By Suleiman MUSTAPHA
Water melon (Citrullus lanatus) is one of the most profitable businesses in Nigeria. It is grown majorly in the Northern parts of Nigeria and transported to the South where they are sold commercially in open markets and in the streets. They contain significant amount of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. It also contain certain amount of potassium. Above all, the fruit is mostly enjoyed because of its high moisture content which has a sweet taste and can also be used to quench thirst. Unfortunately, a lot of states in Nigeria (especially in the south) do not grow water melon in large scale, therefore, making most of the commercial production to come solely from the North. It was estimated that 2 hectares of water melon can yield close to 3 million Naira within 3 months with just minimal inputs. In other words, during dry seasons farming, one can accrue up to 6 million naira within 6 months, and if grown 3 times a year, estimated gain should be around 9 million. Also, one can easily establish a work force by growing water melon to meet demands, thus creating more opportunities for employments. Growing all year round, both in dry and wet season can also make sure these employments are permanent.
BSeason of growth: water melon could be grown all year round both in dry season with proper irrigation (most preferably drip irrigation) and in the raining season. Although, water melon is grown with lots of risks accrue in its farming especially in the raining season because they are blighted by many a disease especially fungi, while bacteria and virus infestation may not be much. Proper and strict management practices needs to be taken to minimize these.
Water melon could be grown in following these planting dates considering optimum tropical weather conditions in the country:
Early planting: March
Mid-season planting: June 25-July 15
Late season planting: August 15- September 15.
Land preparation: land should be cleared and ploughed after first rain, ridges should be made if it is to be grown in the raining season to drain excess water, and seeds should be sown immediately or after the second rain.
Dry season farming:During the dry season, getting a an adequate source of water is encouraged in the planting site. This is to be pumped regularly into a water tanks placed at strategic position of the farm. A means of power for pumping should be provided and always on standby. There are different ways of irrigating water melon farms in the dry season, either by drip irrigation which is far better or by the use of rain guns to cover growing areas.
Duration of growth: it takes 3 or at most 4 months (due to physiological stress) to fully mature and ready for harvesting.
Fertilizer application: Top dressing with NPK 15: 15:15 before planting is encouraged and fertilizationcould be consideredbi-weekly using afore mentioned fertilizer. During fruiting, a phosphorus and potassium (PP) based fertilizer should be used to encourage the proper growth of fruits.
Variety to consider: Sugar baby, kaolack, and other hybrid variety.
Picture showing sugar baby a water melon hybrid variety, although, there are reports that sugar baby variety doesn’t do well in some parts of Nigeria, it is best you consult your suppliers before planting.
Spacing: Better grown 1m by 1m.
Sowing: 2- 3seeds per hole.
Pesticide spray: water melon is attacked by insect pests and blighted heavily with diseases if proper management is not carried out. Upon proper assessment, a spray regime should be initiated if need be (advisable to spray fortnightly (every two weeks)) to supress insect pest and diseases.
Recommended insecticide is: cypermethrin (cyperforce), permethrin, lambda cyhalothrin, etc.
Consult suppliers for recommended fungicides to use.
Weeding: pre-emergence herbicides could be used after planting but it is advisable to mulch instead to reduce pesticide toxicity. Mulching is done in strip using black polythene nylon sold readily in the market and sowing after mulching.
Marketing and sales: water melon is sold in any vegetable shops also, liaison can easily be established with market vendors (those people specialized in selling harvested products for the producer. Arrangements for transportation to other part of Nigeria where demand is high can easily be made with little negotiations.
Profitability: it has been reported that with proper management, one plot of land can return close to 400 thousand Naira and above with minimum inputs (less than a hundred thousand Naira).
For further information about setting up your water melon farm, contact mobile plant clinic network https://thempcnetwork.com for consultation. We also connect buyers to sellers.