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Balancing Profitability and Sustainability in Watermelon Production

Extension Education

Emily Beach


Florida is historically one of the leading producers of watermelons and in 2021 according to the United States Department of Agriculture the state produced 1.016 billion pounds of the 3.4 billion pounds produced domestically. Of the state's production, Lafayette County contributes 19,500,000 pounds to Florida’s watermelon production.  The Suwannee Valley region, where Lafayette County is located, is faced with significant water quality and quantity regulations aimed at protecting the Floridan Aquifer and countless natural springs in the county. With watermelon being one of the leading agriculture industries in the region, producers are faced with the challenge of growing a crop within these regulations and scrutiny while remaining profitable. The main objective of this program was to satisfy the stringent regulations by assessing nutrient status regularly to adjust fertilizer applications weekly instead of applying the same amount each week throughout the growing season.  This agent applied for and was awarded a Florida Best Management Practice mini grant to purchase meters to monitor nutrient status of watermelon plants for growers in Lafayette County.  Each week, petioles from each field were collected and the agent squeezed the sap from the petiole into the meter to determine Nitrate-Nitrogen and Potassium levels.  The agent then records the numbers and shares them with the grower at which time the agent provides guidance for nutrient application for the upcoming week based off University of Florida sap levels recommendations.  This service offers immediate information to the grower which minimizes nitrogen applications while maximizing profitability.  The relationship that is formed due to the ability to provide this service also leads to other discussions that benefit the environment and producer like using soil moisture sensors, irrigation audits, and solutions for weed and diseases.  For the acreage that was weekly sap tested by the agent, growers reported that they were able to reduce the amount of fertilizer fertigation events by at least 2 weeks during the growing season.  That reduction saved 8,400 pounds of Nitrogen from entering the soil and allowed the grower to save $30,000. 

Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC

This poster is being submitted only for display at AM/PIC. Poster is not to be judged, but the abstract will be published in the proceedings.

A poster file has not been provided

Authors: Emily Beach
  1. Beach, E. Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Lafayette County, Lafayette County Ag Extension Agent, Florida, 32066