Watermelon is warm, long-season crop and is now grown in all tropical and sub-tropical areas of the globe.The fruit mostly cultivated for its fresh juice and sweet flesh.Farmers can make a good profit from the cultivation of watermelon if proper cultivation and farm management practices are followed.
Scientific name-Citrullus lanatus
Climate and soil requirement for Watermelon
It is a warm season crop mainly grown in tropical and subtropical regions. A long period of warm, preferably dry weather with abundant sunshine is required. It is susceptible to frost. Excess humidity will promote the attack of diseases and insect-pests. For good quality and sweetness, dry weather during the fruit development is necessary. It requires tropical climate and fairly high temperature (35-400C) during fruit development. Cool nights and warm days are ideal for accumulation of sugars in the fruits. Maturity is hastened if nights are warm. The average temperature for growth should be around 30-350C with a maximum around 400C and minimum between 20 and 250C. The optimum moisture and temperature range of 18-250C are required for germination.
A well drained loamy soil is preferred. Light soils that warm quickly in spring are usually used for early yield. In heavier soils, vine growth is high, and fruits mature late. The long tap root system of watermelon has been adopted in riverbeds. The soil in which it is grown should not crack in summer and water log in a rainy season. It prefers a soil pH of 6.0-7.0. It is slightly more tolerant to medium salt concentrations.
Improved Watermelon varieties
Sugar Baby (Before 1962)
This variety produces small to medium sized fruits with dark green skin. The flesh of the fruit is deep red and very sweet having 9-10% TSS. It yields 72 q/ acre.
Agronomic Practices for Watermelon cultivation
(i) Mid-January to March
(ii) November to December (Under protection)
For an area of one acre one and a half kg for small seeded varieties and two kg for large-seeded varieties.
Two and a half to three meter wide beds should be
prepared for Sugar Baby. Seeds should be sown on both sides of the bed at a distance of 60 cm between the plants.
Watermelon fertilizer requirements
Apply 8-10 tonnes of farmyard manure along with 25 kg of N (55 kg. of Urea) 16 kg. of P205 (100 kg of Single Superphosphate) and 15 kg. of K20 (25 kg of Muriate of Potash) per acre in the same way as in the case of muskmelon.
Irrigation of Watermelon
During initial stages of growth irrigate weekly. Later the irrigation should be given at 9-13 days interval. Towards maturity irrigation should be given at longer interval. A total number of irrigations should be 7 to 9.
Harvesting of Watermelon
The crop would be ready for harvest in 95-120 days after seed sowing depending on cultivar. The fruits should be harvested when fully developed and mature. Signs of maturity are drying of a tendril, change in colour of ground spots to yellow and thumping of matured fruits give dull sound.
Land should be free from volunteer plants of the same crop or other crossable species. A seed crop field must be isolated from other varieties all around to a minimum distance of 1000 m and 500 m for foundation and certified seed, respectively. Systematic and timely field inspections at different stages of plant growth are essential to ensure the production of genetically pure seed. A minimum of 3 field inspections viz., before flowering, during flowering and fruiting and finally at fruit maturity are required. The edible fruit should be examined for internal fruit characters and sweetness.
Watermelon fruit is ready for seed harvest at its edible stage of maturity. Harvesting can be delayed for a few days after the fruit reaches the edible stage. Dryness of the tendrils at the point of attachment of fruit to the vine and change of belly color from green to yellow are the other important criteria for judging the fruit maturity. The seeds may be harvested from the over-ripe fruits but to correctly inspect the interior fruit quality, it should be harvested at the time of its edible stage. The seeds are removed from the flesh, washed with water and dried in the shade before packing.
- Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana.
- Asia Farming.com