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
    • Varun
    • Vimal
    • Lekha
    • Black Thunder
    • Hybrid Yellow Doll
    • Dumara
    • 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.

Watermelon Lifespan From seed to Harvest

The lifespan of watermelon crops can vary depending on various factors such as the specific variety of watermelon, growing conditions, and cultivation practices. On average, the lifespan of a watermelon crop from planting to harvest ranges from 70 to 100 days.

Watermelons are warm-season crops and require a relatively long growing season with warm temperatures and adequate sunlight. They are typically planted in the spring or early summer when the soil has warmed up sufficiently. The germination period for watermelon seeds is around 4 to 10 days, after which the plants start to grow.

Once the watermelon plants have established themselves, they begin to produce flowers, which are eventually pollinated to form fruit. The time from flowering to fruit maturity varies depending on the variety but typically ranges from 30 to 45 days. During this period, it is crucial to provide the plants with sufficient water, nutrients, and appropriate pest and disease management to ensure healthy growth and development.

When the watermelons reach maturity, they are ready for harvest. This is usually determined by factors such as the size, shape, color, and sound produced when tapping the fruit. The harvesting process involves cutting the watermelons from the vine and carefully handling them to prevent damage.

In summary, the average lifespan of a watermelon crop, from planting to harvest, is approximately 70 to 100 days. However, it is essential to consider specific growing conditions and the variety being cultivated, as these factors can affect the exact duration of the crop’s lifespan.

Watermelon Seeds per acre and seed requirement

The number of watermelon seeds required per acre and the seed requirement can vary depending on several factors, including the planting method, seed spacing, variety, and desired plant population. However, I can provide you with some general information to give you an idea of the seed requirements for watermelon cultivation.

On average, for standard watermelon varieties, a seeding rate of 2,000 to 3,000 seeds per acre is common. This seeding rate is based on the assumption of direct seeding in rows with a row spacing of 6 to 8 feet and a plant spacing of 2 to 3 feet within the rows. Using this seeding rate, you would need approximately 2 to 3 pounds of watermelon seeds per acre.

For seedless watermelon varieties, which are typically grown by hybrid seeds, the seeding rate is higher. It usually ranges from 3,500 to 4,500 seeds per acre. The increased seeding rate is necessary to ensure a sufficient number of viable seeds for plant establishment and fruit production. Consequently, you would require approximately 3.5 to 4.5 pounds of seedless watermelon seeds per acre.

It’s worth noting that these figures are general guidelines, and actual seed requirements can vary depending on specific growing conditions, planting practices, and seed quality. It is always recommended to consult with seed suppliers or local agricultural extension services for more precise recommendations tailored to your specific circumstances and the variety you intend to cultivate.

Watermelon Seed Sowing

The season for sowing watermelon generally depends on the climate and growing conditions in your specific region. Watermelons are warm-season crops that require consistently warm temperatures to germinate, grow, and produce fruit successfully.

In most regions, watermelon seeds are sown in the spring or early summer when the soil temperature has warmed up to around 70°F (21°C) or higher. The soil should be well-drained and prepared with organic matter to promote healthy plant growth.

To determine the ideal sowing time for watermelons in your area, it is recommended to consider the average last frost date in the spring. Watermelons are highly sensitive to cold temperatures, so it is crucial to ensure that all risks of frost have passed before planting.

If you live in a region with a short growing season or cooler temperatures, you may choose to start watermelon seeds indoors in peat pots or seed trays a few weeks before the last expected frost. This allows you to give the plants a head start and transplant them outdoors once the weather is suitable.

It’s important to note that watermelon plants require warm soil temperatures for successful germination and growth. If the soil temperature is too low, the seeds may not germinate, or the plants may struggle to grow. The optimal soil temperature for watermelon germination is between 80°F and 95°F (27°C and 35°C).

To ensure successful sowing, it is advisable to check local weather patterns, consult regional gardening resources, or contact your local agricultural extension service for specific recommendations regarding the best time to sow watermelon seeds in your area.

Watermelon Fertilizers and its Schedule

Developing a fertilizer schedule for watermelon involves providing the plants with essential nutrients at specific stages of growth. The following is a general fertilizer schedule that can be adapted to suit your specific growing conditions:

  1. Pre-planting preparation: Before planting watermelon seeds or transplants, it’s beneficial to prepare the soil by incorporating organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. This helps improve soil fertility and nutrient availability.
  2. Seedling stage: Once the watermelon seeds have germinated and the seedlings have emerged, it’s important to provide a balanced fertilizer to support early growth. Apply a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) fertilizer with a ratio of approximately 10-10-10 or 14-14-14. Follow the package instructions for the recommended application rate.
  3. Vegetative growth stage: As the watermelon plants continue to grow, they require increased nitrogen to support leaf and vine development. Switch to a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content, such as a 20-10-10 or 16-6-4 N-P-K ratio. Apply the fertilizer around the base of the plants, taking care not to let it directly contact the leaves or stems.
  4. Flowering and fruiting stage: Once the watermelon plants start to flower and set fruit, they require a balanced nutrient supply. Continue using a fertilizer with moderate levels of nitrogen, along with sufficient phosphorus and potassium. A fertilizer with a ratio of 10-20-20 or 10-15-15 can be suitable. Apply the fertilizer around the base of the plants, avoiding direct contact with the fruits.
  5. Side dressing: As the watermelon plants grow, you can supplement their nutrient needs by side dressing with nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Side dressing involves applying fertilizer along the sides of the planting rows or in shallow trenches near the plants. This helps ensure a continuous supply of nutrients during the growing season.

It’s important to monitor the plants for any signs of nutrient deficiencies or excesses. Adjust the fertilizer application rates and frequency based on the specific needs of your plants and soil conditions. Regularly test the soil’s nutrient levels to make informed fertilizer decisions.

Watermelon Cultivation states in India

  1. Punjab and Haryana: These states in northern India have favorable climatic conditions for watermelon cultivation. The regions of Malwa, Doaba, and Majha in Punjab, as well as the districts of Karnal, Rohtak, and Hisar in Haryana, are known for their watermelon production.
  2. Maharashtra: The state of Maharashtra, particularly the regions of Vidarbha, Marathwada, and parts of western Maharashtra, is known for its watermelon cultivation. Districts like Jalna, Aurangabad, Solapur, Ahmednagar, and Pune are significant watermelon-growing areas in the state.
  3. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana: These southern states have extensive watermelon cultivation, with regions like Kurnool, Anantapur, Prakasam, and Krishna in Andhra Pradesh, and Ranga Reddy, Medak, and Nalgonda in Telangana being prominent watermelon-growing areas.
  4. Tamil Nadu: In Tamil Nadu, watermelon cultivation is concentrated in districts such as Dindigul, Krishnagiri, Coimbatore, and Erode. The state’s favorable climate and access to irrigation facilities contribute to its watermelon production.
  5. Gujarat: The districts of Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Mehsana, and Sabarkantha in Gujarat are known for their watermelon cultivation. The state’s warm climate and suitable soil conditions support the growth of watermelon crops.
  6. Uttar Pradesh: Watermelon cultivation is prevalent in several districts of Uttar Pradesh, including Allahabad, Pratapgarh, Varanasi, Mirzapur, and Ballia. The Gangetic plains of the state offer favorable conditions for watermelon production.
  7. Karnataka: In Karnataka, regions such as Belagavi, Bijapur, Bagalkot, and Koppal are known for watermelon cultivation. The state’s diverse agro-climatic zones make it conducive for growing a variety of crops, including watermelon.

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