Watermelon harvest underway as summer rains ramp up
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Harvest is in full swing for Mississippi watermelon producers as rains ramp up, increasing the likelihood of disease and ruined melons.
“Last week, everything looked good,” said Heath Steede, Mississippi State University Extension agent in George County. “But we have had rains every day for the past five days, which is starting to negatively affect the crop. This is the point in the watermelon growing season where things can go either way very quickly.”
Watermelons need a balance of sun, rain and warmth to reach peak ripeness and sweetness. Early-season rains help watermelons grow, but excess rain at this point in production will cause melons to ruin and increase the potential for disease problems.
Steede, who works with seven commercial growers in his county, said harvest is in full swing.
“Everything from here on out is all according to the weather,” Steede said on June 19. “And we’re starting to see more disease because of all this rain.”
While most of Mississippi’s watermelon production is concentrated in the southeast corner of the state, some producers in the northern half of the state also grow the summertime staple.
“We’re planted and growing up here,” said James Shannon, MSU Extension agent in Pontotoc County. “Our growers try to hit that July 1 date for harvest, but we don’t usually make it. With our weather, we can never get them in the ground as soon as those guys down south.”
Shannon said he is not aware of any issues with the crop as of mid-June, and he estimates that north Mississippi’s crop will hit sales outlets after July 4.
Steede said prices for the farmer are up from last year, and consumers of Mississippi watermelons can expect to pay a little more this year.
People can celebrate this year’s harvest at two separate events in George and Smith Counties.
Lucedale will hold its annual Watermelon Games June 24 beginning at 9 a.m. on the courthouse square. The event offers activities for all ages and is held in conjunction with the county’s farmers’ market and art walk.
The 45th annual Mississippi Watermelon Festival is set for July 14 and 15 in Mize. Festival events include a 5K run, food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, live music each night, and a car, truck and bike show. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. July 14 and 8:30 a.m. July 15. For admission prices and more information, visit the festival’s website at https://mswatermelonfestival.com/.