Couple of Weeks Away: Georgia Melon Producers Eyeing Mid-June Harvests

Clint ThompsonGeorgia, Watermelon

By Clint Thompson

Georgia’s watermelon harvests are still a couple of weeks away, according to one industry expert. The fact that this year’s crop is not slated to be picked until mid-to-late June is on par with what growers have experienced in recent years, says Ty Torrance, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension vegetable agent for Colquitt, Tift and Worth counties.

Ty Torrance/University of Georgia photo

“I think things are a little bit later, but it does seem like our market is kind of slowly shifted over the years to past July 4, where it used to be primarily around July 4. But we’ve shifted to a little bit later window,” Torrance said. “I’ve talked with a lot of growers that aren’t pleased with their original crown set, fruit set, assuming primarily from cloudy days, rainy weather and not enough sunshine.”

Excessive Rains

Excessive moisture this spring challenged watermelon production. It is usually a crop that thrives without a lot of rain, due to its propensity to being impacted by a plethora of diseases. Growers saw those diseases flare up early in the production season due to persistent rainfall.

“Early onset of foliar diseases, like downy mildew and gummy stem blight with a little bit of anthracnose has come in. That’s going to hurt us, just because it started so early in the season. It’s just something growers are going to have to fight every week to the end of harvest,” Torrance said. “It’ll be an expensive spray year. If we don’t have a good market, it’ll be hard to recover most of that.”

Torrance also added that Georgia acreage increased this year from last season.

“We had a good market last year. Some growers decided to increase acres, and we also have growers that don’t typically grow watermelons added watermelons to their systems this year,” Torrance said.