Organic Watermelon Production

Organic Watermelon Production Presented by the University of Missouri College
of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Steven Kirk: So this is an organic watermelon
production study where we’re using three different cover crops, planted at four different intervals, to reduce weed pressure, attract beneficial insects, and to improve soil health
by adding organic matter and nutrients. The thing that makes any kind of vegetable
production challenging is the fact that this is an organic management study. We don’t have a lot of the same tools that
conventional farmers have, so we have to be inventive. One of the things that we’re trying to do
here is, I’m a big believer in picking your own weed, something is going to grow in there,
nature pours a vacuum and they will fill it full of weeds. I came up with an idea of using cover crops,
so that we don’t have any bare ground. The initial study is to see what is the primetime to plant your cover crop in relation to planting your watermelon. As you can see there’s four flags in this
row here, and one flag over there. And that signifies that that planting was
planted one week before we put in the watermelon crop. Two flags signifies that we planted the cover
crop at the same time as the watermelon. Three flags signifies that we planted the
cover crop one week after the watermelon. And then four flags signifies two weeks after
the watermelon. So once again, we have fewer tools then the conventional farmers, so we have to till more often. But one of the things that I found right off,
is when we did the first cover crop, there was a faint hint of green in the field when I got back out here, I planted anyway. That was a bad move. I should have waited until the ground dried again and tilled. You can’t even tell, unless you look at the color of flags, which cover crop is supposed to be in there. As far as which cover crop is performing the best, as you can see, the buckwheat is doing super. And it’s one of the best pollinator crops
that you can use in a cover crop situation. The cowpeas, they don’t really flower until later, so we probably won’t get any benefit from attracting pollinators, but we do get the benefit of being a legume and getting nitrogen. We do have a clover that we picked, a subterranean
clover, but the germination has been so poor, it’s pretty much the equivalent of the control crop. My job is to come and take data on a weekly basis,
just to see what the changes are, what insects we’re bringing in, both beneficials,
pollinators, predators, and then plant eaters. So this is just the preliminary data from
the first series of a three-year grant. Initially, we’ve taken the fruit count and
the biomass data. So far, on the fruit count, although we haven’t statistically analyzed our data yet, it is promising because on treatment four we got a watermelon count of 91, treatment three we got 97 watermelons. Now compare that to treatment two, we got only 70. Now treatment one, we had 74 watermelons total. So treatment three and treatment four outperformed,
significantly, treatment one and treatment two. Presented by the University of Missouri College
of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Filmed on site at Bradford Research Center. Information provided by Steven Kirk. Still photos by Steven Kirk and Stephanie Sidoti. Video by Stephanie Sidoti.

2 thoughts on “Organic Watermelon Production

  1. use wood chips instead of cover crops. it's a natural compost. makes weeding absurdly easy, and holds water like no other.

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