- Fruits: melons
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
- Production Systems: general crop production
Melon production in the Southeast has typically been confined to the cultivation of American varieties such as watermelons and muskmelons. These melons do very well in the long, warm summers in the Southeast and have developed into an important cash crop in the region.
While the production of American melons is an important agricultural undertaking, we feel that there exists the potential to develop a profitable specialty market in European melons. European melons such as Charentais, Petit Gris des Rennes and Noir des Carmes have outstanding flavor and table qualities but are not ordinarily seen at US markets for a variety of reasons. Many people are not familiar with these varieties including a lot of growers. In addition to having cultivation requirements that are different US melons, these varieties also do not ship well or have a long shelf life. With the growth of farmers markets and the growing trend to locally grown food, we believe that, if successfully cultivated and marketed, these melons will be welcomed at consumer tables and a profitable niche market for them will be created.
The goals of our SARE project were to grow out a marketable quantity of European melons. Unfortunately, our results were extremely disappointing. While there were several reasons for this, a major one was the record breaking heat we experienced in Georgia this summer. Heading into this project, we were aware that we had to surmount some very clear obstacles in order to be successful. And while we structured our project to account for meeting these obstacles, we did encounter some problems that were unexpected and contributed negatively to our results. Among these issues were:
• Record-Breaking Heat
• Pollination Issues
• Rodent Issues
We will provide more details on various aspects of our project later in this report. While our results were not what we hoped they would be, we still believe that we this crop can be successfully cultivated in a cost-effective manner. We will make another attempt at the crop next year.
We will attempt to grow out three (3) varieties of European melons for market. The varieties we will grow are Charentais, Petit Gris Des Rennes and Noir Des Carmes. We have selected these varieties because we have been able to grow them in our Georgia location in extremely limited trials. While we were able to get them to grow, the quality and quantity of the crop produced was not sufficient for market. We intend to institute a more formal project with strict growing controls and record-keeping.
Among the issues we will need to address in our growing trials are proper irrigation and pest and disease control. We plan to grow our melons in raised beds using drip irrigation, mulch and row covers. Our goal is to grow out enough melons to have product to sell at least 2 of the farmers markets we attend. One of the problems we had in our informal test was growing melons that appeared to be ideal melons but lacked taste and sweetness. We plan to pay particular attention to those practices that increases the brix content of our melons and harvest them correctly as to maximize their sugar content and taste.
Our aim is to utilize natural and organic methods in this trial.