Sweet re­sults from Ge­or­gia’s melon crops

The Standard Journal - - Farm & Garden -

Good yields, rea­son­able prices early in the sea­son and low dis­ease pres­sure has Ge­or­gia’s wa­ter­melon crop pro­duc­ing sweet re­sults, says one Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia veg­etable hor­ti­cul­tur­ist.

“Typ­i­cally, for over­head ir­ri­gated grow­ers in the Tifton area, we’re in the 40,000-50,000-pound range for wa­ter­melon yields, but I’ve heard a num­ber of re­ports in the 60,000pound range per acre, which is good,” said Tim Coo­long, who is based on the UGA Tifton Cam­pus. “Prices at the start of the sea­son were pretty strong. Grow­ers that had mel­ons avail­able then, did fairly well and helped make up for last year.”

Last summer’s crop left a bit­ter taste in most farm­ers’ mouths. Steady rains soaked wa­ter­melon acreage and brought un­wanted pests and dis­eases that se­verely dam­aged fields. Other than some iso­lated in­ci­dences of bac­te­rial fruit blotch, dis­ease pres­sures have been lower for wa­ter­melon grow­ers this summer, which can be at­trib­uted to dry weather con­di­tions, he said.

“I would say for veg­etable farm­ers across the board ( be­cause you have to ir­ri­gate al­most ev­ery veg­etable crop), most grow­ers would pre­fer weather to be hot and dry rather than cool and wet be­cause they know they can ir­ri­gate when they need it. There­fore, you’re not go­ing to have to deal with all the dis­ease is­sues,” Coo­long said.

A health­ier crop re­sulted in a boost in prices dur­ing the first cou­ple of weeks. De­spite the crop be­ing de­layed by a week due to a cold and wet spring, wa­ter­melon farm­ers en­joyed a strong start to the sell­ing sea­son. Coo­long said the price dropped a cou­ple of weeks ago, which is com­mon af­ter July 4 when de­mand is lower.

Also con­tribut­ing to the re­cent price drop are watermelons com­ing into the state from South Carolina. With com­pe­ti­tion, there is a glut of pro- duce for sale at farm­ers mar­kets and lo­cal pro­duce stands.

Coo­long added that most of the state’s wa­ter­melon crop will be wind­ing down ei­ther this week or next. There are still grow­ers pro­duc­ing late into July and even a cou­ple that have a fall mar­ket, but as the summer goes on, dis­ease and in­sect pres­sure make grow­ing more dif­fi­cult, he said.

The fur­ther into the har­vest sea­son, the more farm­ers are chal­lenged to keep the vines full, which may re­sult in sun­burnt mel­ons — fruit that is un­mar­ketable.

Ac­cord­ing to UGA’s Cen­ter for Agribusi­ness and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment, watermelons gen­er­ated $159.5 mil­lion in farm gate value in 2012 on 18,137 acres. Watermelons ac­count for 17.05 per­cent of the state’s veg­etable crop. Tift County leads the state with $20 mil­lion from wa­ter­melon pro­duc­tion, fol­lowed by Crisp County at $17.4 mil­lion and Wil­cox County at $15.6 mil­lion.

For more in­for­ma­tion about com­mer­cial wa­ter­melon pro­duc­tion, see ex­ten­sion. uga. edu/ agri­cul­ture/ ag- fruits- vegeta­bles.

Ge­or­gia grown - watermelons

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