Watermelon is a warm-season crop. It needs warm temperature up to 80°C during the daytime. If you live in a cold climate, You can grow watermelon by starting seeds indoors and choosing short-season varieties. Watermelon cultivation is the highly profitable cash crop for small-scale and part-time farm owners. Watermelon is a juicy fruit a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. The botanical name of the watermelon is Citrullus Lanatus. The fruit size varies from 5 to 30 pounds, depending on variety. In India, watermelon is cultivated in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Assam, West Bengal, Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. China, Turkey, Iran, United States of America, Brazil are the major watermelon producer country in the world. Here in this article, we have provided basic information to start a small scale watermelon cultivation business.
Things To Consider In Watermelon Cultivation
- According to your agro-climatic condition, choose the right variety.
- Check the soil condition and PH balance
- Arrange the irrigation facility
- Start planting in the right time (season)
- Conduct some market research for fresh fruit selling
- You must have proper knowledge about fertilization, planting, pollination, plant protection and harvesting.
- Prepare a budget and make the financial resources accessible
- In the case of export, make a contract prior to the agents or companies.
Health Benefits Of watermelons
- Watermelon’s high levels of lycopene are very effective at protecting cells from damage and may help lower the risk of heart disease, according to a study at Purdue University.
- Watermelons are the perfect example of a food that can help you stay hydrated.
- The watermelon contains fiber, which encourages a healthy digestive tract and helps keep you regular.
- Watermelon is a natural diuretic which helps increase the flow of urine but does not strain the kidneys.
- Rich in potassium, watermelon is a great natural electrolyte and thus helps regulate the action of nerves and muscles in our body.
- Watermelon is a wonderful source of beta-carotene which is converted in the body to vitamin A.
- The vitamin C content in watermelon is astoundingly high. Vitamin C is great at improving our immune system by maintaining the redox integrity of cells and thereby protecting them from reactive oxygen species.
Best Varieties For Watermelon Cultivation
Watermelon varieties fall into three broad classes based on how the seeds were developed. These are open-pollinated, F1 hybrid, and triploid or seedless. Open-pollinated varieties are developed through several generations of selection. F1 hybrid seed will be as much as five to 10 times as costly as open-pollinated seed, and available F1 hybrid varieties will change from year to year. If you want to use your own seed next year, buy an open pollinated heirloom variety.
Some of the popular Indian watermelon varieties are:
- Asahi Yamato – Mid-season variety, medium sized fruits with average fruit weight 6-8 kg. The rind colour is light green with deep pink flesh; TSS 11 to 13%. The fruits ripen in 95 days.
- Sugar Baby – The fruit slightly small in size, round in shape having a bluish black rind and deep pink flesh with small seeds. TSS 11-13%; average weight 3-5 kg. The fruits ripen in 85 days.
- Arka Jyoti – Cross between IIHR-20 & Crimson Sweet; mid-season variety; fruits round, rind colour is light green with dark green stripes and flesh crimson colour, TSS 11-13%. Average fruit weight 6-8kg.
- Arka Manik – The fruits are round to oval with green rind and dull green stripes. The flesh is deep red, very sweet taste with TSS 12-13%. Average fruit weight is 6 kg. It stands well in transport and storage. Resistant to powdery mildew and tolerant to anthracnose disease.
- Improved Shipper – Fruits large in size with dark green rind, average fruit weight 8-9 kg/ha, moderately sweet with TSS 8-9%.
- Special No.1 – Early maturing variety, Fruits are round and small with red flesh and seeds, average TSS is slightly lower than Shipper variety.
- Durgapura Meetha – A late maturing variety, fruits are round rind is thick and light green in colour, flesh sweet and dark red in colour, good keeping quality, TSS 11%, average fruit weight 6-8 kg, seed with black tip and margin. The fruit ripens in 125 days.
- Durgapura Kesar – A late maturing variety. This is green in colour with stripes; flesh yellow in colour and moderately sweet, seeds are large. Average fruit weight 4-5 kg.
Agro Climatic Condition For Watermelon Cultivation
Watermelon seed germinates at soil temperatures of 68° to 95° F; however, germination below 70° is very slow. At a soil temperature of 77°, watermelon plants should emerge in about five days. Watermelons do not cope well with extreme heat or the humid, soggy conditions of our wet season/summer. Fungal diseases and bugs will wipe them out in no time. If you live in a cooler climate, then summer is the time to grow watermelons. You do need at least three months of reliably hot, sunny weather to grow and ripen a watermelon. During that time, your average daily maximum temperature should be at least about 20-25°C or 70-80F. Warmer is even better.
Suitable Soils For Watermelon Cultivation
Amend soil with aged manure, seaweed, and/or compost before planting. Watermelons are heavy feeders. Watermelons prefer a soil pH between 6 and 6.8. Mulching with black plastic will serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth and keep developing fruits clean. In fertilization, make sure it delivers more nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium. However, after flowering begins, use a fertiliser with less nitrogen. Most recommended is liquid seaweed extract.
Watermelon Cultivation From Seed
Watermelons are grown from seed. Watermelon seed germinates easily and quickly, within a few days. Watermelon plants outgrow the seedling stage very quickly, and they don’t like transplanting. Watering is very important from planting until fruit begins to form. While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Keep soil moist but not waterlogged. Water at the vine’s base in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves and avoid overhead watering. Drip irrigation is also a good alternetive. Reduce watering once fruits are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melon.
Watermelons grow male and female flowers on the same vine. The smaller male flowers appear first. The female flowers are much larger. Watermelon flowers are insect pollinated. Hand pollination is also possible.
Plant Protection System For Watermelon Cultivation
The biggest watermelon pests are the leaf-eating beetles (they damage the flowers, too) like spotted and striped cucumber beetles, pumpkin beetles with or without dots. The other main problem with growing watermelons is mildew, a fungus that makes the leaves look as if they were coated with white powder. The fungus thrives in damp, humid conditions. You must obtain precaution to overcome these problems.
Harvesting & Storage For Watermelon Cultivation
Watermelons don’t sweeten after they are picked, so harvest time is important. Watermelons are hand-harvested at full maturity for best taste and texture. Indicators of watermelon fruit maturity include a yellow spot on the fruit surface in contact with soil or plastic mulch; a brown, dried tendril where the fruit stem is joined to the watermelon vine; and a dull surface on top of the fruit.
Cooling the watermelons after harvest to 45-50°F will remove field heat and improve shelf life and taste. Watermelons will retain good quality for approximately 21-28 days if stored at 85-90 percent humidity and 47-55°F.
Watermelons are grown for the fresh market. Large-scale producers (more than 20 acres) generally use brokers who provide the marketing services to the producers. The average US farm price for watermelons in 2014 was $13.50 per hundredweight. The national seasonal average retail price for non-organic, red-fleshed, seeded type ranged between $0.31to $0.38 per pound and $0.46 to $0.55 per pound for red-fleshed seedless. The field method of sales, whether by the acre or by the pound, is preferred by many growers because it is relatively simple. Basically, the grower finds a buyer willing to purchase the entire field. Often, the buyer does the harvesting. Watermelon cultivation is profitable even for small farm owners having 1 acre of land.