Watermelon growers get a lot of water, not so much melon

Clemson University’s Edisto Research and Education Center held its wettest Watermelon and Vegetable Field Day Thursday since the event began in 2002.

Gilbert Miller, Clemson Extension horticulturalist at the Edisto center who runs the annual event, said since April 1, 22 inches of rain have fallen on the center’s fields. The rainfall is twice the historical total for the same period through mid-July.

This year’s overly soggy growing season has recharged aquifers, but caused growers plenty of headaches. Yields are half those of last year, Miller said, and disease has run wild.

“It’s all part of the ups and downs of farming,” Miller said. “From a plant pathologist standpoint, it’s been a wonderful year.”

Tony Keinath, a vegetable pathologist at the Clemson University Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston, said more disease means fewer watermelons.

Keinath said this year’s growing season has seen the presence of four well-known diseases in South Carolina at the same time: powdery mildew, gummy stem blight, downy mildew and anthracnose.

Downy mildew infection was found June 18 on non-sprayed sentinel watermelon in fields at the coastal center. It marked the earliest in the growing season the watermelon strain of the disease has been found in South Carolina. The mildew also was found on cucumber, cantaloupe and several different varieties of squash.

Rainy and cloudy weather are primary factors for rapid outbreak of downy mildew, and early detection is critical, Keinath said. Powdery mildew and downy mildew generally are the most damaging diseases.

“My studies in Charleston clearly show that as incidents of powdery mildew increased, crop yields are reduced,” Keinath said.

The Edisto center hosts more than 200 people for the popular field day. This year’s event included a fungicides overview and other presentations.

The tour then headed outside to view watermelon and vegetable field research projects. Field presentations include insect control root zone management, and Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and Pesticide License credits were offered.

Courtesy Clemson

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