Tarbooz, Tarbuj, Tormuj, Indrak, Eriputccha, Kallangadiballi – called by so many names, watermelon is a much-loved fruit in India. Watermelons are not only delicious but are an ideal fruit to quench the thirst during summers. Watermelons are a powerhouse of nutrition and hold about 92% of water, hence their name. India produces about 427,105 tonnes of watermelon every year and is ranked 25th in the world. In this article, get to know about watermelon cultivation and its agri-value chain, watermelon varieties grown in India, watermelon mandi rates, and much more.
Is watermelon a fruit or a vegetable?
Just like tomatoes, watermelon also faces identity confusion. Some people consider it a vegetable while others are steadfast enough to designate it only as a fruit. However, it all depends on who you ask. If you ask a botanist, they will say it’s a fruit as it grows from the plant’s ovary and holds seeds. But if you talk to someone in Oklahoma, they will call it a vegetable. This state in the South Central region of the United States has even declared watermelon its official vegetable in 2007. They believe that watermelon is a member of the cucumber family known as the “Cucurbitaceae”.
Watermelon-producing states in India
Watermelon needs a warm climate to grow. It cannot be cultivated in areas with cold temperatures as it can make the fruits wither and die on the vine. Top watermelon-producing states in India where various watermelon varieties are grown include Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Orissa. Out of these, watermelon cultivation in southern states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh happens all year long. Below is a list of watermelon-producing states from 1-10 with total production quantity and share percentage.
Ideal conditions for growing watermelon
Watermelon is indeed a warm-season crop. It requires an ample amount of sunlight and dry weather. The plant is sensitive to even the slightest cold and frost. The ideal temperature for seed germination and growth of the watermelon plant is 24-27⁰C.
At least three dry and sunny months are required for a watermelon to grow. While the north Indian states grow it from February to March, southern and central states can grow these any time of the year.
Watermelon grows best in sandy loam soil as it does not withhold water and drains easily. It also grows well in black soil and sandy soil provided they have a good amount of organic content. The pH of the soil must be between 6.0 and 7.5.
Watermelon Agri-Value Chain
Watermelon can be cultivated as a standalone crop or as an inter-crop. First of all, it is crucial to decide what growing method you are going to use and which type of watermelon will thrive well in that particular area. Let’s find out what happens in the various stages of growing watermelon. Before proceeding further, let’s learn about some common watermelon varieties grown in India.
The pre-harvest stage of watermelon cultivation involves everything from planting seeds and irrigation to crop rotation and controlling plant diseases.
Land preparation and seeding
Land is ploughed to make the soil tilth and suitable for watermelon cultivation. Watermelon seeds are usually applied directly on farms. However, to protect them from frost, they are sometimes seeded in nurseries and greenhouses and later on shifted to the fields. Seeds are sown at a depth of about 2-3cm from top-soil. The spacing between the plants and rows depends on the sowing method you choose.
Watermelon beds are required to be irrigated 2 days prior to sowing and 5 days after sowing. While the plant is growing, irrigation is done on a weekly basis. At the time of irrigation, excessive water stress can result in the cracking of the fruit. Ideally, irrigation should be restricted to the roots of the plant, since watering its vines or any other part can lead to the withering of flowers, fruits, and plant as a whole. Finally, irrigation is suggested only during the daytime. Doing it in the evening or at night can lead to the development of foliar disease in the crop.
Due to the risk of developing various diseases in different types of watermelons, they are not grown on the same soil at least for 3 years. When it comes to rotation, watermelons are usually rotated with paddy or vegetables like chillies, tomatoes, etc.
Weeding is required only in the initial stages of growing watermelon. Since it’s a vine, herbicide application should be done carefully as it can affect the health of plants. Once the vine starts to spread, weeding can be avoided as the vines take care of the weeds. Weeding is recommended once a month.
Diseases and pest control
A large number of diseases and pests affect the watermelon crop at different stages. These include aphids, anthracnose, thrips, mildew, wilt, etc. Some measures need to be taken to control pests and diseases in watermelons. These are:
- Apply fungicide regularly.
- Check if the watermelons are free from diseases even during transplantation.
- Use drip irrigation over traditional one to ensure just enough water is present in the soil.
- Make sure there is enough air circulation in the crop.
- Keep a check on the humidity level.
- Monitor the field constantly.
Watermelons are ready for harvest when the tendrils near the stem start drying, their white part turns yellowish and when they are thumped, a thudding sound is produced. Harvesting of watermelon can be done in 95-120 days from the time of sowing. During this stage, the stem of ripe fruits is cut with the help of a knife.
This stage takes into account, activities starting from grading to storing and transportation.
Grading of watermelons is done according to their sizes for local markets. They should be uniform and symmetrical in appearance. Their surface should be bright and shining and free from scars, transit abrasions, and other defects.
Packaging, storing, and transportation
For short-term storage or transit, watermelons can be kept at 7.2°C. However, for a longer duration i.e. up to 14 days, they should be stored at 15°C. These fruits should be utilized promptly, otherwise, their quality would be compromised. Also, this fruit should never be stored with apples and bananas as they release ethylene which can spoil the flavour of watermelons. Watermelons are majorly transported on trucks in bulk by stacking them on dried grass.
Growing different watermelon varieties is profitable as compared to other fruits. If you want to have a look at the latest watermelon mandi rates, you can check out the Mandi rates feature of Bijak app. Bijak is India’s most trusted agri-trading app that acts as a meeting point for farmers, Buyers(commission agents), and Suppliers. Daily trade of over 150 commodities takes place on this platform. If you’re an agri trader, you can download the Bijak app from Google Playstore and Apple App Store. You can also call us at 8588998844 or email us at email@example.com
We hope this article has given you all the information you needed about your favorite summer fruit – watermelon. We’re curious to know your views points – please do share in the comment section below. Like, share, and follow the Bijak blog for more informative articles every week.
Sources: researchgate.net, indiagardening.com, agristudyhub.com, News18.com, huffpost.com, Apeda.in, amrafarms.com, timesofindia.indiatimes.com, krishijagran.com, wikifarmer.com, apnikheti.com, www.agribiz.info, nhb.gov.in