Watermelon is one of the most lucrative crops in the farming business for farmers and investors as the fruit is one of the most consumed in the world today. The time has never been right to start a watermelon farming business as the crop is been continuously cultivated due to its numerous health benefits and is presently one of the most cultivated crops in the world meaning there is a higher chance of success and huge returns if you choose to invest in this business venture.
In this article is a breakdown of how to start watermelon farming in Nigeria.
How to Create a Watermelon Farming Business Plan
When creating a business plan for watermelon farming, there are many important things to consider ensuring you make enough profit from the venture. Watermelon farming is highly profitable and wouldn’t incur many costs in the planting, post planting and harvesting operations.
Compared to some crops which are quite selective about the kind of soil they can thrive in, watermelons are quite tolerant and will grow well in any part of the country. However, the crop tends to thrive better in the hot and dry climate of the North which is the main reason why the bulk of watermelons are produced there, although they are mostly consumed by the Southern part of the country.
Capital and Expected Profits
The endpoint of any business venture is to make profits and also keep expenses minimal. When organizing your business plan it is important to take into consideration the cost of acquiring a site, buying seeds, farming equipment, fertilizers, planting, harvesting, transportation and storage.
Your capital and farming techniques will determine how large your watermelon farm will be and how much profit you will make in the end.
Watermelon Farming Manual
When picking a site, you should note the kind of soil on the site as watermelons thrive in sandy or loamy soil. The crop also occupies a large amount of space, so you might want to pick large site depending on the amount you wish to cultivate.
Time for Watermelon Planting
The ideal planting period for watermelons is at the start of the rainy season or towards the end of the season. Although the crop can be planted at any time as long as there is adequate water supply through irrigation.
Northern Part of Nigeria
For those in Northern Nigeria, the ideal planting period is usually May and/or July.
Southern Part of Nigeria
It is well known that the Southern part of the country experiences more rainfall than the North, and it is important you avoid planting during the time of rains. The ideal planting period for this part of the country is in the months of March, Late June or early July and September.
Watermelon plants have many varieties which gives you several options to pick from. However, the most popular varieties of watermelon are the Congo and Crimson Sweet varieties.
If you are not sure about the quality of a watermelon seed, you can check them by dipping them in a 3 – 5% solution of salt. The seeds that sink to the bottom of the solution are termed well enough and can be prepared for sowing.
You can also enhance the immune system of the plants by drying the seeds under the sun for a week prior to planting.
Watermelon Farming Techniques – Planting Operations
The site is to be ploughed before the watermelon seeds can be planted. The seeds can be planted the same day the land is ploughed or the day after.
Watermelon can be planted either on flat land or on ridges depending on the soil type and the number of watermelons to be planted. Planting on ridges is advisable for clayey soils and if you desire to grow them in commercial (large) quantities. However, the soil should be well drained as watermelon plants can’t thrive in water-logged environment which makes it futile to plant during the rainy season.
The method of planting depends on the variety you are going for. Generally, the plant rows should be 2 metres apart and spaced 1 foot apart. Some varieties of watermelon will require more space such as the Congo or Crimson Sweet which ridges should be at least 10 feet apart.
When planting dig a hole of depth 30cm and diameter of 1m, you can make about 10 holes in one ridge and plant one seed per hole.
Post-planting operations include adding manure, watering and checking the plants from time to time for signs of growth, maturity and pest and disease infestation.
When adding fertilizers or manure, it is advisable to add humus rather than fresh/organic manure which often affects the taste of the fruit and weaken the resistance of the plant to disease infestations.
Inorganic fertilizers like Potassium and Phosphorus should be added as they improve quality of the fruit and hasten to ripen. Also, during early growth the plants require high levels of nitrogen, however, you should reduce the supply once the plant flowers and fruits.
Irrigation should be done once a week until the plants become mature; you can also increase the humidity of the soil by adding mulch to the soil. Mulch doesn’t only increase the moisture in the soil but also prevent weed growth
The watermelon is attacked by one main pest known as the leaf-eating beetle. The beetle feeds on the leaves of the plant thereby disrupt its growth. You can easily get the plant to recover from the attack by simply improving soil conditions of the plant and the plant will fight off the infestation itself.
Mildew is a fungus that also affects the leaves of the plant. Overhead watering and allowing the leaves of the plant to stay wet for too long can lead to the disease. To prevent the disease simply avoid overhead watering and dry the leaves of the plant in due time.
Watermelons take about 3 months to mature and then they are ready for harvest. There are several signs of maturity or ripening you should watch out for which includes drying of the tendrils, uniform colour, a dull sound when flapping the fruit and also a crackling sound at the rind when pressure is placed on the watermelon.
Colour changes will also signal maturity, as a watermelon ripe for harvesting will have a yellow color at the part closest to the soil.
How To Harvest Watermelons
Simply cut the stem with a sharp knife close to the fruit.
Once harvested, you can simply move them to specific delivery points and to the hands of the final consumers.
This manual may not have been provided in a PDF format but it has all basic techniques, strategies, manual on how to profitably start a water Melon farming business here in Nigeria. This method is also applicable anywhere in the world just that some techniques might be altered due to the varying climatic conditions of the environment where it is being planted.