A Beginner’s Guide to Watermelon Farming

Watermelon is often eaten raw as a fruit and a vegetable for its juicy taste and various nutritional benefits. It’s an excellent source of water since it contains about 91% of water. This means taking watermelon will keep you hydrated, allowing your body to stay cool in hot weather.

Watermelon farming is popular in all parts of the world because it has high demand and price in markets in nearly all places worldwide. In this post, we discuss steps to start watermelon farming in Nigeria. 

Why Should You Invest in Watermelon Farming Business?

Highlighted below are some of the several benefits of watermelon farming:

1. High demand

There’s a ready market for your watermelon farm produce. Watermelon has many nutritional benefits, and one of them is that it’s recommended to be taken as a fruit for people keen on losing weight. Apart from that, some of the enzymes in watermelon help combat cancer-causing cells in the body. Due to the several benefits of the fruit, it has a high demand.

2. High return on investment

A watermelon grows to maturity in about 85 days (counting from the planting date). This means that within a year, you can get three sets of harvested watermelon fruits that will be ready for sale. If you consider investing in the business on a large scale, then you’ll get huge ROIs.

3. Source of employment

Commercial watermelon farming can serve as a viable business and a source of employment for unemployed people in rural areas.

4. Easy to Start 

Once you have the land space required for watermelon farming, you can get started because you don’t need much technical knowledge to run the farm.  

How to Start a Watermelon Farm in Nigeria

Let’s look at the steps you need to take to start watermelon farming business:

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Land selection

You can cultivate watermelon in a wide range of soils once key conditions such as good drainage and adequate fertility are met. The best soil for watermelon is non-saline sandy loam or silt loam soils.

The water-holding capacities of sandy soils are limited. For this reason, they have to be carefully irrigated and fertilized to enable high yield potential. The soil pH has to be within 5.8 – 6.6. Also, the soil needs to be rich in organic matter and have moderate soil moisture.

Preparation of land/site

The field you have chosen for watermelon farming needs to be prepared thoroughly by plowing, harrowing, and clearing plant debris. You also need to ensure that it’s pulverized and leveled; furrows are dug 2m apart.

Selecting seed variety

How profitable your watermelon business mainly depends on the type of seed variety you chose. Consider choosing a high-yielding and disease-resistant variety. You should also select a seed variety considering the target market because a variety that isn’t accepted in the market can yield low profit or lead to a total failure of the watermelon business.

Ensure you select a variety that’s adapted to the production area and avoid purchasing watermelon seeds from open markets since such seeds could give a low yield or could already be contaminated by diseases. It’s advisable to get your watermelon seeds from reputable sources.

Planting

The best time to plant watermelon is at the beginning of the rainy season or toward the end of the rainy season. That way, you can allow for low relative humidity, one of the key conditions for the normal growth of watermelon.

If your watermelon farm is in the northern part of Nigeria, early season planting is in May, while late-season planting is in July. However, due to the functional irrigation in the north, you can plant watermelon throughout the year.

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Application of fertilizer

Unlike other vegetable crops, watermelon has moderate nutrient requirements. Its deep rooting ensures the watermelon plant extracts nutrients from the soil efficiently.

Irrigation

As a deep-rooted crop, watermelon can withstand a significant degree of soil moisture stress. However, peak production needs timely irrigation. After crop establishment, which is done either seed or transplant, you may withhold irrigation for many weeks to encourage deep rooting. But irrigation needs to be managed to cut down on water stress throughout the fruiting phase.

In the past, farmers often used to irrigate watermelon using the furrow method, and irrigation was applied according to soil moisture status. Recently, several watermelon farmers have adopted drip irrigation.

In a drip irrigation system, the lines are buried in the center of the soil beds. The irrigation system could be renovated during each production season or left in place for some years, according to the specific management scheme & crop rotation system you choose.

You’ll have to irrigate watermelon once a week at the early stages of its development (only). Later on, its long roots ensure it can provide itself with moisture on its own. Thus, when watermelons became mature, there’s no need to continue watering them.

Weed control

Weed infestation causes a drop in watermelon yield, and for this reason, weeds need to be controlled either with the use of herbicides or mechanically. Mechanical cultivation and hand hoeing are required for controlling weeds before plants have vined.

Many pre-emergence herbicides are on the market for controlling germinating broadleaf weeds and grasses in seeded as well as transplanted watermelons. These herbicides work efficiently if properly used. They’re economical when you make use of them as narrow-band applications in the planted row. You can use other chemicals as a lay-by application between the rows before vines start to run.

Controlling diseases

Watermelons are susceptible to many diseases that attack the roots, foliage as well as fruit. Disease control plays a crucial role in the production of high-quality watermelons.

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A preventive measure combining the use of cultural practices, genetic resistance & chemical control (as required) often gives the best results for production of watermelon. Cultural practices can help limit the establishment, spread, and survival of pathogens that cause diseases in watermelon.

Lots of these bacterial, nematode, and fungal pathogens do survive in old crop debris as well as in the soil. Grass crops are great for rotations in which nematodes constitute a problem. Fields that have the proper soil characteristics need to be selected.

Harvesting

In the next stage — harvesting — watermelon typically reaches harvest after three months of planting based on season and variety. One way to determine whether watermelon is mature or not is to glance at the glossy rind surface.

Other signs indicating maturity are outlined as follows:

  • A change in the color of the ground spot from white to light yellow
  • Thumping the fruit: a metallic, ringing sound shows immaturity, while a more muffled or dull sound shows maturity or over-maturity
  • A change of tendrils that are closest to the fruit from green to brown & dry

Note: Thumping is a reliable technique you can use for detecting over-maturity in round-shaped melons.

Marketing

Before you harvest your watermelon, consider locating a target market and determining what they want and how they want it. You can sell watermelon directly in the local markets or industries that make use of it as their raw material.

The price ranges from ₦350 – ₦1000 each based on size. Apart from that, to market your watermelon successfully, adequate preparation needs to be made for transporting the fruit to the market as soon as possible.

Watermelon serves as a fruit and a vegetable, offering many nutritional benefits. It has a high demand due to its several health benefits and juicy taste; this is one of the various advantages of watermelon farming.

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