Northeast Ag Expo Featuring alternative and specialty crops, including specialty melons

PROJECT LEADER(S): Marjorie Rayburn, Katy Gray, Mike Williams, Lewis Smith, Paul Smith, Tom Campbell, Tommy Grandy
TYPE OF PROJECT: On-Farm Trial
LOCATION: Chowan County, NC

IMPACT


As growers look for higher profit alternatives to what they are presently producing, they need to see some of these alternatives in the field and how they perform before they try them on their own farms. Many growers in northeastern NC already grow conventional varieties of watermelon and cantaloupe. Specialty melons may offer another crop with some profit potential for farmers in the area. In response to interest in alternatives to traditional crops, the agents in six northeastern North Carolina counties included “alternative” crops, including specialty melons, in their annual Ag Expo, which was attended by over 125 people.


INTRODUCTION

The Northeast Ag Expo is an annual multi-county field day conducted by agriculture agents in 6 northeastern counties in North Carolina. In previous years, the primary focus of this event has been field crop production – corn, soybeans, cotton, peanuts, small grains, and grain sorghum – crops normally grown in this area of the state. With limited profitability of these commodities and especially with the phase out of the peanut program in the new USDA Farm Bill, more growers are considering alternative crops that show a potential for increased profit. Therefore, this year’s Expo was geared more toward helping area growers get additional information to make choices about alternative crops. In addition to the specialty melons (provided through Bill Jester's program), we also featured asparagus, tomatoes resistant to tomato spotted wilt virus, sunflowers for cut flowers, and kanaf.

METHODS

Melon plots were planted on May 2, 2003, on black plastic with drip tape underneath. Soil had been fumigated. Container plants were provided by Bill Jester and were set out according to the plot plan provided. Verities included Sprite, Duke, Golden Beauty, Honey Girl, Honey Pearl, Millenium, Rosar, Sonora, and Sancho. Plots were sprayed with insecticide (Seven – twice and thiodan – once) for striped and spotted cucumber beetles and stink bugs – based on scouting. Plots were treated twice for disease control with Bravo. Nitrogen and Calcium was added through drip lines.

Plots were harvested and melons weighted and counted July 10, 14, 17, 24, 28, 31. Irrigation through drip lines was provided as needed.

The Ag Expo was held at the Albemarle Learning Center farm, on Morristown Road, just off highway 32, 5 miles north of Edenton, NC, in Chowan County.

RESULTS

Two specific requests regarding the specialty melons have already been received by the Chowan County Extension office. One grower is interested in growing “sprite” and has already approached his normal markets about it.

In another case, a consultant is working with a farmer growing Asian fruits and vegetables. The Asian melons grown by the farmer last year (seeds provided by the distributor of the Asian produce) did not perform very well. The consultant needed pictures and variety descriptions of the specialty melons we grew to see if some of those varieties would meet the market characteristics of the Asian market and perform better. With this information, he hopes to convince the distributor that these specialty melons would work well for producer and buyer.

At the Northeast Ag Expo Field Day on July 24, 2004, over 125 people attended and visited the plots. Bill Jester presented information on the specialty melons

See table one and table two below for melon yield data.

CONCLUSION

Of the varieties grown, several have potential for northeastern North Carolina. Sprite did well and was quite productive. It produced over a long period of time. Of the honeydew type, Honey Pearl did well early, while Honey Girl had greater tendency to crack and split. Other varieties should be evaluated for an additional season before conclusions can be drawn.

Table One
Harvest Date Variety Plot # # Melons Total Wt. Low Wt. High Wt.
 7/10/03  Honey Pearl  105  5  31lb 6oz  4lb 8oz  7lb 9oz
     202  5  22lb 6 oz  4lb 1oz  5lb 6oz
 7/14/03  Duke  102  1  7lb 11oz    
     204  2 (split)      
   Rosar  107  1(rotten)      
     206  2  14lb  5lb 14oz  8lb 2oz
 7/17/03  Sprite  101  1  2 lb    
   Golden Beauty  103  1  7lb 8oz    
   Honey Girl  104  1  4lb 9oz (split)    
     209  1  3lb 7oz    
   Honey Pearl  105  1  4lb 8oz    
     202  1  4lb 10oz    
   Rosar  107  1  6lb 2oz    
     206  8  45lb 3oz  4lb  8lb 2oz
 7/24/03  Sprite  101  17  34lb 7oz  1lb 5oz  3lb 1oz
     208  13  26lb 3oz  1lb 2oz  2lb 2oz
   Duke  102  4  29lb 15oz  5lb 14oz  9lb 11oz
     204  3  16lb 13oz  4lb 3oz  6lb 10oz
   Golden Beauty  103  3  18lb 9oz  4lb 10oz  7lb 4oz
     207  6  51lb 3oz  6lb 14oz  10lb 4oz
   Honey Girl  104  (No saleable fruit - splitting)
     209  3  11lb 3oz  2lb 4oz  4lb 8oz
   Honey Pearl  105  8  53lb 12oz  4lb 4oz  8lb 7oz
     202  8  47lb 1oz  2lb 12oz  7lb 14oz
   Millenium  106  2  24lb 5oz  11lb 10oz  12lb 11oz
     203  1  8lb 10oz    
   Rosar  107  11  68lb 11oz  4lb 1oz  9lb 5oz
     206  2  15lb 11oz  5lb 13oz  9lb 14oz
   Sonora  108  10  69lb 9oz  5lb 4oz  8lb 5oz
     205  9  58lb 8oz  5lb  8lb 12oz
   Sancho  109  3  26lb 14oz  7lb 6oz  11lb 13oz
     201  4  43lb 15oz  10lb  12lb
 7/28/03  Sprite  101  9  18lb 3oz  (Individual weights no longer recorded)
     208  7  14lb    
   Duke  102  1  7lb 8oz    
     204  5  28lb 2oz    
   Golden Beauty  103  3  18lb 9oz    
     207  4  34lb    
   Honey Girl  104  2  6lb 4oz (cracking)    
     209  5  20lb    
   Honey Pearl  105  4  27lb    
     202  6  36lb    
   Millenium  106  2  24lb 4oz    
     203  6  48lb    
   Rosar  107  3  18lb 4oz    
     206  2  15lb 10oz    
   Sonora  103  4  28lb    
     205  8  54lb    
   Sancho  109  4  36lb    
     201  2 (rotten)      
 7/31/03  Sprite  101  7  (weights not taken)    
     208  18      
   Duke  102  2      
     204  2      
   Golden Beauty  103  6      
     207  1      
   Honey Girl  104  1      
     209  1      
   Honey Pearl  105  3      
     202  2      
   Millenium  106  7      
     203  6      
   Rosar  107  3      
     206  2      
   Sonora  103  4      
     205        
   Sancho  109  7      
     201  2      

Table Two:
Total Melon Seasonal Harvest

  • Sprite: 4 harvests, 72 melons; 3 weighed harvests 94 lb 13 oz
  • Duke: 4 harvests, 18 melons; 3 weighed harvests 90 lb 1 oz
  • Golden Beauty: 4 harvests, 24 melons; 3 weighed harvests 129 lbs 13 oz
  • Honey Girl: 4 harvests, 14 melons; 3 weighed harvests 45 lbs 7 oz
  • Honey Pearl: 5 harvests, 43 melons; 4 weighed harvests 226 lbs 11 oz
  • Millenium: 3 harvests, 24 melons; 2 weighed harvests 105 lbs 3 oz
  • Rosar: 5 harvests, 34 melons; 4 weighed harvests 183 lbs 9 oz
  • Sonora: 3 harvests, 41 melons; 2 weighed harvests 210 lbs 1 oz
  • Sancho: 3 harvests, 20 melons; 2 weighed harvests 106 lbs 13 oz

Photos:
                       

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Updated February, 2005