Field Preparation for Watermelon: Requirements for High Yield

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Preparing the field for watermelon cultivation is essential for achieving high yields. This beginner-friendly guide will take you through the fundamental requirements to ensure a successful watermelon harvest. From soil preparation to planting techniques, we’ll cover it all. So, whether you’re a novice gardener or just starting watermelon farming, read on to discover the key steps in creating the perfect environment for these delicious and refreshing fruits to thrive.

Field Preparation for Watermelon

Field Preparation for Watermelon

Watermelon Farming

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), belong to Cucurbitaceae family, is a warm-season crop cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. Its sweet, red-to-pink flesh and deep-red juice are highly sought after. Originating from the Kalahari Desert, it was first recorded in Egypt. Proper cultivation methods yield profitable results for farmers.

Watermelon plants have male and female flowers, producing fruits ranging from 2 to 15 kg, with seedless varieties requiring pollinators. China is the world’s largest producer, followed by Turkey, Iran, and Kazakhstan. In India, it’s cultivated in several states. With over 1000 varieties, watermelons thrive in various climates and have high global demand, often consumed raw, pickled, or as juice. Harvest time ranges from 70 to 100 days, depending on the variety.

What is Field Preparation and Need?

Field preparation refers to the set of essential activities carried out to create an optimal environment for crop cultivation, and it is of paramount importance in agriculture. Proper field preparation ensures improved soil structure, adequate nutrient levels, and efficient water management, all vital for maximizing crop yields.

According to agricultural data, well-prepared fields can increase yield by up to 20%. Key components of field preparation include soil testing, plowing, harrowing, and the incorporation of organic matter. These measures enhance soil fertility, reduce weed competition, and enhance overall crop health, making field preparation an indispensable practice for successful agriculture.

Benefits of Field Preparation for Watermelon

  1. Optimal Growth Environment: Proper field preparation creates an ideal setting for growing watermelon plants. This includes loosening the soil, which allows roots to penetrate easily and access nutrients.
  2. Increased Yields: Research shows well-prepared fields can produce significantly higher watermelon yields. A well-prepared soil structure ensures that plants receive the necessary nutrients and water for robust growth, resulting in more and larger watermelons.
  3. Weed Control: Field preparation helps control weeds, which can compete with watermelon plants for nutrients and water. Removing weeds before planting minimizes this competition.
  4. Enhanced Disease Resistance: Healthy soil, achieved through proper field preparation, can enhance the watermelon plants’ disease resistance. This means fewer pesticides are needed, making the cultivation process more environmentally friendly.
  5. Improved Water Management: Adequate field preparation allows for better water management. Properly prepared soil retains moisture efficiently, reducing the need for excessive irrigation.
  6. Quality Fruit: Watermelons grown in well-prepared fields are sweeter and juicier. This ensures that the fruits are more abundant and of higher quality, which is essential for marketability.

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Tractor in the field

Selection of Seeds for Watermelon Cultivation

  • Seedless Varieties: If you prefer enjoying watermelon without seeds, consider varieties like “Sugar Baby” or “Asahi Yamato.” These seedless types are known for their sweet, juicy flesh.
  • Traditional Varieties: Traditionalists may opt for varieties like “Madhuri 64” or “Durgapur Meetha,” which retain the classic watermelon flavor with seeds.
  • Small-Sized Varieties: For smaller gardens or limited space, “Black Magic” or “Special Number 1” are compact and ideal choices.
  • High-Yield Varieties: Varieties like “Arka Manik” and “Arka Jyoti” are known for their high yield, making them suitable for commercial farming.
  • Unique Flavors: For unique flavors, explore “Lekha,” “Varun,” or “Black Thunder” for a delightful twist.
  • Disease Resistance: Some varieties, like “Arka Akash” and “Suvarnima,” are bred for disease resistance, ensuring healthier crops.
  • Regional Varieties: Depending on your location, regional favorites like “Durgapur Kesar” (West Bengal) or “Pusa Bedana” (Delhi)

Nursery Bed Preparation for Watermelon

Step 1: Selecting the Nursery Bed Type
  • Watermelon nurseries can be established using polythene bags or portrays within a protected nursery environment. The choice depends on your specific resources and preferences.
Step 2: Polythene Bag Nursery
  • Use polythene bags with a thickness of 200 gauge, each measuring 10 cm in diameter and 15 cm in height.
  • Prepare a potting mixture combining red soil, sand, and farmyard manure in a 1:1:1 ratio. This mixture provides essential nutrients and good drainage for seedlings.
Step 3: Filling the Bags
  • Fill each polythene bag with the prepared potting mixture. Ensure that it’s well-mixed and free from lumps.
  • Make a small depression in the center of each bag to accommodate the watermelon seed.
Step 4: Sowing Seeds
  • Place a watermelon seed in each depression and cover it with a thin layer of the potting mixture.
  • Water the bags gently to settle the soil around the seeds.

In case you missed it: How to Grow Watermelon from Seed to Harvest: Check How this Guide Helps Beginners

Watermelon farming
Step 5: Protray Nursery
  • Alternatively, you can use protrays, each having 98 cells, to raise seedlings.
  • Fill each cell with the same potting mixture and sow a single seed per cell.
Step 6: Seedling Care
  • Ensure the nursery receives adequate sunlight and is protected from strong winds and heavy rains.
  • Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
  • Seedlings are typically ready to transplant into the main field when they are about 15 days old.

Field Preparation for Watermelon

Ploughing the Field to Fine Tilth

Before planting, plow the land to create a fine tilth. This process breaks up the soil, making it lose and crumbly, ideal for watermelon root development.

Application of Organic Matter and Microbes
  • Apply 20 tons of Farm Yard Manure (FYM) per hectare to enrich the soil with organic matter.
  • Inoculate the field with beneficial microorganisms such as Azospirillum (5 kg/ha), Phosphobacteria (5 kg/ha), and Pseudomonas (5 kg/ha) to promote nutrient availability and plant health.
  • Combine FYM (50 kg) and neem cake (100 kg) before the last plowing to provide additional organic nutrients.
Creating Raised Beds
  • Form raised beds with a width of 1.2 meters and a height of 30 cm for sowing watermelon seeds. These beds improve drainage and prevent waterlogging.
  • Ensure that each raised bed has channels spaced at least 2.5 meters apart, facilitating access for irrigation.

Drip Irrigation: Align each channel of the raised bed with drip irrigation. This efficient watering system ensures watermelon plants receive consistent moisture while reducing water waste.

Soil Type Requirements: Watermelons thrive in sandy loam soil with good drainage to prevent waterlogging. The optimal soil pH for watermelon cultivation falls within the range of 6.5 to 7.5.

Seed Treatment: Before sowing, treat watermelon seeds to enhance germination and plant health. Options include using Pioneer Agro Trichoderma Viride (250 ml for one acre of seeds) or Bavistin (Carbendazim 50% EC) at a rate of 2gm per liter. Alternatively, soak seeds in a mixture of Hifield AG Ridomet 35 (1.5 gm/l), Plantomycin (0.5 gm/l), and Humetsu Humic acid (5–10 ml/kg) before sowing.

Ideal Sowing Time: The best time to sow watermelon is during January to February. This timing allows for a harvest during the summer months, which can fetch higher prices in the market.

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Watermelon Farm
Fertilizer Recommendations
  • Organic: 8 tons of FYM and 40 kg of neem cake per acre.
  • Nitrogen (N): 142 kg of Calcium Nitrate per acre.
  • Phosphorus (P): 139 kg of Single Super Phosphate (SSP) or 70 kg of Double Super Phosphate (DSP) per acre.
  • Potassium (K): 37 kg of Muriate of Potash (MOP) or 45 kg of Sulphate of Potash per acre.
  • Biofertilizers: Apply Azospirillum and Phosphobacterium at 4 kg per acre through soil application.

Soil Requirements for Watermelon

Climate: Watermelons thrive in warm-season conditions and are primarily cultivated in subtropical and hot regions. They are highly sensitive to cold temperatures, with even mild frosts capable of causing significant damage and reducing yields. Dry, sunny weather is essential for producing high-quality crops, and if grown during the winter season, some form of protection is needed to shield them from frost.

Temperature: Ideal temperatures for watermelon cultivation range from 18°C to 35°C during the growing season. Cool nights and warm days are optimal for sugar accumulation in the fruit. Seeds germinate when temperatures exceed 21°C. However, the crop is susceptible to fungal diseases during vegetative growth in high-humidity conditions. Extreme temperatures above 36°C or below 10 °C can hinder fruit growth and maturation.

Soil Requirements: Watermelon crops thrive in well-drained soils, including sandy soils, sandy loam soils, and black soils enriched with organic matter. Alluvial soils found near riverbeds are also suitable. The ideal pH range for watermelon farming falls between 6.0 and 7.5, ensuring optimal plant nutrient uptake.

Altitude: While watermelons can grow at altitudes up to 1500 meters above sea level, lowlands are generally the best-suited areas for cultivation.

Rainfall: Watermelons require an optimum rainfall of around 600 mm per cropping season for healthy growth. However, irrigation is crucial to ensure consistent moisture availability, especially during dry spells.

High-Yield Watermelon Farming Varieties

High-yield watermelon farming offers several promising varieties, including Crimson Sweet, Jubilee II, Star Brite, Sweet Favorite, Shiny Boy, Yellow Baby, Triple Crown, and Moon and Stars. These varieties cater to different preferences and growing conditions. Notable choices in India include NS 295, AFA 306, Melody F1, Apoorva, Anmol Yellow, and JKMWH 007 Gold. These varieties ensure a diverse and fruitful watermelon cultivation experience, with options suitable for various regions and climates.

Watermelon Nutritional & Health Benefits

Watermelon is a nutritious and popular fruit that provides 125-kilo joules (30 kilo calories) of food energy in 100 grams. It is rich in water, 91% of which is water, with 6% sugar and low fat. Watermelon helps keep the body hydrated, cleans the skin, and helps kidneys convert L-citrulline into L-arginine, protecting against diabetes. It curbs appetite, aiding weight loss. Watermelon is also beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease, reducing asthma effects, reducing dental problems, and promoting kidney health.

In case you missed it: Top 20 Steps to Boost Watermelon Yield: How to Increase Fruit Size, Quality, and Production

small striped watermelon

It fights inflammation, preventing heart disease, cancer, and fibromyalgia. Watermelon juice is a recovery beverage after exercise, with citrulline easing muscle soreness. Regular consumption of watermelon is beneficial for skin and hair health, as it contains nutrients for healthy digestion, eye health, immune support, wound healing, and cell damage prevention. Watermelon also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

High-Yield Watermelon Farming: Requirements and Conditions

  • Seed Selection: Selecting high-quality seeds is crucial for successful watermelon farming. Opt for fully matured, plump seeds of improved high-yielding varieties. Ensure they are free from age signs, proper storage, and contaminants. Treating seeds with fungicides before sowing protects against soil-borne diseases.
  • Seed Rate: Approximately 500 grams of seeds are needed for one acre or 3 to 4 kilograms per hectare.
  • Seed Treatment: Treat seeds with Trichoderma viride, Pseudomonas fluorescens, or Carbendazim to prevent pests and enhance germination.
  • Land Preparation and Planting: Sow watermelon seeds in December for a summer harvest. Prepare the land early, allowing time for weed decomposition. Seeds can be sown directly or raised in a seed bed before transplanting. Soak seeds for 12-15 hours, then keep them in wet, gunny bags overnight. Land should be leveled and free of weeds from previous crops.
  • Intercultural Operations: Weed control is essential, and hand weeding is recommended once the crop covers the soil. Gap filling and thinning ensure healthy plant density. Pinch apical shoots for higher yields and remove diseased or damaged fruits during the initial fruit setting.
  • Manures & Fertilizers: Apply well-rotted Farmyard manure during land preparation. Use N:P:K fertilizer (100:50:50 kg/ha), with half of Nitrogen applied before planting. Spray NAA (100 ppm) to increase female flowers.
  • Pests & Diseases: Control pests like cutworms, melon flies, and aphids, as well as diseases like damping off and powdery mildew. Avoid overcrowding, remove plant residues, and maintain good air circulation. Consult local experts for identification and solutions.
  • Harvesting & Yield: Harvest watermelons in 80-100 days, judging maturity from tendril withering, ground spot color, and thumping test. Yield depends on factors like variety, soil, climate, and management, ranging from 20 to 30 tonnes per hectare.
  • Post Harvest Management: Grade watermelons by shape, size, and quality. Pack them on dried grass for transport. Store at 7°C with 85-90% humidity for short-term or 15°C for two weeks.

Tips for Achieving High-yield in Watermelon Farming

  • Use straw or a barrier to prevent watermelons from direct contact with the soil, reducing the risk of rot and diseases.
  • Choose the right location with suitable soil conditions and provide adequate water for optimal yield.
  • Select the appropriate watermelon variety to maximize profits.
  • Ensure the correct plant population per acre for high yields.
  • Implement proper intercultural operations, including mulching and weeding.
  • Provide sufficient irrigation, as watermelons require ample water for growth.
  • Apply fertilizers at the right time.
  • Employ effective techniques and pesticides for pest and disease control to prevent spreading.
  • Harvest watermelon fruits at the right time and store them properly.

In case you missed it: Watermelon Farming in California: How to Start, A Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners

small round watermelo

Conclusion

Proper field preparation is essential for high-yield watermelon farming. Every step matters, from seed, Field preparation, and selection to irrigation. Following best practices and providing the right conditions can lead to a successful and productive watermelon crop.

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