Seed to Table: Why producing a perfect, profitable watermelon crop can be a challenge every season
July is National Watermelon Month! To celebrate, we dig into some of the challenges watermelon producers face each season to provide consumers with the juicy, summertime sweet treat to consumers across the United States.
Nothing screams summer quite like biting into a cold slice of watermelon on a hot day. Producer Luke Hallman of Riverside Produce in King William, Virginia, raises only melons and watermelons for his customers, which include local stores and farmer’s markets. He enjoys the challenge of being a farmer but says he has a very important partner: the honeybee.
“Everything you see here is dependent on a tiny little insect visiting a male flower and depositing the pollen from the male flower to the female ovary, and it doesn’t have to have to happen just once—as I said, you need a minimum of eight visits to that female flower to even get a fruit set,” Hallman said.
There are a lot of other challenges that can arise during the growing season and many challenges that can happen to make watermelons not marketable.
Chris Drake in Southampton County started raising watermelons decades ago he says it can be tough to make a profit with watermelons.
“Once the vines get going and once they get to grow them, they’re actually a little easier to manage, but they’re still there’s a lot of diseases and a lot of pests that can they can damage watermelons,” Drake said. “Then, when you get to the harvest time of it, that’s a whole other issue — you can also have fruit scarring and fruit blistering, and the sun can get to them.”
Farmers raise watermelons on 338 different farms encompassing 773 acres across the Commonwealth of Virginia.