By Clint Thompson
Alabama produce farmers may soon have more options to choose from. This is due to ongoing research from Alabama Extension vegetable specialist Joe Kemble.
Kemble is researching a melon trial this year that encompasses everything but watermelons and cantaloupes. It’s an expansion upon last year’s trial. He hopes to present relevant date at the annual Fruit and Vegetable Conference in November.
“I’m doing a larger scale this year just to provide a lot more detailed information and provide growers with an option. Cantaloupes are good but we can also do honeydews and crenshaws and some of these other types of melons as well,” Kemble said. “The seed companies over the last dozen years have come up with a lot of improved varieties. In Alabama or in the Southeast in general, they tend to be challenging crops to grow because most of them don’t have a lot of disease resistance. But companies are spending a lot more effort developing varieties that perform better in the Southeast. I’m looking at adaptability and all things associated with fruit quality.”
These type of specialty melons should sell well in Alabama as well. The state’s produce farmers market their crops mainly to farmers markets and roadside produce stands.
“It’s not the type of things you’re going to be growing lots of. Some of them, frankly, their shelf life is not good enough to take them and ship them. It’s going to be for local consumption,” Kemble said. “We’ve got a lot of farmers’ markets in Alabama, roadside markets and (Community Supported Agriculture) CSAs. I think some of these specialty type melons could fit in pretty well with those types of production.”
Kemble’s second year of research features 20-plus varieties at two locations and will be replicated.
“I’ll be collecting a lot of very detailed data to use for growers meetings,” Kemble said.