Watermelon (Citrullus lunatus) known as Tembikai, Semangka or Timun Cina in Malaysia was under Cucurbitaceae family. It grow for 65 - 75 days and has a potential yield from 25-30 metric ton per hectare. Watermelon was a tropical fruit tree believed originated from Africa Continents and introduced later to Mediterranean and Asia continents. This commodity was largely grown in Turkey, USA, China and Russia. In Malaysia about 11,270 hectare was grown in 2009 producing 228,880 mt of watermelon. Most area planted with watermelon was Rompin District Pahang (2,543 ha) followed by Kluang District Johor (1,119 ha) and Mersing District Johor (828 ha). Other states growing watermelon was Kelantan (1,006 ha), Pahang (1,777 ha) and Terengganu (1,128 ha) respectively.
Production of watermelon is for domestic and export market. Watermelon mostly contain water (93.2%) and other nutrient such as Sugar and many vitamins (Thiamine, Riboflavin and Niacin). Its a herb type crop and creeps with oval leaf shape. The flower are monocoius and yellow colour. Watermelon fruit was roundish or oval or long oval shape with dark green colour and weighed between 7 - 15 kg/ fruit depending on variety.
Few variety recommend to grow in Malaysia was Red Type and Yellow Type. Red Type include New Dragon 117, Semangka 144, Sky Light 162, New Grand Baby N123, Summer Delicious 174, Hi-U 168, Bow Long 288, Big Mel 202, Taipan 275, Hitam Manis S 108, Golden Crown 167, Diana, China Boy, Pearl 275, King Black Gold 7733 and Super Sweet Black Lady. The yellow type was Golden Delight 363, Bow Fong 272, Yellow Baby, New Orchid, New Sweet Baby, Jingga Manis 383, Orange Beauty and Yellow Beauty 262. All names refereed to seed distributor and marketing requirements. The seedless variety include Red Victor 226, Red Star 1818, Quality 126, Fengshan 106, Pure Luck 128, Unique 129, Sin Fon and Seedless 200.
From my observation as extension agent in Mersing Johore for 5 years, it was a group of entrepreneurs who commercially look for new area for watermelon growing. Watermelon needs enough sunlight and dry such a coastal area and sandy or bris soil for better sweetness. In Malaysia there was watermelon crop zones located at Perlis/Kedah, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor (Mersing, Kota Tinggi, Kluang, Segamat, Muar), Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.
Land preparation started with land clearing and infrastructures development such as farm roads, drainage, irrigation system, store, collection center and others. Bed preparation by tractor layered with black silvershine plastic. Planting distance range from 0.75-1.2 m and 4.5-5.5 m with about 1-1.5 m width planting density 1,800 - 2,400 points/ha. Transplanting is the best method in watermelon farming with 8-12 days old seedling. Seedling preparation using selected seeds and dip 12 hours in clean water and arrange in a seeding tray. Ensure the seedling was not over 14 days old because its affect slow growth later in the farm. Cut the new shoot of creepers after 10-15 day of planting to encourage more new shoots. Pollination by natural agents (ants, bees and others) must assisted with artificial pollination activities. The Flowers bloomed after 28-30 days after planting with about 20-30 flowers/points. The best time for assisted pollination activity at10.00 am.
Manuring program is critical in melon growing activity started with basic manuring during land preparation with 3-5 mt/ha organic and 400 kg/ha NPK 15:15:15 mixed in the bed. After 21 days of planting about 200 kg/ha of NPK 12:12:12:2 applied. 45 day later (fruit formation stage) apply 200 kg/ha of NPK 12:12:17:2. Foliar Fertilizer applied occasionally by cases. watermelon required large amount of water from 15 liter/tree/day (early stage) increase to 4 liter/tree (vegetative stage) and 9 liter/tree (Reproductive stage). Normally drip Irrigation System and Sprinkler system used in watermelon farm. Drip Tape systems cost about RM 4,000-5,000 per hectare and economic compare to sprinkler system.
Pests management in watermelon is a critical activity. Pests such as Thrips (Thrips spp) attack young shoot and controlled by chemicals (abamectin, acetmapri or imidacloprid). Leaf mites (Aphis spp) attack leaves and young shoot also controlled by chemicals. Fruit Fly (Bactoera cucurbitae) attack young fruit and controlled with protein bait. Among diseases attack watermelon was Damping Off, Downy Mildew, Antracnose, Mosaic Virus, Anggular Leaf Spot and Gummy Stem Blight. Damping Off (Phytium spp or Rhizoctonia solani) attack young seedling and controlled by fungicide (chiorothalonil). Downy Mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) was a main problem in watermelon industry in which within 2-3 day able to demolish whole farm. Control by crop rotation, GAP and chemical (mancozeb, Zibeb and chlorothalonil).
Harvest watermelon 60-75 day after planting depend on variety. Matured fruit collected manually and cleaned before grading process. There was 3 grades in watermelon that was Premium Grades, Grade 1 and Grade 2. For domestic market watermelon demand throughout the year but increase in hot season and fasting month. Most watermelon from Malaysia exported to Singapore, Hong Kong and Brunei.
From my study in Johore in 2007-2009 cost of production for watermelon about RM 10,431.00 / hectare. Farm gross production about RM 12,500 / ha based on 25,000 kg fruit/ha at RM 0.50/kg giving Net farm Income about RM 2,067.00/ ha for 2.5 months. return for RM 1.00 about RM 1.20 and Cost of per kilogram calculated at RM 0.42. This crop are high risk commodity to establish. Most farmers jointly capitalised between Input Suppliers, Marketeers and Grower in their activity. About more than RM 500,000 required f0r 50 ha as capital. There was an intercrop between watermelon with chili in certain area as crop insurance if there was an disease attack. This commodity need lots of experience farmers to venture as there was technology available in the country.
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