PROJECT LEADER(S): Marjorie Rayburn, Katy Gray, Mike Williams, Lewis
Smith, Paul Smith, Tom Campbell, Tommy Grandy
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.
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.
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.
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.
Updated February, 2005