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

2003 Annual Report for OS02-001

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.

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


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. Production, Marketing, and Financial Analysis of Seedless Organic Watermelons Grown in Tobacco Transplant Greenhouses is being studied to determine viability of this new enterprise.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • 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


  • Watermelons can be grown in greenhouses organically and hydroponically

    Plant densities can be increased to further increase income

    Some organic fertilizer sources can be difficult to apply with the trickle system.

    Plant sap monitoring illustrated the difficulty of supplying nutrients with organic emulsion fertilizers.

    Few insects bothered the crop.

    Powdery mildew can be a late-season problem.

    Melons can be marketed effectively at local farmers markets and road-side stands.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Hydroponic organic seedless watermelons can be grown in tobacco transplant greenhouses. After conducting the first year of the study, university specialists and production cooperators realized that increased plant densities will be needed in order to generate significant income. By carefully monitoring the organic fertilizer, the trickle irrigation system can effectively delivered water and nutrients to the plants. Although there were few insect pest, powdery mildew created a less than perfect growing environment at the latter part of the season. By making several system adjustments (plant density, disease control, fertilizer applications, improved harvest management), idle tobacco transplant greenhouses can generate extra money for traditional full-time burley tobacco producers.