Watermelon farming in Nigeria is now widespread in all most the regions of the country and is mostly grown for fresh consumption of the juicy and sweet flesh of the mature fruit. It is one of the most popularly grown fruit vegetables in the country today.
Watermelon farming is one of the most lucrative agribusinesses in Nigeria because it gives an incredible return on investment. One of the major reasons watermelon is in high demand in Nigeria is its high nutritional value and high yield. Watermelon is very rich in vitamins C and A.
Starting Watermelon Farming in Nigeria
Watermelon can be grown in a wide range of soils as long as there are good drainage and adequate fertility. Watermelons grow best on non-saline sandy loam or silt loam soils. Sandy soils have limited water-holding capacities and must be carefully irrigated and fertilized to allow for high yield potential. The soil should have a pH of 5.8 to 6.6 and rich in organic matter with moderate soil moisture.
The field selected for watermelon farming should be prepared thoroughly by plowing and harrowing and removing plant debris. It should also be pulverized and leveled; furrows are made 2 m apart.
Selecting a variety
The profitability of watermelon largely depends on the type of variety selected. Select high yielding variety and disease resistant variety. Also, select variety based on the target market, because variety that is not accepted in the market can lead to low profit or total failure of the business. Select also the variety that is adapted to the production area.
Also, avoid buying watermelon seeds from open markets as these seeds may already be contaminated by diseases or of a low yield seed. Always buy watermelon seeds from reputable sources.
Watermelon is best planted at the outset of the rainy season or when the rainy season is almost done. This will allow for low relative humidity, a condition essential for normal growth of watermelon. In the northern part of Nigeria, early season planting is in May and late season planting in July. But with functional irrigation in the north, it could be planted all-round the year. The rows for watermelon seeds should be of 1.4 -2.5 m and the distance between crops in a row is to be from 0.5- 2 m.
Watermelon has moderate nutrient requirements compared to other vegetable crops, and because of its deep rooting, it is efficient in extracting nutrients from the soil.
Watermelon is a deep-rooted crop with the ability to tolerate a significant degree of soil moisture stress, peak production requires timely irrigation. After crop establishment (either by seed or transplant), irrigation may be withheld for a period of several weeks to encourage deep rooting. However, irrigation should be managed to minimize water stress throughout the fruiting stage.
In the past, watermelon was usually irrigated by the furrow method; irrigation was applied based on soil moisture status. In recent times, many watermelon farmers have adopted drip irrigation. Drip irrigation lines are typically buried in the center of the soil beds. The irrigation system may be renovated each production season or left in place for a number of years, depending on the farmer’s management scheme and crop rotation. There is need to irrigate watermelon once a week only at early stages of its development. Later, it will be able to provide itself with moisture on its own, with its long roots. Therefore, when watermelons became mature, you are to stop watering them.
Weed infestation can cause a drop in watermelon yield. Therefore weeds should be controlled either mechanically or by the use of herbicides. Mechanical cultivation and hand hoeing are needed to control weeds before plants have vined. Several pre-emergence herbicides are available that will control germinating broadleaf weeds and grasses in seeded and transplanted watermelons if used properly. Herbicides are economical when used as narrow-band applications in the planted row. Other chemicals can be used as a lay-by application between the rows before vines begin to run.
Watermelons are susceptible to several diseases that attack the roots, foliage, and fruit. Disease control is essential in the production of high-quality watermelons. A preventive measure that combines the use of cultural practices, genetic resistance and chemical control as needed usually provides the best results for watermelon production.
Cultural practices are useful for limiting the establishment, spread and survival of pathogens that cause watermelon diseases.
Many of the fungal, bacterial and nematode pathogens survive in old crop debris and in the soil. Grass crops are ideal for rotations where nematodes are a problem. Fields with the proper soil characteristics should be selected.
Watermelon usually reaches harvest after three months of planting depending on variety and season. Mature watermelon can be determined by glancing at the glossy rind surface. Other indications of maturity include a change in the color of the ground spot from white to light yellow; a change of tendrils nearest the fruit from green to brown and dry; thumping the fruit, a metallic, ringing sound indicates immaturity and a more muffled or dull sound indicates maturity or over maturity. Thumping is a reliable method to detect over maturity in round-shaped melons.
Prior to harvesting your watermelon, locate a target market, know what they want and how they want it. Watermelon can be sold directly to the local markets or industries that use watermelon as their raw material. Depending on size watermelon can be sold from #400-1000 each. Also for successful marketing of watermelon adequate preparation should be in place to transport watermelon to the market as soon as possible.
Watermelon Farming in Nigeria pdf
Get all the skills and information needed in watermelon cultivation from one of the best books on watermelon farming. Highlights in this watermelon farming in Nigeria pdf includes:
- Pre-planting and planting operations
- Soil and environmental conditions
- Weed, pest and disease control measures
- Irrigation and fertilization
- Harvesting and storage practices
- Cost of production and marketing strategies
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