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Watermelons Gain Ground As Soil Drys Out, Temps Increase

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Some Mississippi watermelon producers lost crops or got a late start because of wet spring weather. But consumers should find the sweet, summer treats on shelves in time for the July 4 holiday.

“The crops in my county are a few days behind, but I have some growers who started harvesting last week and others who started this week,” said Jeremy Maness, Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Smith County.

According to the June 17 Mississippi Crop Progress and Condition Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 67 percent of the crop is in good condition, and 25 percent is in fair condition. Just 6 percent is rated as poor.

Although the cool spring weather also caused some problems early in the growing season for some of the eight commercial growers in George County, conditions and fields there are great right now.

“We had some issues with root rot and stand problems with the cool nights we had early on,” said Heath Steede, Extension agent in George County. “But right now, overall, everything looks really good. It will probably be the best year we’ve had in several years if we don’t get too much rain in the coming weeks.”

Large amounts of rainfall and continuously wet fields can lead to disease problems.

Even though producers in some areas of Smith County have had heavy rainfall, they have not had to deal with disease yet, Maness said.

“We’ll see an increase in the possibility for disease as temperatures rise,” he said.

Kyle Jeffreys, Extension agent in Yalobusha County, expects 20 percent of the commercial crop in his county to be harvested by July 4. Producers were a few weeks late getting their watermelons planted, but improved conditions have fields looking good.

“The crop is doing well now that the soil is drying out and temperatures are increasing,” Jeffreys said. “Insect and disease pressure has been minimal at this stage of the crop. The only disease problem I have seen was gummy stem blight in seedlings in a greenhouse, and that was determined to be from an infected seed lot.”

Growers have been fighting a few more weeds than usual because of excessive rain disrupting herbicide applications, Jeffreys said.

Seeded watermelons are wholesaling for 10 to 12 cents per pound, while wholesale prices for seedless watermelons are 20 to 25 cents per pound.

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