Behind the Scenes Look at Melon Production, Part 2
A previous Freshspective post gave you a behind the scenes look at the land preparation process for melons. This week, we’re taking you back to our East Coast Product Development Center (PDC) in Tifton, Georgia, to examine the transplanting process from the greenhouse to field. Approximately 30 to 60 days after preparing the fields, melon seeds are planted in the greenhouse, which helps the plants get a head start in optimal growing conditions, protecting them from diseases and pests. The melons grow in the greenhouse between 25-45 days depending on the type of melon, time of the year and heat; then are delivered to the field where the plastic rows have had holes punched in them to simplify the transplanting process. At the PDC, every plant is transplanted by hand. A worker will take a tray of plants, around 144 plants per tray, and fill each hole with a plant. As you can see in the video below, a number of workers are needed to complete this task. Visitors to our PDC often ask how many plants are needed for a field. The amount is based on three factors: plant population, in-row spacing, and plant spacing. The plant population can range from 3,630 plants to 4,840 plants per acre for mini watermelons and 1,360 plants to as high as 2,500 plants per acre for seedless watermelons. Each growing region will differ based on typical weather conditions, but the amount is calculated and agreed to between the grower and Robinson Fresh. In-row spacing is the distance the rows are spread apart. Generally, the PDC creates rows with six foot centers, which means there are six feet from the center of a row to the center of the row next to it. In-row spacing can also vary by the commodity and growing region. Also known in the industry as “in the drill,” plant spacing in a given row can vary between 18 and 36 inches. Before the crew begins the transplanting process, a hole is punched in the plastic rows based off of the pre-determined spacing. This hole is where a plant needs to be transplanted. There are some farms that will utilize transplanters, which is a piece of equipment that attaches to a tractor with seating for workers. As the tractor moves down the field, workers drop in the transplants, rather than walking down the rows. The time from transplanting to harvest can take anywhere from 75 to 90 days, depending upon the time of year, sunlight hours, and heat units. Check back in with Freshspective, or subscribe to our blog, as we continue to follow melon production this spring and give you a behind the scenes look.