AgroLatestClass with Femi Adekoya

How to make huge profit from watermelon farming in Nigeria.

Femi Adekola

INTRODUCTION

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It’s an honor that I will share with you my view on watermelon 🍉 farming.

      WATERMELON!!! Who says watermelon don’t grow here in the SOUTHWEST? Abeg,  tell them to KEEP MUTE! With the right expertise, knowledge and technology you can plant anything anywhere. Why delay in actualizing that Agric-business desire and plans? Trust me, I can help you setup your farm anywhere and ensure success.

 

Let’s go green! 

      So in the course of this lecture, I will expose;

  • Introduction to watermelon farming; why watermelon?
  • Basic Watermelon Essentials or requirements.
  • Planting Seasons In Nigeria.  
  • Land Preparation.
  • Seed selection.
  • Planting Procedure.
  • Crop protection; Including Pest and disease management and weed control
  • Fertilizer application procedures 
  • Pollination  
  • Harvesting (How to know when your watermelon is set for harvest, basic essentials for harvest, how to harvest) 
  • Marketing (How and where to sell your watermelon fruit)

It’s gonna be a good time sharing with great minds here.

 

Now WHY WATERMELON CULTIVATION?  

Watermelon cultivation can be a very lucrative enterprise which may he less time-consuming and laborious compared to some other fruit veggies cultivation. You could rake in 0-300% Return on investment depending on the management practice employed and market dynamism/price. However with good agronomic practices rightly in place and knowledge of the market dynamics, you are guaranteed success.

Well, gone are those days went watermelon is assumed only to be grown in the northern part of Nigeria…

 I tell you, watermelon can be planted anywhere at anytime… Only if you provide the crop requirements …from soil type,  water, nutrient and others. Although talks are cheap with watermelon production. However, without adequate knowledge and taking necessary actions. One is on a journey to an impending loss. 

       Watermelon is a technical crop which need great attention from sowing to marketing. Although it wasn’t funny that my first 4 attempt of growing watermelon was a colossal failure… (Nostalgic feelings). Reason being that I thought, since I have been planting maize, I could plant watermelon too… Lol. But anyways, you don’t have to fail like me… I want you to learn from my experience

I know this is not a scholastic gathering. And I’m sure that I’m here with practicing farmers. So no need of taxonomic or botanical classification and Morphological characteristics… Who that eep?

If you care for that… Google is your friend. I’m also sure we have aspiring farmers or agripreneur

 

PLANTING SEASON IN NIGERIA 

With emphasize on the southwest

I category the planting season into three;  

  1. Early Planting: Between Late Feb – March.

This is the Best watermelon planting season if you’re in the south west. Because of its market potential. Watermelon fruit goes for a premium at time of harvest. That is between April to early May. You can take advantage of this time now! 

  1. Mid Planting: Between June 15th – July 15th

Tremendous profit but high disease and pest attack due to unfavorable weather. Extreme care has to be taken during this period. This Time is actually not for learners!

 

  1. Late Planting; Late August to October

I consider this time the safest period for cultivation. However, harvest of this period is characterized with Market glut

I repeat, Mid-planting season is not for learners, please. The challenge then can be overwhelming. Take this from my experience!

 

SOIL REQUIREMENT

For every crop, there is a specific soil type that’s results to high yield. Failure to discover the soil type is the first reason why many watermelon farmers do not succeed in the business. 

Watermelons can be grown on a wide range of soil types.  However, Sandy loam rich in organic matter with GOOD DRAINAGE is most ideal. 

As Cultivation in heavy textured soils results in a slower crop development and cracked fruits.

Watermelon has low tolerance for a waterlogged land i.e. it will not grow well on a muddy land or land that does not absorb water after a few hours of rainfall. 

Don’t say or think because watermelon fruit  is full of Water. So you plant them in a waterlogged soil. The case is other way round and that’s the greatness of God about this crop. This is why the northerners can plant more of it in their dry region. In addition watermelon crop growth well with Less Relative Humidity. Meaning a relatively dry environment

 

LAND PREPARATIONS 

Before you can plant, you need to clear your farmland and make it suitable for planting. If you have a land with good number of shady trees or let say virgin lands. You will need to remove trees that can form shade 

Watermelon does not like shade; bright sunlight is needed for the optimal growth of your watermelon. If it just bushing, ensure to slash manually or plough them with tractor depending on the height of the vegetation. You could also deploy the use of Herbicide… Only if you’ve the expertise. Abeg, don’t just waste chemicals and destroy the ecosystem

Now that you have a clean cleared land, You need to pulverized your soil by making manually ridges or tilling mechanically. Although, tilling is not really compulsory… But I see it necessary for good root penetration and nutrient exploration

 

SEED SELECTION 

There are NUMEROUS types of watermelon 🍉 variety in Nigeria classified as;

OPEN POLLINATED varieties like Kaolack (pale green stripes), sugar baby (dark green fruits) and others

And HYBRID VARIETIES like Heracles, koloss and many other good hybrid varieties. You will get more of these varieties at seed stores.

In selecting the variety to plant, ensure to know what is the market preference because that’s where you get your REWARD. Be sure about this before committing your resources in cultivation or venture. The market is King. The market is where you get the reward for your labour, time, money and everything involved in your production. You have to consider the disease resistance or tolerant level of this varieties too. Various cultivars have their peculiarity. Ensure to know this from your seed vendor.

 

PLANTING PROCEDURE

Well, I will say sowing watermelon seeds is not in anyway technical. If you can plant maize, you can also plant watermelon … 😀 However, the planting spaces differs. There are various planting space recommendations for watermelon depending on variety planted, size of fruit at harvest, type of irrigation system to be used and cropping systems.

Recommended Spacing varies from

  • 2m by 1m
  • 2.5 by 0.5m
  • 1m by 1m
  • 1.5m by 1.5m
  • 2m by 2m

 

       However, from my experience and research, wider spacing produces bigger fruit sizes. I stated the factors that determine your spacing here. Watermelon with a little planting space will bear much leaves but less fruit.  What is the essence of plenty leaves with poor yield? I advise you to consider good spacing when planting. When sowing the seeds ensure not to bury seed more than 2cm soil depth

For fast germination, I do soak my seeds before planting for faster germination. Watermelon will start germinating 5 to 7days after planting. But when soaked or primed it will start germinating in 3/4 days after planting. Replant again after 8th day if there is no emergence observed

 

WATERMELON DISEASES 

Some of the common watermelon diseases are caused by Fungi, Bacteria, Nematode and Virus.  To prevent disease from affecting your watermelon farm, you need to be proactive. Fungi and Bacteria thrive well under high relative humidity. And you must make your fungicides handy. Fungicides containing active ingredients like Copper Oxide, Metalaxy,  Carbendazim or Samolalin and any other effective A.I (active ingredient). I advise you alway spray your fungicides after a heavy downpour of rain

Apart from fortnight application regime, some Insects are enemies of watermelon, you don’t have to wait till they devour your watermelon before you start applying INSECTICIDE. You need to apply the first treatment within 8-15days (depending on the germination and the insect rate). I normally apply first treatment at an average of 10-11days after planting. 

       INSECTICIDE containing Cypermethrin, imidachloride, lamdacyhalorin are good  to deal with insect vectors like white flies and aphids. The Major destructive insect of watermelon crop. 

 

WEED CONTROL 

Arrange for manual weeding at 3weeks after planting and 6 weeks after planting. Don’t joke with weeds on your watermelon farm! That will be a dangerous adventure as they can reduce your anticipated yield greatly. 

You can also employ chemical weed control method. It’s called cover flitting 

 

COVER FLITTING  

       Without using cutlass or hoe, you can control the weed on your farm easily. I personally like this method because it is fast, efficient and the cost is low. If you will be planting on a large scale, I will advise you to use this method.  Cover Flitting is the act of controlling the weeds around the watermelon with herbicides without affecting the watermelon. This method is achieved by spraying herbicide on the weed, the weed around the watermelon will become dry but the watermelon itself will not be affected/sprayed

       How can you achieve this? By covering your young watermelon plants with either nylon or plastic bowl to avoid herbicide contact with plants Or if you’re an expert you just ensure the herbicide solutions or substance do not get in contact with the plants. But, you have to be very careful. You don’t do this technique in the evening when there is high wind movements, because the herbicide solution can drift to your crop and that a loss… The end! Remember this method is just to save cost in weeding But if you have the means to organize for manual weeding this is the BEST.

Ensure to weed early and ensure minimal disturbance to the plants/ crop vines. Minimum disturbance

 

FERTILIZER MANAGEMENT

You can apply NPK 15:15  or 20:10:10 to the plants at 2weeks after planting through basal application at 6-10cm away from the plant. Ensure that fertilizers do not get close to the plant to prevent plant burn. Foliar fertilizers too are necessary fortification substance that provides with macro and micro nutrients needed for plant growth. And at 6weeks you can repeat your NPK application to have flower and fruit development. The place of MANURE CANNOT be UNDER-EMPHASISED if you want a big, red fleshed balls.

POLLINATION  

At 4-5 weeks after planting you will start to notice a bright yellow flower ( male flower) and small ball ( female flower) will begin to sprout up at Various plant nodes.They will begin to multiply gradually; this will lead to the increase of bees, butterflies and other agents of pollination. Don’t be scarce when you notice this, they aid pollination of your flowers by transferring mature pollen grains from one watermelon to the other. The higher the agent of pollination you (butterfly, bees etc.) in your watermelon farm, the higher your profit. They are that important in this business. Yellow Flowers Will Begin to Sprout Up Agent of Pollination Transfer Mature Pollen. At this flowering stage you must be meticulous with application of insecticides. It’s advisable to spray with less frequency and always apply late in the day (evening) in order not to disturb the activities of pollinators… The real workers

 

Let me get an article I wrote in this regard as it will help

 

How do I improve POLLINATION on my WATERMELON farm?

The above question was directed to me on an Agriculture related group. The fact is that without flowers pollinated,  no matter how luxuriantly your crop grows vegetatively and your field sparkling with the petals of flowers; no fruit will result (except you’re cultivating for flowers and this would be weird). I know this experience can be disturbing because that’s an omen of failure or loss of investment.

I know my answer will be beneficial to farmer friends  and newbies. 


First, ensure to have a weed-free watermelon 🍉 farm, as watermelon flowers petals are not as bright weed flowers. This would cause distraction from the pollination of watermelon flowers 

Secondly, from the commencement of flowering, ensure not to spray insecticides during the day when bees and other beneficial insects are actively feeding and pollinating flowers. 

Perhaps, use a narrow-spectrum insecticides which will not affect beneficial insects like bees; avoid using broad spectrum insecticides If you can. Unfortunately, this narrow-spectrum insecticide brands are uncommon and scares and also expensive in the Nigerian market.

I strongly advise you to switch to the use of organic inputs like biopesticides or brands of organic products that contain beneficial insect attracting substance(s).

You could also bring bee hives near your production field or place diluted honey, bee wax, palmwine or unwholesome juicy fruits like pineapple at various strategic positions on the farm. These substances are natural foods for honey bees. (I say this from my experience in beekeeping) 

I’m so sure with the above recommendations you will you have good pollination

 

HARVESTING  

Watermelon only take average of 75-90 days after planting to harvesting and you begin to smile to  the bank. 

65days after planting as also been recorded depending on varieties….especially the Hybrid varieties

Once your watermelon start to produce fruit, the fruit increases in size every second, the growth of this wonderful crop is very fast.

 Physically, the size of the watermelon fruit you see on farm today will not be of the same size when you check back in a few days. The longer you leave the fruit, the bigger it becomes, leading to massive profit but it must not be over-ripe (overdue) and must not be under-ripe (not ripe enough), else the selling price will be affected and it will lead to low profit.

However, I will reveal to you how to discover the right time to harvest your watermelon fruit and avoid low profit. 

But before then, another important thing you have to know if you want to be successful in this agribusiness is that you cannot harvest all your fruit on the same day.

 Why? 

The main reason is that all your watermelon fruit will not ripe on the same day, even if you plant on the same day. You need to harvest from time-to-time i.e. you need to harvest all the ripe fruit first, and leave like 3-5days interval before you harvest another set of ripe fruit

 

How to Know when your Watermelon is ready for Harvest.

With my four proof stated below, to discover a ripe watermelon is not a hard thing. This part will really interest all you

  1. TENDRIL WILL DRY UP -The curly green tendrils close to the watermelon (tendril is like a curled string that helps the watermelon plant to grip or hold itself firm again wind)

This tissue will start turning brown and dry up. Also, the first three to five leaves close to the ball (watermelon fruit) will dry up. This is a sign that your watermelon is ripe and it no longer feeding from the root.

  1. BENEATH FRUIT CHANGE IN COLOR: The side of the watermelon that sits on the ground (beneath)  will also turn to creamy yellow when the watermelon is ripe enough for harvest
  2. SURFACE CHANGE IN COLOR: The surface color of the watermelon will become dull. The color of the watermelon will change from dark green color to light or whitish green (the color might not fully change to light or whitish green).
  3. HOLLOW SOUND – With the watermelon fruit still attached to the stem, if you thumb a ripe watermelon, it will make a hollow sound. Thumb a mature watermelon and a non-mature watermelon to observe the difference. (First time watermelon farmer might not really get this well, but with practice you will be able to master the method)

NOTE – Before you jump to conclusion that your watermelon is ripe for harvest, 2/3 of the proof stated above must be valid

HOW TO HARVEST  

Harvesting of the crop is very simple; you do not need a cutlass, hoe or knife to harvest. Once you are sure the watermelon is matured and ripe, use your hand to pluck (remove) it off the stem.

It’s that simple!

MARKETING  

Compare to other farm product, selling of watermelon is very easy. This fruit is widely sought and the market is ever-ready. Buyers are always ready to buy your  

watermelon (even if you have 50,000 fruit). You can sell you watermelons to middle men by locating them at major market in towns

You can also sell in retails. You can also close a deal with major supermarkets, malls, hostels and restaurants/kitchens that you identify uses this fruit.

There are fruit juice industries that requires this fruits in tones and with specifications. 

But, I always advise you conclude on your marketing strategies before you set out to plant or latest before your fruits ripen.

 

QUESTIONS

Dewunmi:

Why is that people don’t like growing watermelon when the rainfall is high and How much could be spent growing watermelon on one acre ?

 

Facilitator:

It’s not really that people don’t want to grow or don’t grow watermelons during the rainy season. But the cultivating during the peak of the rainy season is not advantage and it risky for watermelon farmers, owing to the fact that at this period,  relative humidity is high than what watermelon crop requires.This will promote/engender the growth and rapid multiplication of disease and pest on the crops. Fungi diseases are common during this period, such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, fruit rot and many others. Although your fungicides will help to some extent to reduce the chance or manifestation of these organisms. But, the environmental conditions is not really good for such planting

There is no direct figure I can give you. but the cost of production depends on tons of factors, Such as your level of expertise, location determines labour and input cost, Market dynamics, Prevailing environmental conditions of the farm site, Spacing or planting procedures, What technology are you employing in your production, And many more.

 

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