As produce industry professionals, parents, and consumers, we all want to put the best, healthiest foods on the table for our families. We also want to do it in a way that respects and sustains the land that will continue to feed our children, their children, and generations beyond.
That’s why sustainable agriculture—growing food in ways that meet our current food needs without compromising it for future generations—is such a critical area of focus.
3 ways to increase sustainable agriculture
By nature, the produce industry has a direct and meaningful connection with the environment. Fresh produce feeds the world, so it’s vital that we all do our part to support and improve the land that grows it. When it comes to melons, for example, there are a number of methods that contribute to and encourage sustainability. Here are three of those key practices.
1. Implement a crop rotation strategy.
Crop rotation is the important process of changing the type of crop that’s grown in an area each season. If melons are repeatedly planted in the same area, season after season, the soil is drained of the nutrients that are needed for the plant’s growth. In addition, melons (and other crops) repetitively grown in the same spot are more susceptible to diseases and pests, which creates the potential to decrease yields over time. Crop rotations can help mitigate these effects, since changing crops routinely allows the land to replenish the nutrients used. While certain crops can deplete the health of soil, others add to it. For example, planting greens, grain, and especially legume crops can help replenish the soil following a season of growing melons. In addition, effective crop rotations coupled with minimum till programs can help decrease soil erosion and increase soil fertility.
2. Use the most effective watering system.
All crops need to be hydrated to be healthy, but not all irrigation systems are created equal. The right irrigation controls in place can encourage responsible use of surface and ground water. Drip irrigation systems tend to be the most efficient methods to water and fertilize crops because they directly feed water and nutrition into the plants’ root systems, without losing moisture in the process. In addition to conserving water and fertilizer, drip irrigation also plays a role in reducing soil erosion. Since the water goes directly to the root systems, running water doesn’t disturb or carry away the soil.
3. Encourage bee pollination.
Bees pollinate approximately 75% of the fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts grown in the United States.1 If a melon plant is poorly pollinated, it produces fewer melons—which will also tend to be lower in quality2—whereas a well-pollinated melon plant will generally put more of its resources into the fruit, increasing the quantity, quality, and taste of the fruit.3 Knowing just how important pollination is for crop yields and quality, many growers are very protective of bees and will take measures to help them flourish, such as implementing a crop rotation strategy and providing natural habitats for native bees.
The quality of fresh fruits and vegetables correlates to the quality of the land from which it grows. Every fruit and vegetable that ends up on consumers’ plates around the country takes an incredible amount of TLC. Fresh produce is carefully tended to throughout the fresh food supply chain: as it grows in the field, at harvest, and as it makes its way to consumers’ plates. If we all do our part to support sustainable practices, future generations can enjoy the great-tasting, nourishing produce we all love so much today.
Would you like to explore options for your melon program? Connect with one of our experts.
1Beatriz Moisset, PhD, and Stephen Buchmann, PhD, “Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees,” A USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership Publication.
2“The Benefit of Bees,” New Agriculturist Online.
3“The Power of Pollinators: Why More Bees Means Better Food,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.