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Introduction

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is an important cucurbitaceous vegetable. It is


know as tarbuj, tarmuj, kalinda and kalindi in different parts of India. Though it
can be grown in garden land, it is a major river-bed crop of Uttar Pradesh,
Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. As a common summer
season crop, it is grown from the lower Himalayan region to southern parts of
India, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Assam, West Bengal, Orissa, Himachal
Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan being major watermelon
growing states. An excellent dessert fruit, it is relished by rich as well as poor.
The fruit juice makes an excellent refreshing and cooling beverage after adding a
pinch of salt and black pepper. The fruits contain 92% water, 0.2% protein, 0.3%
minerals 7.0% carbohydrates in a 100g edible flesh.

Climate and soil

Watermelon requires hot dry climate and a long growing season preferably with
warmer days and cooler nights. It cannot withstand frost or very
low temperatures. For seed germination, an optimum moisture and a soil
temperature between 25-30oC is needed. Similarly plant growth is optimum under
28-30 oC, while fruiting is better at 24-27 oC. Higher temperatures are beneficial
during ripening. Arid regions of Rajasthan are best suited for production of quality
fruits.

Watermelon may be grown on a wide variety of soils. Sandy loams are best for
early crop, while loams have high-yielding potential. Alluvial river-beds are also
good for watermelon. Heavier soils do not permit perfect root growth and hence
only short duration varieties with smaller fruits are suitable. The soil should be
well-drained and should have ample organic matter. It is generally cultivated in
river-beds by making trenches and sowing in hills or pits. A pH of 6.5-7.0 is ideal.

Varieties

A number of selections, varieties and hybrids are recommended for commercial


cultivation. These are given below.

Arka Jyoti

It is a mid-season F1 hybrid. The plants bear round fruits weighing 6-8kg each,
light green skin with regular dark green stripes, sweet flesh (11-12% TSS) with
crimson-red colour. The flesh gets granular when over-ripe. It performs well
under south as well as north Indian conditions.

Arka Manik
Fruits are somewhat round (oval) and weigh about 6kg each. Skin colour is light
green with dull green stripes. The flesh is deep red, very sweet (11-12% TSS)
and seed arrangement is such that its removal is easier. It is resistant to powdery
mildew, downy mildew, tolerant to anthracnose and blossom-end rot. It stands
transport and storage well.

Asahi Yamato

It is a Japanese introduction with fruits weighting 6-8kg each. Fruits have striped
light green skin and deep pink, crisp, sweet (11-13% TSS) flesh with small brown
seeds. The fruits ripen 90-95 days after sowing.

Durgapura Kesar

It is a late-maturing variety having green, striped skin with individual fruit


weighing 4-5kg. The fruits have yellow flesh, which is moderate in sweetness
with large seeds.

Durgapura Meetha

Fruits are round with light green skin, thick rind and good keeping quality. Flesh
is dark red-sweet with around 11% TSS. On an average, fruits weigh 6-8kg each
and mature 125 days after sowing.

Improved Shipper

An American introduction, its fruits weigh 8-10kg. It has dark green, red flesh with
moderate sweetness (8-9% TSS).

New Hampshire Midget

This is also an introduction having small fruits, weighing 1.5-2.0kg each. The
fruits have light green skin with black stripes, red flesh, suited for home gardens.

Pusa Bedana

It is a seedless hybrid having aborted embryos and false, rudimentary, least


perceptible seeds. The plants are slow-growing with dark green foliage, short
internodes and leathery leaves. The fruits are seedless, somewhat irregularly
triangular, dark green with thick rind, crisp, deep pink flesh and excellent quality.
It takes about 105 days to ripen. Costly and tedious seed production and difficulty
in seed germination are the reasons behind its non-commercialization.

Special No.1
Its fruits are small, round with red flesh and red seeds. It is early in maturity and
TSS is slightly lower than Improved Shipper.

Sugar Baby

It is an introduction from the USA. It is a medium-vining variety with fruits


weighing 4-6kg each. Fruits are round in shape, having bluish bloom on dark
green skin and black-green stripes, deep purple, crisp, very sweet (11-13% TSS)
flesh and small brown seeds. The fruits ripen 85-90 days after sowing.

Besides, there are a number of extensively cultivated hybrids. They are Madhu
Milan, Mohini, MHW 4, MHW 5, MHW 6, MHW 11, MHW 12, MHW 15, NS 246,
NS 295, Suruchi, Samtrupti, Amruth and Century 2. Appealing appearance, good
quality flesh and transportability and resistance/tolerance to wilt are important
characters available in most of these hybrids.

Cultivation

Watermelon is propagated by seed. The seed requirement for planting depends


on spacing between plants and rows which again depend on vining habit of
the variety. In general, a seed rate of 3.0-3.5kg/ha for small-seeded types and
5.0kg/ha for large-seeded types is sufficient. High-yielding varieties particularly
hybrids need about one-third seed rate. They can be transplanted with ball of
earth after raising seedlings in alkathene bags. Seeds should be soaked
overnight and kept at moist warm place for 48hr for initiation of germination. Pre-
germinated seeds could be sown in hills on the raised sides of furrows in upland
and in trenches or in pits in the river-beds. Two plants/ hill in trenches or furrows
and 4 plants/ pit are retained for growing. A long vining type may require row and
plant spacing up to 3.5 and 1.2m in river-beds while medium vining type like
Sugar Baby may require 2.0m 1.0 ‫נ‬m spacing in upland. Plant-to-plant spacing
could further be reduced to 0.6m to accommodate around 16,600 plants/ha if
single plant/ hill is retained in place of 2. In pit sowing, pits of 60cm 60 ‫נ‬cm size
are dug up and filled with soil mixed with sufficient quantity (equal) of organic
manure and fertilizer mixture (N + P + K) before sowing.

In north Indian plains, sowing is done during late-February to mid-March while in


north-eastern and western India, November-January. In west Bengal, sowing is
recommended by mid-November, while in central and south India with mild
winters sowing is done during December-January. In Rajasthan, a rainy season
crop is also taken and it is sown during August-September. In north Indian hills,
Asahi Yamato is sown during April-May. For transplanting, 1-2 seeds/ bag are
sown in perforated alkathene bags of 150-200 micron thickness and 8cm 10 ‫נ‬cm
size. Seedlings at 2-3 leaves stage with ball of earth should be transplanted.

Pruning and training


The excessive vine growth can be pruned manually to restrict vegetative growth
and promote higher female: male flower ratio. If apical shoot is pinched and 2-4
side shoots are allowed to grow it gives significantly higher fruit yield than un-
pruned plants. This is commonly practiced in some parts of the country. Fruit
thinning is useful and retaining of 2 fruits/ vine improves fruit size as well as fruit
yield.

In archway system of training plants are spaced at 45cm to accommodate 9,500


plants/ha, whereas in inclined cordon system, plants are spaced at 54cm in rows
alternately at 2.14m and 76cm bed centre. In vertical cordon plants are spaced
54cm apart in rows at 1.52m to accommodate 12,000 plants/ha.

Manuring and fertilization

Watermelon responds well to manuring and fertilizer application. The dose of


fertilizers depends upon the soil type, climate and system of planting. Well-rotten
farmyard manure @ 15-22.5tonnes/ha should be mixed thoroughly with the soil
at the time of preparation of land. This is supplemented by full quantity of P and
K before sowing and half dose of N at the time of vining and the other 10-15 days
later. In general, high N under high temperature conditions promotes maleness in
flowering and lower number of female or perfect flowers/ vine, resulting in low
fruits-set and yield. It is better to complete all the fertilizer applications before the
fruit-set. In watermelon, fruits are harvested at full maturity stage and as such
larger number of fruits/ vine are desirable. This can be partially remedied by foliar
spraying of urea preferably mixed with insecticides.

Aftercare

Watermelons do not require much attention on interculture. In early stage the


beds and ridges should be kept weed-free. At the time of topdressing of
nitrogenous fertilizer, weeding and earthing-up are done. When the vines
start spreading, weeding in between rows or ridges becomes neither necessary
not feasible since vine growth can smother the weeds. Vigorously growing weeds
should be manually pulled out, without disturbing vines at later stages.
Watermelon is also sensitive to weeds in initial stages of plant growth. Yield
losses up to 30% have been observed due to weeds. To reduce these losses,
intercultural operations need to be started 15-20 days after sowing. Depending
upon soil and environmental factors, 2-3 weedings would be required. Use of
herbicides for weed control in watermelon is a common practice in developed
countries. In India, Simazine, Alachlor, Dichlormate, Propanil and Butachlor as
post sowing and pre-emergence treatments are effective. However, Butachlor @
2.0 kg/ha and Ttrifluralin @ 1-2kg/ha are also effective.

Forcing watermelons out of season


Extension of watermelons in non-traditional areas-riverbeds, diaras and under
protected cover (polyhouses, glasshouses and polytunnels) can produce the crop
for off-season supply and higher profits. The newer concept is of raising
seedlings early in suitable size alkathene bags and then transplanting them in
field as soon as it is vacated or the optimum temperature is achieved. Under
north Indian conditions bag sowing is done by mid-January and transplanting by
third week of February. Bags should contain organic manure and sandy-loam soil
in a 1:1 ratio or organic manure, sand and sand-loam soil in 2:1:1 ratio with
insecticide, fungicide dressings and be protected after sowing to give sufficient
heat (temperature) for germination and initial growth.

Irrigation

Watermelon responds very much to irrigation but it cannot withstand


waterlogged conditions. It is generally cultivated as a spring-summer crop in
which frequency of irrigation is very important. Soil moisture is important for good
germination. Frequent irrigations also promote excessive vegetative
growth, especially in heavy soils which needs to be avoided. At the same time
soil moisture stress during pre-flowering, flowering and fruit development stages
drastically reduces yield. Irrigation should be stopped during ripening as it
adversely affects fruit quality and promotes fruit cracking. The application of
water should be restricted to the base of the plant and root zone. Irrigation water
should not wet the vines or vegetative parts, especially when flowering, fruit-set
and fruit development is in progress. Frequent wetting of leaves, stems and
developing fruits promote disease incidence. River-bed crop needs watering only
in initial stages. Later when roots go as deep as 1.5m or up to the water table, no
irrigation is given. The crop should be irrigated at 3-5 days intervals, during
summers. In West Bengal, interval could be as long as 10-15 days.

Harvesting and postharvest management

Watermelons should be harvested at proper stage of maturity. Irrigation in


preceding one week of harvest may give high turgidity to fruits and the skin of the
fruit may crack while transporting them and hence this should not be practiced.
Jerk to fruits while loading and transport should also be avoided. Size of fruits
and colour of the skin are not good indicators to know the proper stage. The crop
is ready for harvesting 90-120 days after sowing depending upon cultivar
and season. Change in the colour of the portion of the fruit which rests on the
ground from white to creamy in case of light skin colour, or to yellow in case of
dark skin colour, is a useful guide of maturity. A metallic sound when the fruit is
tapped with the back of hand or with fingers denote immaturity, whereas a heavy
dull sound indicate ripeness. The drying of tendril at the base of the fruit is also a
sign of maturity. However, the knack of recognizing a ripe melon comes with
experience. The fruits become fit for harvesting 30-40 days after anthesis. These
should be separated from the vine with the help of a knife. The average fruit yield
varies from 200 to 250q/ha and may go beyond 300q/ha in some high-yielding
varieties/hybrids.

Photo: Aarti Khale no photo che

Common name: Watermelon • Hindi: तरबूज़ Tarbooz • Manipuri: তৰবুজ Tarbuj • Marathi: Kadu
vrindavana • Telugu: Eriputccha • Kannada: Kallangadi balli • Bengali: Tormuj • Urdu: Tarbooz •
Gujarati: ઇદક Indrak
Botanical name: Citrullus lanatus Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Synonyms: Citrullus vulgaris
Watermelon is the favourite summer fruit in the hot and dry regions of India. It is common sight to
see vendors with huge fruits piled under a tree. Watermelon is an annual herbacious vine with
long (up to 10 m) stems lying or creeping on the ground, with curly tendrils. Leaves are 5-20 by 3-
19 cm, and hairy, usually deeply palmately lobed with 3-5 lobes. Leaf stalks are 2-19 cm long.
Male flowers on 1.2-4.5 cm long pedicels. Flowers 1-2.5 cm long, pale green. Flowers
monoecious, solitary, on pedicels up to 4.5 cm long; with 5 shortly united petals, pale green. Fruit
of wild plants 1.5-20 cm in diameter, nearly spherical, greenish, mottled with darker green; of
cultivated plants up to 30x60 cm, spherical or ellipsoid, green or yellowish, evenly coloured or
variously mottled or striped. Fruits vary considerably in morphology. The cultivated forms of the
fruit are large oblong.
Season of Planting
The land is brought to fine tilth by giving two crosswise ploughing. In North Indian
plains, watermelons
are sown in February-March whereas in North eastern and western India best
time of sowing is during
November to January. In South and Central India, where winter is neither severe
nor long, these are
grown almost round the year.
Methods of Planting
Before sowing seeds are soaked in luke warm water for 12 hours. The water is
drained out and the
seeds are kept overnight in a wet gunny bag. This treatment increases the
germination percentage.
Normally 1.5-2.0 kg of seeds are required for planting one hectare area. Various
system of sowing has
been adopted depending on the season and system of cultivation.
Furrow method
In this method, furrows are opened at a distance of 2-3 m apart. Sowing is done
on either sides of
furrows and the vines are allowed to trail on the ground. 3-4 seeds are dibbled at
a distance of 60-90 cm
along the furrow.
Pit method
In case of pit method, pits of size 60 x 60 x 60 cm are dug at spacing of 2-3.5 x
0.6-1.2 m and filled with
FYM and soil in equal proportions. Four seeds per pit are sown and finally two to
three healthy vines
are retained.
Hill method
In case of planting in river beds pits of size 30 x 30 x 30 cm are dug at a distance
of 1-1.5 m. The pits are
filled with equal quantities of soil and FYM. the soil is piled up in the form of a hill
and two seeds are

planted on each hill.

Grading
Watermelons are graded according to their size for local market. Distinction
among grades is based
predominantly on external appearances. However, watermelons should be
symmetrical and uniform
in appearance. The surface should be waxy and bright in appearance devoid of
scars, sunburn, transit
abrasions or other surface defects.
Packaging
The fruits are transported by road in bulk by stacking them on dried grass in
trucks.
Storage
Watermelons can be stored for 14 days at 15°C. For short-term storage or transit
to distant markets (>
7 days), watermelons can be stored at 7.2°C with 85-90% relative humidity.
Extended holding at this
temperature will induce chilling injury. Many watermelons are still shipped without
pre-cooling or
refrigeration during transit. These fruit must be utilized for prompt market sales
as quality declines
rapidly under these conditions.
Watermelons should not be stored with apples and bananas as the ethylene
produced during storage

from these fruits hastens softening and development of off flavour to


watermelons.

The crop is ready for harvest in about 75-100 days after sowing depending upon
cultivar and season.
For local market harvesting should be done at full maturity while for transporting
to distant markets, it is
done slightly earlier. Maturity in watermelon can be judged from withering of
tendril, change in belly
colour or ground spot to yellow and thumping test. The mature fruits on thumping
gives dull sound as
against metallic sound of unripe fruits. The fruit should be separated from the
vines with the help of a
knife.
Yield
The yield of watermelon varies according to the system of cultivation, variety,
season and several other

factors. The average fruit yield varies from 20 to 25 t/ha.

Weed Control
Depending upon the season about 2-3 weeding operations is required. The first
weeding should be
done 20-25 days after sowing while subsequent weeding are done at an interval
of one month. When
the vines start spreading, weeding in between the rows, or ridges, becomes
unnecessary since vine
growth can smother the weeds.
Pinching
In watermelon, apical shoots are pinched when the vines are 1m while allowing
the side shoots to
grow. This practice gives significantly higher fruit yield. At the initial stages of fruit
setting, malformed,
diseased and damaged fruits are removed and only 2-3 fruits per vine are
retained. This results in
increased fruit size and yield.
Intercropping
Watermelons can be profitably grown in the interspaces of newly planted
orchards during the initial

years provided there are sufficient irrigation facilities.

Powdery Mildew (Sphaerotheca Fuliginea) :


This disease is favored by high humidity and tends to occur on older leaves first.
Symptoms first
appear as white powdery residue primarily on the upper leaf surface. On the
lower surface of the
leaves circular patches or spots appear. In severe cases, these spread, coalesce
and cover both the
surfaces of the leaves and spread also to the petioles, stem, etc. Severely
attacked leaves become
brown and shrivelled and defoliation may occur. Fruits of the affected plants do
not develop fully and
remain small.
Control : Carbendazim (1ml/litre of water) or Karathane (0.5 ml/litre of water) is
sprayed immediately
after the appearance of the disease. 2-3 sprays are taken at an interval of 15
days.
Anthracnose (Colletotrichum Sp.) :
High humidity and moist weather favours the development of the disease..
Symptoms appear on the
leaf as black spots, which later turn pink in colour. In case of severe infection the
disease spread to the
developing fruit.
Control : Repeated sprayings at 5-7 days interval with Dithane M 45 (0.2%) or
Foltaf (1 g/litre of water)
effectively controls the disease.
Fusarium Wilt (Fusarium Oxysporum f. Sp. Niveum) :
Initially the plants show temporary wilting symptoms, which becomes permanent
and progressive,
affecting more vines. The leaves of the affected plants show yellowing, loose
turgidity and show
drooping symptoms. Eventually, the plant dies. In older plants, leaves wilt
suddenly and vascular
bundles in the collar region become yellow or brown.
Control : Three sprays of Karathane (6 g in 10 litres of water) or Bavistin (1 g
/litre of water)
immediately on appearance of initial symptoms at 5-6 days interval controls the
disease. Leaves of
fully grown vines should be thoroughly drenched during spraying.
Downey Mildew (Pseudoperonospora Cubensis) :
It is prevalent in areas of high humidity, especially when summer rains occur
regularly. The disease is
first seen as yellow angular spots on the upper surface of the leaves. Under
conditions of high humidity,
whitish powdery growth appears on the lower surface of the leaves. The disease
spreads rapidly killing
the plant quickly through rapid defoliation.
Control : Excellent control of this disease can be achieved with Ridomil (1.5
g/litre of water) which must
always be used simultaneously with a protectant fungicide such as Mancozeb
(0.2%) to prevent the
development of resistant strains.