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Watermelon crop good, prices bad

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Good growing conditions are contributing to a bumper crop of tasty watermelons for Mississippians.

David Nagel, a Mississippi State University Extension Service horticulturist, said rains and cool temperatures delayed plantings but warm temperatures later contributed to rapid development.

Harvests began in mid-June and peak each year around the Fourth of July.

“We’ve had plenty of warm temperatures and sunshine to produce large and sweet watermelons this year,” Nagel said. “The more sunny days we have, the sweeter the melons.”

Mike Steede, retiring George County Extension director, said watermelon acreage increased more than 15 percent this year. Growers had plenty of rain.

“The extra moisture could have increased diseases, but growers are proactive and control problems before they develop,” Steede said. “The rains helped develop large, juicy melons.”

Because watermelons are so plentiful, especially in South Mississippi, the prices have been low.

“There are just too many melons in the system. Florida’s crop was delayed and matured about the same times as ours,” he said. “Farmers have faced poor prices, especially for seedless watermelons that are marketed to grocery stores.”

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