Blackville, South Carolina, USA
July 7, 2011
Watermelons are a valuable crop in the Palmetto State.
Jason Hanselman, an industry affairs associate with the National Watermelon Promotion Board, said that between 2005 and 2010, South Carolina ranked seventh nationally among the most productive watermelon-growing states.
Historically, revenue from watermelons grown in South Carolina through the Fourth of July holiday has averaged $13 million. Through the same period in 2011, watermelons averaged $18 million in revenue from 107 million pounds sold to markets as far away as Canada.
“With production this high so far, it’s going to be a really nice year,” Hanselman said.
More than 200 people attended the 2011 Watermelon Field Day at Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center, which was free and open to the public.
A morning classroom session included watermelon breeding and an overview of S.C. Watermelon Board activities. After the classroom session, the group moved outside to view field research projects and field trials, and sampled more than 50 watermelon and melon varieties.
Clemson’s Tony Keinath, professor and vegetable pathologist at the Clemson University Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston, said South Carolina growers do face some negative issues in 2011.
Specifically, the year’s dry growing season has made the state’s watermelon fields susceptible to powdery mildew. Dry seasons generally mean a disease-free season, Keinath said — until the arrival of the leaf-damaging disease.
Powdery mildew moves to South Carolina from Florida, with southern Florida being the only place on the East Coast where the fungus survives year round.
The disease is blown northward, arriving in South Carolina in early June. It differs from other plant diseases in that it doesn’t require wet leaves to infect the watermelon plant.
The disease is a concern because it greatly can harm watermelon yields. Powdery mildew takes sugars from leaves for its own growth, denying the watermelon vine of an essential food for the plant’s development.
“This is why the disease is such a problem in dry seasons,” Keinath said.