Alternative Opportunities For Small Farms: Muskmelon Production Review ( Publisher's URL )

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Alternative Opportunities For Small Farms: Muskmelon Production Review
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Fact sheet
Hochmuth, George
University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
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"Date first printed: June 1987: Revised: July 1997."
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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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1.This document is Fact Sheet RF-AC017, one of a series of the Extension Administration, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences, Universit y of Florida. Date first printed: June 1987: Revised: Jul y 1997. Please visit the FAIRS Website at The Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without re g ard to race, color, sex, a g e, handicap, or national ori g in. For information on obtainin g other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean 2.G. J. Hochmuth, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department; T. Ta y lor, professor, Food and Resource Economics Department; K.C. Ruppert, assistant professor, Florida Ener gy Extension Service; Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and A g ricultural Sciences, Universit y of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.Fact Sheet RF-AC017Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Muskmelon Production Review1 G.J. Hochmuth, T. Ta y lor, and K.C. Ruppert2Muskmelons or "cantaloupes" are not widely grown inwholesaled could reach $3000 per acre (state average is Florida with presently only about 1300 acres produced in$1500 per acre) with melons sold locally returning more. the state, although more could grown if markets can beProduction costs for an acre of muskmelons in 1984 were developed. Muskmelon production has been low inestimated to total $750. The use of plastic mulch and drip Florida because of severe disease pressure and lack ofirrigation (recommended practices) would double the cost suitable cultivars. Today, however, several high yieldingbut would result in higher yields and better fruit quality. and high quality cultivars are available and new chemicalsBreak-even price (cost/yield) can range from less than are available which give good disease control. With the$3.00 per cwt. to over $9.00 per cwt. depending upon the development of new hybrid varieties and good chemicalexpected yield. pesticides, the largest problems with muskmelon production should be minimized.Marketin g SituationMarketing will require some precropping effort to"slip" from the vine. Muskmelons to be shipped should be determine outlets for the crop. Because Florida canharvested at an earlier stage, however. The optimum stage produce early muskmelons, one outlet should be the Eastfor long-distance shipping is a half-slip (when a portion of Coast markets. In addition, early melons should bethe stem plate remains attached to the fruit). These fruits popular in local markets.will turn yellow in a few days. One problem with waiting Distance shipping also is a potential outlet for Floridaoccur, especially after rains. Melons should be cooled by melons provided this market is determined in advance. hydrocooling or forced air cooling after harvesting. The Some markets require a small fruited "California type"fruits are graded for size and quality, and packed in fruit. With proper variety selection, culture, andcardboard or wooden containers for shipping. Careful postharvest treatment, Florida should be able to supplygrading should be done to ensure only sound fruit are muskmelons to markets on the East Coast.packaged. While the state average is 80 cwt. per acre, yields of over 300 cwt. per acre have been reached in trials with some of the hybrids in Florida. Gross returns from melonsLabor and CapitalMuskmelons can be harvested in several stages of maturity. At maximum maturity, the fruits turn yellow and to harvest in the yellow stage is that fruit cracking may


Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Muskmelon Production Review Pa g e 2June 1998Suitabilit y Muskmelons can be grown on most soil types, however, sandy soils might produce the highest quality fruits with the least fruit rot incidence. Sandy soil production requires careful attention to fertility and irrigation requirements. Muskmelons are a warm-season crop and can be seriously injured by cool temperature (below 40 F). Adequate water supply is crucial for proper muskmelon production and overhead or drip irrigation are both excellent irrigation systems. Approximately 1" of water per week is required during growth and early fruiting. During harvest, water should be applied carefully to prevent fruit cracking. Some irrigation may still be required to size later-maturing fruits; however, application should be made after each harvest to prevent cracking of matured fruits.Plantin g SituationIn many areas, hybrids have replaced open-pollinated varieties. The hybrids produce higher yields and often are earlier in harvest. In the hybrid class, 'Super Market,' 'Summet,' 'Magnum 45,' 'Ambrosia,' 'Primo,' 'Mission,' Cordele,' and 'Athena,' have performed well in trials. Variety performance has been variable across the state so check with the local Extension office for variety performance in your area. Muskmelons can be grown from direct-seeding or from transplants. Transplanting, while somewhat more expensive, results in earlier and often more profitable crops. When seeding, use only fungicide-treated, certified seed. When transplanting, use only high quality transplants produced in the tray-cell method. Row spacing should be 5-6 feet with 2-3 feet between plants in the row. Earlier and higher yielding crops are obtained by using black plastic mulch. Research has shown that row covers plus black plastic can provide for more earliness than plastic alone.Cultural Pro g ramMuskmelons are very sensitive to nematodes and therefore, recommended nematicides or rotation should be used. Although many insects attack muskmelons, the worse ones include aphids, melon and pickle worms, and mole crickets with control accomplished by regular insecticide applications. The most serious diseases are gummy stem blight, downy mildew, powdery mildew, and anthracnose. Successful muskmelon production in Florida is more possible today because of increased availability of excellent fungicides. Virus diseases, however, remain a problem. The soil should be limed to a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Calcitic lime can be used unless there is a need for magnesium when dolomite should be used. Muskmelons may require up to 150-150-150 lbs per acre of N-PO-25KO. Actual amounts might be less depending on the soil2test. Phosphate and any required micronutrients should be broadcast and incorporated before planting and mulching. About 20 to 40 percent of N and KO should be2incorporated in the bed with the P. Remaining N and K should be injected through the drip irrigation system through the season. Additional sidedress applications may be needed of 30 lbs per acre of N and 15 lbs per acre of KO. On mulched crops, this can be applied as liquid2with a fertilizer injection wheel. Muskmelon production can be severely reduced by weed competition. Several herbicides are available which provide fair control of many weeds, however some manual weed control might be required. Black plastic mulch is an excellent weed control aid. Muskmelons are sensitive to most herbicides so past herbicide practices will have to be taken into account. About one strong honey bee hive per acre is needed to ensure ample pollination for good fruit set and size.