BLACKVILLE, S.C. – What came first, the chicken or the egg? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If seedless watermelon don’t make seeds, what do farmers plant to grow them?
While Clemson agricultural scientists can’t answer the first two eternal questions, they will be sure to answer the third during the 2019 Watermelon Field Day slated for July 11 at Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center, 64 Research Road, Blackville.
Gilbert Miller, a Clemson Extension vegetable specialist housed at Edisto, said the field day has something for anyone interested in growing or eating watermelons.
“This event has both an indoor and an outdoor component,” Miller said. “We’ll begin indoors where experts will talk about various topics related specifically to South Carolina watermelon production, then we’ll move outdoors for field research tours.”
Registration begins at 8 a.m. Kyle Tisdale, a marketing specialist with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, kicks off the indoor presentations with a report from the South Carolina Watermelon Board and South Carolina Watermelon Association. Jeff Adelberg, a Clemson horticulture professor, follows with a discussion about growing seedless watermelons.
“The Japanese were the first to breed for seedless watermelons,” Adelberg said. “This was around the 1940s. Breeding for seedless watermelons began in the United States in the 1980s. Most seedless watermelons today come from China. I’m going to talk about what growers can do to propagate their own seedless watermelon crops.”
The indoor presentations continue with Alex Butler of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control giving an update on the Western Capacity Use Area. This area includes Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Lexington and Orangeburg counties. Groundwater withdrawal permits are required to use groundwater equal to or greater than 3 million gallons in any month in these counties.
Miller will wrap up the indoor presentations with a discussion on watermelon production from “A to Z,” including Clemson recommendations as well as his own experience.
“I’ll address topics from aphids to zucchini squash mosaic virus,” Miller said. “This will include fertigation schedule for watermelons, sensor-based irrigation, disease control, wind breaks, insect control, row spacing and so on. Basically, how I produce watermelons.”
Participants move outdoors about 10 a.m. for field research tours that include Clemson Extension weed specialist Matt Cutulle talking about how to identify and manage such weeds as pigweed, nutsedge and cutleaf evening primrose.
“These are weeds I most often see in fields,” Cutulle said. “I plan to talk some about grasses and I will talk about our new website that has information to promote weed identification.”
Joe Mari Maja, a research sensor engineer, is slated to talk about robots helping to transport produce.
“We plan to demonstrate transporting harvested watermelons to the edge of a field using our robot,” Maja said. “We will have something similar to a cart attached to our robot as a loading platform where harvested watermelon from the side of the row bed will be loaded. The robot will travel down the entire row and go back to the end of the row to transport watermelons.”
The field tour also features Miller talking about growing hemp after watermelons in the same fields. In addition, he will discuss the 2018 Southeast variety trial results. Participants will visit plots of 86 varieties of melon trials.
Following the field tour, participants return to the research station for cold watermelon and lunch.
Certified crop advisor (CCA) and pesticide license credits will be offered. For more information, contact Miller at 803-793-6614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Denise Attaway, Clemson University