The 2012 watermelon meeting is held each year at the conclusion of the growing season. This meeting once again provided new information for 61 attendees and producers in the southeast portion of Missouri and northeast Arkansas. Many attendees left with information that will be used during the next growing season.
The meeting began with a summary of production in southeast Missouri during the 2011 growing season. This review provided growers an opportunity to see just how strong production is in our area of the United States.
David Dunn of the Delta Center Soil Lab in Portageville, Missouri provided a good summary of nutrition in soils specific to watermelon. While pH is one of the first things that should be reviewed for proper levels, he also stressed the importance of potassium in watermelon. Soils in the Delta Region, where it is sandy, often show low levels of potassium.
Growers must decide, based on the soil type, how they will manage the soils potassium level. Fertilizer applied over time to a sandy soil may have as great an impact as one upfront application applied to a clay soil.
While a clay soil will hold potassium in the root zone, sandy soils tend to allow nutrient leaching which may move the buildup of nutrients just out of reach of roots.
Mr. Bob Garino with the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service conveyed the importance of completing the Agriculture census which will be arriving in the mail any time. The agriculture census remains the only source of uniform information from every county in the nation, providing a voice for the needs of the agriculture community. This census needs to be completed and returned by the first week in February. Data collected from this census provides information that can be used to make decisions in our local communities. Although this census was once conducted as part of the regular population census, it is now conducted every 5 years and completed by the USDA.
Dr. Reid Smeda, Associate Professor from the Division of plant science at the University of Missouri spoke candidly about the effects of resistant weeds in specialty crops such as watermelon.
Control must be practiced before the crop is in place and again after the crop is harvested. It is important to keep resistant weeds such as palmer amaranth, waterhemp and smooth pigweed from setting seed.
Each generation will pass resistance on to the next and if left unchecked can quickly become an issue in the field. Tillage and cover crops can be used as a non-chemical way to prevent weeds from taking hold while allowing the desirable plant to grow. Once a watermelon or other desired vine produces a closed canopy, weeds will have a tougher time growing but must still be controlled before they reach a size to reproduce. This may involve cutting by hand.
Jason Hanselman with the Watermelon Promotion Board provided an update on what the promotion board has been doing for melon growers in 2012. Bumble bees were brought to the meeting by John Wolf, who provided an alternative opportunity for pollination from the local honeybee.
The meeting was another successful educational opportunity for area growers. We could not have achieved this without help from all our sponsors.
Thank you again for your contribution to the education of our growers. Sponsors were Frey Farms, Gowan Company, Helena Chemical Company, International Paper Company, Ken-Mo Ag Center, Koppert Biological Systems, Mobley Greenhouse, Nunhems USA, Plant Agra, Seminis Vegetable Seeds, Siegers Seed Company, Syngentia Seeds, TEVA Corporation, Two-Way Trading Company and Yara North America.
The Extension office is open Monday - Friday, located in Kennett, Missouri at 233 North Main Street. For horticulture questions contact the horticulture specialist at 573-686-8064. MU is an equal opportunity/ADA institution.