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Growing

Watermelon

commercially in Nigeria
A.A Adekunle, A.O. Fatunbi, S. Adisa and O.A. Adeyemi

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How to grow a good watermelon crop in Nigeria

Watermelon
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Importance of watermelon
Watermelon is relished by many people across the world as a fresh fruit. This is because watermelon is known to be low in calories but highly nutritious and thirst-quenching, it also contain Vitamin C and A in form of the disease fighting beta-carotene. Lycopene and beta-carotene work in conjunction with other plant chemicals not found in vitamin/mineral supplements. Potassium is also available in it which is believed to help in the control of blood pressure and possibly prevent strokes. Watermelon is considered to be native to Africa, although it was found growing wild by Livingstone in 1854 on the American continent. In Nigeria, watermelons grows well both in the humid and drier savanna agroecologies, but foliar diseases are less destructive in the drier climates. This is because it requires warm climate and relatively long growing season.

The largest production of the crop comes from the northern part of Nigeria where the suitable agroecology is found; nevertheless, a good crop could also be achieved in other agroecologies with intensive management and is still economically feasible. The potentials of watermelon as a cash producing crop is enormous for farmers especially those residing near the urban areas.

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Step 1. Site selection

Flat or gentle slopes.

Do not use stony, clayey, or waterlogged soils.

A piece of land with a good
history by past users.

Good soil (loamy) can be moulded
into a ball that breaks under slight
pressure.

The site for watermelom must have enough sunlight. Remove all shade plants; the soil must be fertile with good organic matter content. Watermelon grows best on soils with a sandy loamy texture. A flat landscape is preferable while steep slopes should be avoided. Choose a well drained site; avoid clayey, damp, and water-logged soil.

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Step 2. Land preparation

Ploughing and harrowing is neccessary
Remove all shade plants
Cleare the land of all vegetation covers and plant debris. Spray a systemic herbicide (Glyphosate) to control noxious weeds such as spear grass, etc. Prune trees; remove other shrubs that could impose shade. Plant residue need not be burned as they could be used as mulch material. Conservation tillage is best for watermelon especially when the soil is of sandy loamy texture class. But in cases where the soil texture is clayey, a little ploughing and harrowing may be necessary to facilitate deeper rooting and moisture penetration.

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Step 3. Acquiring seed for planting

buyers image from a seed store

Selecting the best watermelon variety is the most important
decision made by a producer. Planting a variety that is not
suited for the available market and the particular production situation leads to lower profits or possibly crop failure. In addition to market acceptability, a variety must have acceptable yield, be adapted to the production area, and have the highest level of needed pest resistance.

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Buy hybrid watermelon seed from the seed
store. This gaurantees good taste, good fruit
sizes, and disease resistance that
conform to variatal specification.

Do not use seed from previous watermelon
fruit as such will produce crops with low
yield, reduced sweetness, and disease suceptability.

Step 4. Seed preparation for planting
Varieties
1.

2.

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Sugar baby

Chaliston grey

Characteristics
Fruit shape: Round,
Rind color: Dark green
Flesh color: Red
Taste: Very sweet
Size: Average 5 kg per fruit
Maturity time: 75-85 days
Fruit shape: Oblong
Rind color: Yellow green
Flesh color: Red
Taste: Very sweet
Size: Average 5-10 kg per fruit
Maturity time: 85-95 days

A brief description of some watermelon varieties in Nigeria
are presented here. All are red-fleshed watermelons....
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