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Later Melons Miss July Fourth Rush
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Supplies of fresh Mississippi-grown watermelons, a traditional July Fourth treat, were lower than normal this year as uncooperative weather early in the growing season pushed harvest dates back.
A late spring freeze caused many of Mississippi's watermelon producers to harvest closer than normal to the Fourth of July with some fields missing the holiday demand altogether.
For the best prices, growers aim for harvest to begin around the middle of June and climaxing before July 4.
"Most growers had to replant watermelons after the late freeze, so only one of our county commercial producers was ready by the Fourth of July," said James Richmond, county agent for Jefferson Davis County.
Wayne County agent Alan McReynolds said most of their replanted acreage "caught up" and was ready to harvest before the Fourth. However, growers would have liked to harvest even earlier.
Smith County agent Charles Waldrup said Florida growers experienced a similar freeze and replanting situation resulting in a later crop for them. Competition with Florida's late melons has hurt Mississippi's watermelon prices.
"Although demand has kept prices fairly good, the influx of Florida and Georgia watermelons has kept the market from being as good as we would have liked," Waldrup said. "Watermelon is an expensive crop to grow. Every dollar counts."
After the freeze and replanting, this year's crop has been relatively easy to produce with little or no disease or insect problems.
Mississippi producers planted about 8,500 acres last year. The primary watermelon counties are Jefferson Davis, Wayne and Smith.