. Its subsequent development occurred at a slow pace.

Before the October Revolution of 1917, 85 percent of vegetable growing was subsistent or semisubsistent in character. Vegetables were cultivated primarily in the gardens of peasant farmers. In 1913, the total area under vegetable cultivaion was 648,000 hectares (ha), and only about 15 percent of the harvest was for trade in cash or kind. Vegetable growing developed unsystematically on sites chosen at random. Some of the truck gardens were located near large cities.

During Soviet times, vegetable growing has developed extensively. It developed with particular rapidity after the collectivization of agriculture. In 1930 the area under vegetable cultivation was 1,146,000 ha, that is, it had increased 1.8-fold since the prerevolutionary period. In 1939 the Eighteenth Party Congress resolved to establish large vegetable and livestock farms near Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, and Gorky, as well as near the urban centers of the Donets Basin, the Kuznetsk Basin, and the Far East. These farms were to supply urban centers fully with vegetables, particularly potatoes.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, vegetable production declined greatly. After the war, the party and the government took measures to develop vegetable growing and to increase the assortment of cultivated vegetables, thus providing the population of the USSR with fresh vegetables year-round. Large specialized vegetable-raising sovkhozes were established near large cities and industrial centers, and vegetable cultivation was introduced into Kamchatka, Chukotka, and Khabarovsk Krai.

The total area under vegetable cultivation was 1,506,000 ha in 1940 and 1,578,000 ha in 1972. This extended cultivation was achieved by increasing the yield from vegetables raised in the open ground and by drastically increasing the amount of land cultivated under cover, mainly under a plastic cover. In 1972, the principal regions under vegetable cultivation were located in the RSFSR (706,000 ha) and the Ukrainian SSR (486,000 ha). The gross yield in 1972 was 19.9 million tons, and the productivity was 122 quintals per ha. A vegetable-processing industry has been established for producing preserves, tomato juice, purees, pastes, and frozen vegetables. In 1972, glass-enclosed winter hothouses covered 6,900 ha, and spring hothouses with plastic covers occupied 2,300 ha; forcing frames covered 1,800 ha, and hotbeds with plastic covers occupied 2,600 ha.

The principal methods of increasing vegetable yields include irrigation, the use of high-grade seed from the most productive varieties and hybrids, and the introduction of a rational, scientifially based system of crop rotation. The plants should be treated with biological and chemical agents to protect them from pests, disease, and weeds. Sufficient amounts of organic and inorganic fertilizers should be applied. The tillage system for vegetable plants includes autumn and presowing tilling, as well as interrow cultivation. The plants are usually grown on a level surface, suitable for the use of mechanized implements. Furrows and furrow crowns are used in the wet regions of the north and northwest, as well as in the lowlands of the central part of the European USSR.

In 1972, the amount of inorganic fertilizer used on vegetable plantings was 1 ton or greater per ha. The square and square-nest methods are used for sowing the seed, as well as for planting cabbage and tomato seedlings. The tending of vegetable plants involves interrow tilling, weeding, hilling, thinning out, top-dressing, irrigating, pinching off runners, and removing lateral shoots.

The raising of vegetables on kolkhozes and sovkhozes has been mechanized to a great degree. Three sets of machines are used in the USSR, each conforming to the specific requirements of a particular region. At the present level of mechanization, labor expenditures on specialized sovkhozes range from 0.34 (average and late-maturing transplanted cabbage) to 1.67 (bulb onions) man-days per quintal of product. Tomato and cucumber production is also marked by high labor expenditures: 0.61 and 0.76 man-days per quintal, respectively. On large hothouse-farms, the maintenance of water, air, and gas conditions is automatically controlled, as is the plant’s feeding regime.

An important role has been played by plant breeding and seed raising to increase vegetable production. Soviet plant breeders have developed vegetable varieties for each soil and climatic zone. The varieties differ in ripening time, method of cultivation (in the open ground or under cover), and form of consumption (fresh or processed). Among the new varieties and heterotic forms that have been developed are cold-resistant, determinant, and bole varieties of tomato; easy-keeping, ultrafast-ripening, and clubroot-resistant varieties of cabbage; partially monoecious forms of cucumber; carrot varieties with increased carotene content; monospermous beets; and beet varieties for early winter sowing. As of 1974, 796 vegetable varieties were regionalized in the USSR, including 637 Soviet-bred varieties (80 percent of the total number of varieties).

Systematic vegetable-breeding and seed-raising work has been carried out in the USSR since 1921, when the decree On Seed-raising was passed by the Council of People’s Commissars and signed by V. I. Lenin. In 1920 the Gribovo Experimental Station for Plant Selection was established, as were the Skvira Experimental Field and the subdepartment of vegetable seed-raising at the Moscow K. A. Timiriazev Agricultural Academy. In 1934 the seed-raising organizations Gossortfond (State Strain-testing Fund) and Soiuzsortsemovoshch (All-Union Office for the Production and Preparation of New Vegetable Seed Varieties) were founded. The raising of vegetable seeds is carried out at experimental selection institutions, state strain-testing fields, the Soiuzsortsemovoshch, specialized seed-raising farms, and seed-control laboratories. Seed-raising work is being carried out in all Union republics. The largest quantities of vegetable and melon seeds are produced in the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the Moldavian SSR, the Kazakh SSR, and the Latvian SSR.

Abroad. Each country is characterized by its own assortment of vegetables and by its own methods of cultivation. In Bulgaria, vegetables account for the highest proportion of the crops raised, and their production is vital to the national economy. The country raises much of its vegetables for export. The principal vegetable plant, in terms of planted area and gross harvest, is the tomato, followed by the long pepper, peas, onions, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots. Bulgaria exports 19 different fresh vegetables and 24 different canned vegetables to 26 countries. It ranks first in the world for the seed-raising of heterotic vegetable crops.

Vegetable raising is also developing rapidly in Hungary and Rumania. Both countries, whose main crops are tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and peppers, export a large part of the harvest. The principal vegetables grown in the German Democratic Republic are peas, carrots, celery, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, head lettuce, and kohlrabi. Among the important vegetable crops of Poland are cabbage, onions, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Extensive areas in Cuba are under vegetable cultivation; the main vegetables are tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, beans, eggplant, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, and carrots. Yugoslavia’s main vegetable crop is cabbage, followed by beans; also cultivated are onions, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and carrots.

Vegetable growing is one of the oldest sectors of land cultivation in the People’s Republic of China. Approximately 80 different vegetables are grown, primarily in the south and southwest. There is intensive use of the land: three to nine crops are obtained annually in the south, and one to three crops in the northern regions. Manual labor predominates. The basic crops include Chinese cabbage, Chinese radish, Welsh onions, mustard (leaf and root), garlic, cucumbers, and beans.

Of all European capitalist countries, Italy has the most land under vegetable cultivation. The Netherlands also has extensive vegetable growing. Each farm specializes in a limited number of crops, and there are many hothouses, each obtaining several crops a year. These factors keep the price of vegetables down. The Netherlands grows mainly tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, spinach, leeks, carrots, celery, parsley, black salsify, peas, and beans. The country ranks first in the world in the per capita area of hothouses (4.24 sq m).

More than 30 different vegetables are grown in the Federal Republic of Germany. In Great Britain the leading vegetable crops are beans, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, lettuce, garden cress, and onions.

In the United States, vegetable growing is a major branch of agricultural production. More than 50 percent of the vegetables are processed. The assortment of vegetable crops is extensive, with the basic crops being sweet corn, tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuce, and asparagus. There is much specialization in vegetable production. Seed production, as well as the obtaining and use of heterotic seed, has been developed. Vegetable growing is also important in Mexico, where the crops, mostly tomatoes, are raised for export.

In Japan, vegetable raising is characterized by a high level of mechanization and by the use of high-yielding heterotic hybrids and chemical growth stimulants. The principal crops are Chinese cabbage, white cabbage, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and Japanese radish. The use of hothouses has been developed, and tunnels with plastic covers are also used for vegetable cultivation. Vegetables are grown in a number of African countries, including the Arab Republic of Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.

(2) A science studying the biology of vegetable plants and the methods of their cultivation. In Russia, the development of scientific research on vegetable growing paralleled the growth of all agricultural production. In the 19th century, research was carried out by the eminent self-taught scientist E. A. Grachev. R. I. Shreder, M. V. Rytov, and N. I. Kichunov furthered the development of vegetable raising. N. I. Vavilov contributed much to the breeding of vegetable plants. The principles of scientific vegetable growing were worked out by V. I. Edel’shtein and his many pupils. Edel’shtein made an extensive study of the various aspects of vegetable biology and established many agricultural procedures. Vegetable growing developed with particular success after the October Revolution of 1917. Breeding work has been carried out, and the training of specialists has been intensified.

Research and breeding work was being pursued in the USSR in 1972 by more than 150 institutes, experiment stations, laboratories, and design bureaus and subdepartments. The subjects being studied include the scientific bases of vegetable growing; biological, technological, and other methods for raising the productivity of vegetable plants; effective systems of fertilization and irrigation; new machinery for sowing, transplanting, tending, and harvesting crops; the types and designs of cultivating structures (hothouses, forcing frames) and storage facilities; and effective means for combatting pests, diseases, and weeds. Extensive work is being done on raising new varieties and hybrids and working out methods of seed raising.


Edel’shtein, V. I., Ovoshchevodstvo, 3rd. ed. Moscow, 1962.
Ovoshchnye kul’tury. 2nd ed. Edited by B. V. Kvasnikov. Moscow, 1960.
Metodika selektsii i semenovodstva ovoshchykh kul’tur. Under the general editorship of D. D. Brezhnev. Leningrad, 1964.
Markov, V. M. Ovoshchevodstvo. Moscow, 1966.
Rubtsov, M. I., and V. P. Matveev. Ovoshchevodstvo. Moscow, 1970.
Spravochnik po ovoshchevodstvu. Under the general editorship of V. A. Bryzgalov. Leningrad, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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