Watermelon farming has created a great opportunity in Agribusiness in Nigeria today. It is one of the fasted selling agricultural-products in the international market and locally as well. Watermelon is widely cultivated and consumed all over the globe. It’s origin is traced back to the Kalahari Desert in Africa.
The demand for it is high which is very encouraging to farmers. Watermelon is easy to cultivate as it does not involve much work. It has the capacity to make a farmer wealthy within the shortest possible time.
If you are considering crops to cultivate and harvest within the shortest possible time like pepper, okra, cucumber etc for quick cash don’t forget to put watermelon in your cart. It can be grown anywhere in Nigeria and can also be cultivated all year round. The sweetness and crispy nature makes it a well favoured fruit.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF WATERMELON
Watermelon contains vitamin A which is very good for the eye and also vitamin C which is very good for the skin and hair. It contains Lycopene an antioxidant that prevents the skin from sunburn. Watermelon contains more than 90% of water which helps in digestion, heart problems and metabolic deficiencies.
LAND PREPARATION IN WATERMELON FARMING
Clear the land of any grass and debris, burn the grasses and sticks or bury the grasses under the soil to serve as manure. Till the land especially if it is a dry land so as to create room for the movement of roots and better penetration of water. You can use ridges or beds for watermelon farming.
Treat the soil with insecticides/pesticides to kill bacteria/fungi or predators like termite which may be present in the soil to feed on the watermelon seed. Use a sprinkler for the spray of insecticides your bed should be 5ft apart from another bed. Pour manure all over the soil or inorganic fertilizer. this practice is good for watermelon farming.
SEED PLANTING IN WATERMELON FARMING
You can plant the same day you make your bed or as you wish. Give a 2 ft by 2 ft spacing and plant 2- 3 seeds in a hole. You can thin your seedlings to 1 or 2 stands after 10 days of germination or when you are sure of a successful germination.
Plant 1.5cm deep into the soil and use your hands to cover it with sand. You can as well plant it in a nursery nylon filled with sand 2 to 3 seeds and 1.5cm deep, transplant them after 10 days. Your nursery should be close to your farm because watermelons are very fragile in other not to reduce their chances of survival. Your soil should not be Water log as watermelon doesn’t survive in a water log area. Plant your watermelon in an open land not in a closed canopy.
If you are preparing the seed by yourself then you have to dry the seeds for 5 or more days to ensure they are properly dried. It will also help you to pick out the matured seeds from the immature ones.
But if you are buying from stores the already prepared ones especially the hybrid seeds you don’t need to undergo any other stress than planting directly. There are many varieties of watermelon seeds but the recommended ones for Nigeria soil and commercial purpose is Kaolak F1 Koloss and Tokyo F1
MANURE APPLICATION IN WATERMELON FARMING
Even if the soil is very fertile you still have to add nutrient to it because watermelon requires some level of nutrients at each stage of germination. Such as sprouting stage etc to avoid shortage of nutrient or low harvest there is need to apply manure. Apply fertilizer when the vines begin to spread out and again when it starts blossoming and also when fruit appears. Animals dung has been found to secure a well favoured farm with good harvest.
Apply manure after 11 to 12 days of planting or 3 days after transplanting. NPK. 20-20-20 is a good for those using inorganic fertilizer. Apply urea (nitrate fertilizer) 35 days after planting. Drill a hole round the plant 4cm away and apply the correct measurement fertilizer of 120kg is needed for a hectare.
APPLICATION OF INSECTICIDE
Watermelon like any other plant is susceptible to diseases. One of such is Fusarium wilt anthracite. When you noticed this kind of challenge just uproot and burn the affected plants. It is Mosaic a virus disease which causes stunted growth, curling of leaves irregular shape. Black fruit is cause by aphids (insects) they produce maggots which attacks watermelon plant.
Apply insecticide on the 10th and 14th day after planting, subsequently apply in another 10 days on the 37th and the last one on the 57th. Common pests are mites, fruit flies, spider, white flies, watermelon beetles etc these pests has been traced to watermelon farming.
HARVESTING OF WATERMELON
When the tendrils that holds the watermelon dries or turns brownish. And when you observe a crack appearing on the stem above the melon then it is ready for harvest. Be sure the watermelon is ripe before harvesting as it doesn’t continue ripening after harvest. Cut the watermelon from the Vine(base); avoid pulling so as not to crack it. Also watermelon becomes soften after cutting it from the vine, be sure it is ripe before harvesting. Watermelon takes 80 to 100 days before harvesting and can be harvested 3 to 20 times before it withers depending on the type of species and management practices used.
PLANTING SEASONS IN WATERMELON FARMING
In watermelon farming there are three planting seasons. Early planting is from March – May, mid planting season is in the Month of June /July, late planting is in August /September but with good irrigation watermelon can be planted all year round. Yield for a hectare of watermelon is around 2 tonnes, while that of late planting is 1 tonne. The number of fruits for early planting of watermelon is between 20 to 30 per stand whereas in late planting the fruit is between 5 -9 per stand.
HARVESTING OF WATERMELON
When the bottom of watermelon turns yellowish or creamy then the watermelon is ripe. An unripe watermelon is whitish at the bottom. And if the watermelon gives a little sound when pressure is applied to it then it is ripe. If the tendril is green you have to wait but if half dead that means watermelon is close to ripening or it is ripe.
Cut the stem with a sharp object close to the fruit base when harvesting. You can store watermelon for 10 days if the body is not damaged. The sliced ones can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 days if placed inside a covered container. Wet seeds do better compare to the dry ones, they germinate fast and has bigger fruits. Germination takes 6-7 days
Put plantain leave on the watermelon fruit in other to prevent it from rot.
IRRIGATION IN WATERMELON FARM
Watering of watermelon should be done in the first few weeks of seed planting. Watermelon has deep root as such extracts moisture from the soil until the roots develops you have to water the crops regularly with slow deep soaks.
Water the watermelon patch 3 weeks after planting once or twice a week, once the seeds sprout reduce the watering to 10 days interval and once the vines spreads you water at two weeks interval but if there is sufficient rainfall then there is absolutely no need to water the crops.
Stop watering when it starts fruiting even if there is no rain in other to allow sugar in the fruit to concentrate and for the flesh to be crispy.
MARKETING OF WATERMELON
There is good market for watermelon because it is widely eaten. And has many health benefits which makes it the darling fruit for many people. Some people purchase them for different purposes for consumption,, for occasions, for artistic work|(decorations), for juice extraction etc.
Contact super markets, fruit bars, hotels markets and make a deal with them, give them good offer less than what others are selling, this way you can sell faster, those selling in the major markets buy more and quickly but if you want to make more money you can sell by yourself target a good location where the rich and average persons can find you to buy.