Production, Marketing and Financial Analysis of Seedless Watermelons Growing in Tobacco Transplant Greenhouses

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2002: $12,118.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Scott Jessee
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State Univ.

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: general small fruits


  • Production Systems: general crop production


    Burley tobacco producers in Southwest Virginia have a tremendous investment in greenhouses for the production of transplants. These houses are only used for four months of the year. Tobacco quota has been significantly reduced over the past seven years, thus reducing income for producers. In order to make up for lost income, tobacco transplant producers are attempting to produce an alternative crop in their greenhouses during the summer months. The Production, Marketing, and Financial Analysis of Seedless Organic Watermelons provides greenhouse owners the opportunity to use an established facility to generate additional income.


    Production and marketing of burley tobacco has been a reliable source of income for farmers in Southwest Virginia for several generations. Over the past five years, tobacco production in the area has been reduced due to quota cuts (40%). Since the Tobacco Buyout Legislation was passed in 2004, tobacco continues to be in a transition state. Older producers have ceased production and younger producers are trying to determine profitability in the new marketplace. With this level of uncertainty, establishing new crops is more difficult.

    Like any crop, tobacco producers have a large investment per acre of crop planted. Tobacco transplant producers have a larger investment because transplants are grown in greenhouses. These structures are used approximately 120 days each year. After transplants are removed, greenhouses set idle. Since most transplant producers are already diversified (tobacco and beef cattle), it is a challenge to find a crop that can be easily grown and marketed.

    Seedless watermelon is a crop that has potential for tobacco greenhouse operators. Watermelons are relatively easy to grown in the greenhouse and they are affected little by the extreme temperatures during the hot days of summer. Market demand for seedless watermelon is known to exist and market demand for organic products is also on the rise. With these factors taken into consideration, organically produced seedless watermelons offer producers a “niche” for summer production.

    Project objectives:

    •Determine if watermelons will grow in this environment
    •Determine proper plant spacing and density for each house
    •Learn about trickle irrigation systems
    •Evaluate hydroponic organic fertilizer sources in relation with trickle system
    •Analyze plant sap in order to determine nutrient levels in the plants
    •Scout crop for insects and diseases
    •Market melons and realize a positive financial return

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.