Watermelon crop will be late - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Watermelon crop will be late

Justin Farmer Justin Farmer
Randy Ellis Randy Ellis

A soggy start to 2014 is hurting South Georgia's watermelon crop.   Some growers had to delay planting or replant waterlogged fields.   They worry it will hurt their bottom line. 

2013 was a difficult year for watermelon crops, but this season's excessive rain is posing even more challenges for farmers.  The sprouting melon plants in the Watermelon Capital of the world are fighting to hold on.  

"We've had to go back and replant some of the melons because of wet conditions. Some of them died, declining, you know," said Randy Ellis.    An excessively wet year is drowning the plants and washing away fertilizers.   

"We've had a lot of rain. We've actually had anywhere from 5-7 inches more rain this year than we did at this time last year," said  Justin Lanier, Crisp Co. Extension Agent.   

Wind and late season cold snaps pose other challenges.   "See, a lot of people don't realize how much wind affects watermelon plants, but if you get a lot of wind, it can cause sandblasting," said Lanier.  

All the conditions are putting the majority of Crisp County's growers about three weeks behind schedule.   "There's no need to panic yet. We still got some time.  I talked to some guys today, they said they thought they could get their melons out still mid to late June," said Lanier.  

Randy Ellis says 2014 has become one of his most difficult years since he started farming in the 1970s.    "In February or March, you know, we get the fields repaired and we hadn't been able to do much of that so far," said Ellis.   

The sloppy fields bare scars from streams created by excess moisture. Ellis replanted half of his melon crop by hand because of the weather, and worries extra costs will hurt his bottom line.   "All other sectors can raise their prices. But farmers, we're, you know, we're kind of at the mercy (of the market)."  

Despite the tough season, farmers remain optimistic they'll have a good harvest.  Farmers and Extension agents say the difficult season likely won't cause the prices of watermelons to spike. Farmers hope they can stay on schedule to have the juicy fruit in stores by July 4th.


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