UConn student breaks Connecticut state record for heaviest pumpkin
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 22:10
A UConn student’s pumpkin broke the Connecticut state record for heaviest pumpkin, and it is New England’s heaviest pumpkin this year.
Weighing in at 1,776.5 pounds, and standing three-and-a-half feet in height, Matthew DeBacco’s pumpkin’s circumference is 193.5 inches and is approximately five feet across.
A two-time UConn alumnus, DeBacco completed his undergraduate career with a double major in pathobiology and horticulture and a minor in molecular cell biology. DeBacco returned for his master’s degree in plant science and did research studying the insects that damage plants like pumpkins. DeBacco is currently working towards his master’s degree in education and is student teaching high school in Meriden.
DeBacco has been growing for 13 years, since he was in high school, and focused on pumpkins in particular.
“I was cleaning out the compost pile,” DeBacco said, “when we found pumpkins growing on their own. My dad said I could grow one thing, so I went for the biggest thing.”
Growing the prize pumpkin was no easy feat for DeBacco who fed the pumpkin 80 gallons of water a day and tested both the soil and the leaves of the plant to ensure it was getting the proper nutrients. By testing the leaves of the plant, DeBacco was able to formulate special food full of the nutrients the pumpkin most needed to grow healthily.
During the peak of the pumpkin’s growing season it gained 40 to 50 pounds a day, which averaged to 18 pounds a day during the 97-day growing period. DeBacco estimated that on average the pumpkin grew 0.8 pounds an hour.
“You notice the growth. You come home from school and you can see that it’s bigger after one day,” DeBacco said.
The pumpkin, which was grown in Rocky Hill, was brought to UConn on a trailer and displayed outside of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“I wanted to share my harvest with everyone,” said DeBacco, who had grown the largest off-season pumpkin this past winter in the floriculture greenhouse on campus.
That pumpkin, which weighed 220 pounds, produced seeds that DeBacco gave to other pumpkin famers. Two of the seeds produced pumpkins that weighed 1,734 pounds and 1,744 pounds.
“That ranks the seeds that I produced in the top five seeds ever in the world,” DeBacco said.
DeBacco’s own masterpiece was grown from seeds he obtained from a friend in Oregon. “I liked the genetic background, so I decided to try and grow it,” DeBacco said.
DeBacco’s pumpkin will be taken to Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, to be carved by a professional pumpkin carver, Scott Culley. “I’ve seen him carve and it’s amazing,” DeBacco said. Each year, Foxwoods buys the largest pumpkins in the state to be carved and displayed on its premises and this was the first time DeBacco’s work qualified.