Watermelon production in Mississippi is off to a good start in the early days of harvest season.
“Right now, everything looks really good,” said Heath Steede, Mississippi State University Extension agent in George County. “They’re pulling them pretty hot and heavy right now.”
So far, weather conditions have been favorable. Fields have gotten the right mix of rain and clear skies.
Watermelons require a balance of rain, sun and warm weather to reach peak size and sweetness. Rains early in the growing season help melons grow to the proper size, but too much rain later on can introduce disease and cause the crop to ruin. Cloudy skies also reduce melon sweetness.
“Melon quality is good,” said Steede, who works with seven commercial growers in his county. “The dry weather we’ve been having hurts other crops, but for watermelons it has been what we needed. We haven’t had any excess water, which makes them less sweet.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Progress and Condition Report issued June 12, watermelon quality is 67% good and 31% fair. Harvest is 10% complete compared to 7% at this time last year.
Growers have seen an average amount of disease but nothing out of the ordinary, Steede said.
“There is some disease just like always,” he said. “But it is nothing we don’t normally see.”
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As with other crops, growers need good weather at every stage of crop production. If the weather turns rainy, the crop could suffer.
“If we do start getting a lot of rain, that will increase disease and hurt melon quality,” Steede said.
Wholesale prices are not as good as in years past because of supply.
“There are a lot of watermelons across the Southeast this year,” Steede said. “No one is knocking down doors to buy this year. They are selling but for less money.”
Most of Mississippi’s watermelons are grown in the southeast portion of the state. However, north Mississippi does produce some watermelons. Reid Nevins, an Extension agent in Lowndes County who has one commercial producer in his county, said production is on track for the area.
“What I’ve seen of his crop looks really good,” he said. “Harvest is later here in north Mississippi than in south Mississippi, but the crop is progressing like it should.”
Watermelon crops in north Mississippi will not be ready until around July 4.
“I don’t know of any problems with watermelons. I haven’t gotten any calls for that,” Nevins said. “I’ve had a lot of calls about tomatoes, though.”