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What’s Growing On: IFAS helps watermelon farmers catch growing-related issues early on

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) -With summer right around the corner, watermelons can be a popular, hydrating treat this time of year.

The USDA reports Florida is the top producer of watermelon, and since it’s harvesting season, it’s time to find this fresh produce.

Watermelons need lots of rainfall and low humidity to produce the most fruit in a given season.

Farmer Warren McGehee said it’s tough during the dry months, but the beginning of the wet season is a welcomed change for his crops.

“Well, the drought we had in May, last month there, it’s been kinda tough keeping enough water to them, it’s been a pretty big challenge,” McGehee said, “finally coming to rain now so it’s helped out a lot, maybe push us to the finish line.”

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IFAS is helping farmers catch pests and fungi during the growing process. This ensures the fields are producing as much fruit as possible.

“I help watermelon growers keep an eye on the nutrients and try to diagnose in a timely manner any diseases or pests that may be of interest,” Tatiana Sanchez said.

After harvesting at McGehee’s farm, the melons are shipped across the southeast.

Many consumers aim to find the sweetest watermelon by firmly tapping the side of the fruit. However, Sanchez said that might not be the best way, as there are several varieties that can give off different sounds.

“The sound of the tapping on the watermelon can be a good way to select a ‘good watermelon’, but it’s not necessarily a fool-proof method. I would look for yellow, kinda like a bright yellow color on the belly of the melon. And that’s telling me the melon is ready and sweet,” Sanchez said.

The month of June is typically when Florida watermelons are ready for harvest, and most of McGehee’s produce can be found in grocery stores across North Central Florida.

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