Watermelon (Tarbooj) Farming in india
Most fruit crops are orchards. Trees that last at least a few decades. Mangoes, Peaches, Apples, Oranges, plums… All trees. But there are some exceptions. Berries are shrubs and then melons.. They are vines. Melons are annuals. They last only a season and need to be cultivated again the next year. Everything starts afresh. The good thing about watermelon is that its not very demanding when it comes to the soil but the bad part is that it requires a good amount of fertilizer and is sensitive about waterlogging. Watermelon works excellent in riverbeds and requires no care in such areas but when it comes to cultivation in a large scale things are a bit tricky but not difficult.
There are a few key facts and tips to keep in mind when cultivating watermelon. First of all, watermelon requires full sun and works best in areas where the weather is quite hot. This includes Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra, Orissa, West Bengal and Karnataka. The other important point is that it does not tolerate frost at all. When it comes to water requirements, watermelon requires a moist soil during its period of growth. The Root goes up to 6 inches deep and six inches in radius. So keep the soil moist near the root area. Moist only and not wet. This is key as watermelon is also sensitive to water logging.
When it comes to the market, its also important to understand that watermelon is always in demand during summer. Monsoon is not the best time for selling watermelon and winter, though may have a mediocre market, there is no assurance of demand. Cultivating watermelon for summers is currently the trend. Though watermelo can be cultivated year round, farmers ensure that the fruits are available during the summer. Also , watermelon once cultivated in a piece of land, its important to rotate crops in the same area. Repeating watermelon in the same area results in poor yield and stress to the plants.
- Climate for Watermelon Cultivation: Watermelon requires full sun for maximum fruit production. Warm weather is best for better yield . Temperature of 24-27 degree is considered great but it can grow anywhere in the range of 18 degree celsius to 35 degree celsius. Weather should not be below 18 degree for optimum growth and its fatal to the plant the lower the temperature. While higher temperature is tolerated, its not the best condition for plants. Temperature above 35 degrees is not the best condition for watermelon plants and reduces yield tremendously. Watermelon also is not very tolerant to waterlogging and cultivating watermelon during monsoon is not give the best results.
- Ideal Soil for Watermelon Cultivation: watermelon grows best in sandy soil or sandy loam with excellent drainage. The soil ph should range between 6 and 7. Watermelon does not appreciate clay soil or any soil which retains water or allows waterlogging. Water should drain out naturally and fast. The soil should remain moist but never wet. Waterlogged soil will allow diseases and rot the fruits and also the roots.
- Varieties of Watermelon: There are over 1200 varieties of watermelon cultivated worldwide. In India, nearly 50 of them are popular. Some of the varieties which are recommended and promoted by the Indian agricultural institutes include
- Asahi Yamato
- Sugar Baby
- Arka Jyoti
- Arka Shyama
- Arka Aiswarya
- Arka Muthu
- Arka Akash
- Arka Manik
- Arka Manik
- Durgapur Meetha
- Durgapur Kesar
- Special No.1
- Madhuri 64
- Black Magic
- Improved Shipper
- Pusa Bedana
- Black Thunder
- Hybrid Yellow Doll
- Hybrid Red Doll
- Propagation of watermelon: Watermelon is propagated from seeds. For commercial cultivation, seeds are directly sown in the soil after land preparation. For better growth and plant health, it is recommended that a nursery be prepared by propagating the plants in trays with cocopeat, compost, and garden soil and then transplanting them once the plants are 5-6 inches long.
- Watermelon Season: the season in India varieties. In the northern part of India, there is extreme summer followed by monsoon and winters. The plants are best cultivated during February march in the northern part of India. In the western parts of India, the crops are cultivated during winters and continue till mid-summer. For the southern part of India, where there is no real winter, it is cultivated year-round and the market is quite stable unless it’s the monsoon. With a good shelf life of watermelon, the plants are sometimes transported to other states where there is a good market when the local market is not profitable.
- Land Preparation: To begin with, plow the land. Watermelons are not picky about soil conditions as long as the water drainage is good. There may be small rocks and gravels, but watermelons don’t care. Provide proper drainage. Create channels or canals for water to drain out of the field. Mulching sheets could reduce water requirements and reduce water by 30% or more. They are also effective to prevent weed, reducing weeding with time. The land could be on a slope too for effective water drainage as long as the irrigation setup is good. A good drip irrigation system will help.
- Intercropping: You cannot intercrop watermelon with many other crops. Being a climber, watermelon tends to spread its vines onto young plants, and shade is not recommended for good fruiting. Avoid intercropping of watermelon with any other plants.
- Planting: Planting is usually done directly onto the soil. When planting with mulching sheets, ensure that the drip is working properly in the right places. Plant the seeds half to one inch deep at a distance of one and a half to 2 feet distance. Roots of the watermelon plants can go 6 inches on all sides… a distance of 1 and a half feet should ve sufficient enough for the good growth of plants. Allow a row gap of 3-5 feet. Plant 3-5 seeds in each pit and thin out after the plant grows to 3-4 inches, leaving only a healthy plant in each pit. You will require half to 1.5 kg depending on the variety of watermelon you plan to cultivate. Know bout the type of watermelon you intend to cultivate and how much seed you require before starting.
- Spacing and Density: Watermelons are vines and grow up to 12 feet in length. Spacing of 1.5 to 2 feet between plants and 5 to 6 feet between rows is recommended for better yield and fruiting.
- Irrigation: Water is key for watermelon plants. Keeping the soil moist but not wet is key. The water should be enough to moisten 6 inches deep and 6 inches around the plant. The roots spread p to 6 inches On all sides. Avoid drought and ensure the plants are well irrigated every alternate day. Remember that the water level will decrease fast because the soil is usually sandy and the weather conditions are hot. A mulching sheet will avoid evaporation reducing water requirements by 30%.
Profit and Economics of Watermelon Cultivation
Watermelon is a profitable cash crop. The plants last up to 120 days and the returns are quite fast compared to orchard fruits. The market for the fruits are moderate and depending on the season, the sales of the fruit and the price could vary. Off season fruits are usually more expensive but the demand is not known. If in a good area, like metros and with good population, chances are the sales will be good and the price too can be reasonably high. Remote areas will find it hard to sell watermelon during off season.
The average price for watermelon is 2000 Rs per quintal. Each plant has a potential of 11 Kilo fruits with 2 fruits per plant (varies depending on variety). 3500-4500 plants can be accommodate per acre. With a basic calculation, the total yield per acre of watermelon cultivation could be around 37.4 tonnes to 49 tonnes. At an average price of 20 Rs per kilo, the total turnover could be around 7.4 Lakh to 9.8 Lakh. Thats an appalling figure and looks exorbitant. When something is too good to be true, its almost always is. In reality the total yield per acre is only 70 to 80 Quintals thats, 7-8 tonnes. Per acre. With that in calculation, the real figure could range between 1.4 Lakh to 1.6 Lakh per acre. This is the turnover and then there are expenses. With the expenses calculated with approximately 50, 000 Rs including of drip setup and mulching sheets, a profit of approximately 80-90 thousand can be expected from one crop of watermelon cultivation.