By Clint Thompson
The Suwanee Valley Watermelon Institute’s annual meeting in Fanning Springs, Florida on Thursday came at just the right time for the region’s producers.
They are about a month away from breaking ground for next year’s crop. The meeting allowed them the opportunity to learn about the latest research at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), while also formulating a plan for the next growing season.
“There’s never a good time to do a meeting like this. Everybody’s always busy. It’s a 12-month out of the year program. Farmers aren’t taking a break the rest of the year,” Mark Warren, UF/IFAS Extension agent in Levy County. “This is our only good time slot to get them in, get some of this new science and new information coming down from the university into their hands so they can use it to make effective decisions as we move ahead. This is a critical time for them.”
UF/IFAS provided various presentations pertaining to farm safety, the impact of over-irrigating on fertilizers, cucurbit viruses, soil fumigation and the potential of mustard cover crop.
The biggest concern for growers heading into the season, though, continues to be input costs, Bob Hochmuth, UF/IFAS regional specialized Extension agent in Live Oak, Florida.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, a lot of considerations this winter because of the expense of all of the inputs; fertilizer, chemicals, plastic. All of it has gone up which makes it more difficult for the farmer, so they’re looking for ways to try to be as efficient as possible. That’s part of the kinds of topics we wanted to be able to present to them today,” Hochmuth said.