Watermelon farming in Nigeria is a lucrative Agribusiness today. Watermelon is widely cultivated and consumed all over the globe. Its origin is traced back to the Kalahari Desert in Africa.
There is a high demand for it, which is of high advantage and very encouraging to farmers. Cultivation of watermelon is easy as it does not involve much work. It has the capacity to make a farmer wealthy within the shortest possible time. It can be cultivated all year round and anywhere in the country. The sweetness and crispy nature makes it a well-flavoured fruit.
In this post, we will tell you all you need to know about watermelon farming in Nigeria.
Health Benefits of Watermelon
It contains essential beneficial nutrients like potassium, magnesium, iron, amino acids, folic acid, as well as vitamins A, B6, and C.
Vitamin A has many benefits for the eye, and vitamin C plays key roles in the normal functioning of the skin and hair. The latter contains Lycopene — an antioxidant that prevents the skin from sunburn — and it can also help reduce cancer risk.
Watermelon contains more than 90% of water, which helps in digestion and metabolic defect.
Types of Watermelon Varieties
There are different varieties of watermelon, so you have to determine which variety of watermelons you want to plant. Some of them include;
- The Crimson Sweet Watermelon: This is one of the most popular within its species. It possesses a sweet crimson flesh. It is bright red flesh (high in lycopene) and light green watermelon with dark green stripes.
- Yellow Crimson sweet: It has a bright yellow-orange flesh with massive black seeds, a wonderful flavour, and moderate sugar content.
- The black diamond: They are oblong in shape with crisp, bright red flesh and dark black/green rind.
- Charleston Grey: It is oblong in shape, with sweet fibre-less red flesh and grey/green coloured rind.
- The Congo Watermelon: features a juicy red flesh, and the content is high in sugar. The melon is rectangular and less green with chromatic stripes.
- Moon and Stars Variety: It is round and blocky with sweet red flesh and dark green rind with yellow spotting.
- Sugar Baby Watermelon: Round with a firm and fine red-grained flesh, very sweet in flavour, and solid dark-green coloured skin.
Planting Seasons in Watermelon Farming
In watermelon farming, there are three planting seasons. Early planting is from March-May, mid planting season is in the month of June/July, late planting is in August /September, but with good irrigation, watermelon can be planted all year round.
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Requirements for Your Watermelon Farming
The requirements for beginning a profitable watermelon farming in Nigeria Agribusiness are outlined as follows:
Watermelon can be cultivated in a hot and dry climate; this could be the reason why it’s popularly cultivated within the Northern part of the country. However, the perfect planting region isn’t essentially the North. It is often planted in any part of the country.
The perfect soil for planting is sandy or loamy soil. The farm should have adequate exposure to daylight. If your soil isn’t extremely fertile, you’ll be able to plant the seed using compost.
A piece of land of about one or two plots is enough for a beginner to start; the land should be cleared of all grass and debris, burn the grasses and sticks or bury them beneath the soil to serve as manure.
Consider plowing the land before planting and tilling it as well to create space for movement of roots and better water penetration, especially if it is a dry land. You can make ridges or beds
Seed planting in watermelon farming
You can plant your seeds the same day you make your bed. Give a 2 ft by 2 ft spacing and plant 2-3 seeds in a hole. You can thin your seedlings to 1 or 2 stands, after day’s evidence of emergence or when you are sure of successful germination.
Plant 1.5cm deep into the soil and use your hands to cover it with sand. You can as well plant it in nursery nylon filled with loamy soil, 2 to 3 seeds, and 1.5cm deep, transplant them after 10 days.
Your nursery should be close to your farm because watermelons are very fragile to reduce any mechanical injury during transplanting. Your soil should not be waterlogged as watermelons do not thrive in a water log area.
Plant your watermelon in open land, not in an enclosed canopy.
If you are preparing the seed by yourself, you have to dry the seeds for 5 or more days to ensure they are properly dried. But if you are buying from stores the already prepared ones, especially the hybrid seeds, you don’t need to undergo any other stress than planting directly. There are many varieties of watermelon seeds.
Application of manure in watermelon farming
If your soil is very fertile, you still have to add nutrients to it because watermelon requires some level of nutrients at each stage of germination. You can apply fertilizer when the vines begin to spread out and again when it starts blossoming and also when fruit appears.
Apply manure after 11 to 12 days of planting or 3 days after transplanting. NPK. 20-20-20 is good for those using inorganic fertilizer. Apply urea (nitrate fertilizer) 35 days after planting. Drill a hole round the plant 4cm away and apply the correct measurement fertilizer of 120kg is needed for a hectare.
Application of insecticide
Watermelon, like any other plant, is susceptible to diseases. These diseases can be caused by insect pests through which their attack can pave the way for secondary infections by pathogen.
Common pests are thrips, cotton aphids, leaf miners, leaf-cutting beetle, whiteflies. Apply insecticide on the 10th and 14th day after planting, subsequently, apply in another 10 days on the 37th and the last one on the 57th.
Harvesting of watermelon
When you observe a crack appearing on the stem above the melon and the tendrils holding the watermelon dries or turns brown, then it is ready for harvest. Cut the watermelon from the vine (base); avoid pulling so as not to crack it. Also, watermelon becomes soft after cutting it from the vine, be sure it is ripe before harvesting. Watermelon takes 80 to 100 days before harvesting and can be harvested 3 to 20 times before it withers depending on the type of species and management practices used.
Watermelon farming in Nigeria can be cultivated in dry and hot land as long as there is an adequate supply of water and nutrient required for the plant to thrive well and fruit.