The 2016 Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute took place on December 8 at the Straughn Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Professional Development Center at the University of Florida.
Over 150 growers and vendors gathered to attend sessions that addressed issues and provided updates within the Florida watermelon industry.
Bob Hochmuth, University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) regional Extension agent at the Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center, said in regards to the event, “This is a true cooperation of the industry and the University of Florida research and education community. Growers give us a lot of input in terms of the kind of educational programs they need, and we try to put things together for them and bring in the suppliers … so that the growers can meet together and see the most recent updates in terms of materials and equipment from the industry.”
A workshop kick-started the single-day event and focused on watermelon food safety. Sessions included “How the new FSMA requirements will impact your operation” and “The most common challenges for watermelon growers on food safety – a view from a grower and auditor on audit day.”
One of the major focuses of the day included irrigation best management practices (BMPs) being implemented by growers in the Suwannee Valley region. According to UF/IFAS Extension research, the Suwannee Valley region has over 6,000 acres of watermelon representing nearly one-third of the Florida watermelon industry.
Research-based BMPs have led to an industry-wide shift to a more efficient system of drip irrigation under plastic mulch for watermelons in that area. UF/IFAS Extension reported that this switch from overhead irrigation has led to less water usage, fertilizer applications and fuel expenditures while increasing watermelon yield.
Interview with Hochmuth:
Share this Post