Watermelon harvest offers wide variety in sweet melons - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Watermelon harvest offers wide variety in sweet melons

(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
Mark's Melon Patch Owner, Mark Daniel (Source: WALB) Mark's Melon Patch Owner, Mark Daniel (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
UGA Professor, Dr. Tim Coolong (Source: WALB) UGA Professor, Dr. Tim Coolong (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
TIFTON, GA (WALB) -

Watermelon harvest is underway in South Georgia.  

Marks Melon Patch's owner Mark Daniel said having a variety of watermelons for customers is key this season.

He explained folks are buying some as small as four to five pounds. 

"People are wanting a smaller type of watermelon on average," said Daniel, like his seedless Sweet Gem melons from the Sugar Baby family. 

"Exceptional sweet flavor, I mean the sweetest one we offer in my opinion," said Daniel. 

Gone are the days when you could get by with the same old mediocre-tasting watermelon, he makes sure all of his varieties are flavorful. 

"People just expect exceptional, fantastic flavor and I think that's what we get with that sweet gem," remarked Daniel. 

His watermelons range in size and color. 

"It's just a little niche thing, it's not something you don't usually find yellow meat watermelon in the grocery store," said Daniel. 

With the mild spring, he and his crew started picking as early as May.

He's also been on the lookout for fungal diseases that could hurt his melons.

"We try to do a good job on preventative measures to keep that in check because watermelons are highly susceptible to diseases," explained Daniel. 

But for the most part, his yields were looking good for those watermelon lovers. 

Daniel said his prices are the same as last year, some range between $7 to $8 at Mark's Melon Patch.  

UGA Tifton experts said yields are looking good for Southwest Georgia.

Professors were finding that farmers are producing a darker rind, and some even have a thinner rind, with a high quality flesh. 

A bulk of the acreage is 14 to 16 pound fruit. 

Most farmers are about two to three weeks into harvesting. 

Farmers are on track to produce 22,000 acres. 

"We hadn't seen any indications that that would decrease or increase dramatically this year so we're probably going to be in that ballpark. And so far prices have remained consistent and quality has been good thus far," said UGA Professor Dr. Tim Coolong. 

UGA experts also said companies and farmers are also focusing on quality and increasing disease resistant watermelons.

Most of the farmers scout their crops to make sure they don't have fungal diseases.

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