The Desert Farming Initiative was awarded funding through the state’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program for a three year project to evaluate melon varieties, production techniques and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods for the Nevada high desert climate. The project combines both research and outreach to the farming community. The research is being conducted within DFI’s certified organic farm at the Valley Road Field Station in Reno. Farming practices will follow organic production standards, and fertilization practices will focus on soil health management practices, including soil testing, annual compost application and organic liquid fertilizer injections throughout the season.

The melon research team includes Felipe Barrios Masias, CABNR Associate Professor; Wendy Hanson Mazet, Extension Program Officer and IPM specialist; Heidi Kratsch, Extension Associate Professor; DFI faculty and an annual DFI Melon Research Intern. Rick Lattin from Lattin Farms serves as an advisor to the project with more than 30 years of experience of producing melons in Northern Nevada.

Research Objectives

  • Screen melon varieties that confer improved crop performance, increased yields and fruit quality in the high desert, determining superior melon varieties for commercial production in Nevada.
  • Evaluate standard melon production techniques to accelerate crop establishment and improve crop performance, yield and fruit quality.
  • Evaluate common melon pests for Nevada and develop a standard Integrated Pest Management Plan for organic melon production
  • Track yield and sales revenue data will be tracked for each variety and share research results.

Current Year: 2022

In 2022, the research team will be evaluating the same six best performing melons so far under two different mulch conditions. Plastic mulch is used by most melon producers to prevent weeds and retain moisture. In the interest of weighing those benefits against agricultural plastic waste reduction, we will be comparing it to a paper mulch alternative. The performance of each variety under these different mulches will be assessed by collecting weekly data (see below). The research team is pretreating for fusarium wilt with Serenade, a bacillus product for control of diseases in the soil that is approved for organic operations. Results will be shared here and via DFI social media in late fall 2022, and an annual research report will be available by contacting dfi@unr.edu.

Here is how the 2022 DFI melon research field will be laid out at the Valley Road Field Station (a randomized block design):

2022 Data To Be Collected:

  • Greenhouse seeding and transplant date
  • Date of first female flower
  • Nodes to first flower
  • Fruit weight
  • Fruit brix
  • Total harvest yields
  • Soil canopy cover images
  • Insect identification (pests and beneficials)
  • Disease or plant issue identification
  • Fertilizer and Irrigation input
  • Treatment methods of pest issues

Previous Years

2021

In 2021, the research team selected the six best performing melons from the 2020 list (below), primarily based on survival and fruit production metrics. Varieties included in the 2021 trial:

The 2021 DFI melon research field was laid out at the Valley Road Field Station (again following a randomized block design):

2021 results were significantly affected by fusarium wilt throughout the trial area, so the same 6 varieties will be evaluated again in 2022. The best performing varieties based on survival and fruit production metrics were the honey dew varieties and Sarah’s Choice cantaloupe. Contact us at dfi@unr.edu for more detail and a copy of the project annual report.

2021 Data Collected:

  • Greenhouse seeding and transplant date
  • Date of first female flower
  • Nodes to first flower
  • Fruit weight
  • Total harvest yields
  • Soil canopy cover images
  • Insect identification (pests and beneficials)
  • Disease or plant issue identification
  • Fertilizer and Irrigation input
  • Treatment methods of pest issues

2020

Year 1 focused on a screening of melon varieties. We selected 10 cantaloupe and 3 honeydew varieties, planted to a randomized block design. The randomized block consisted of 6 subplots for each variety and 6 plants per subplot. Variety selection considered melons grown in the large scale commercial melon industry throughout CA and AR, and strong varieties that are popular for smaller, direct to market farms. All melons were seeded in the greenhouse between May 6-11 in the DFI greenhouse and transplanted on June 11. All beds are covered with green plastic mulch. Upon transplanting were hardened off outside the greenhouse for a few days, and all beds were covered with frost cloth to protect the plants from desiccating winds. Varieties included:

Commercial seeds were provided by TS&L Seed as a donation and smaller market seeds were purchased from Johnny’s Select Seed and Harris Seed Co.

2020 Data Collected:

  • Greenhouse seeding and transplant date
  • Date of first flower
  • Date of fruit set
  • Fruit weight
  • Total harvest yields
  • Fruit brix
  • Soil canopy cover images
  • Above ground biomass
  • Insect identification (pests and beneficials)
  • Disease or plant issue identification
  • Photo monitoring
  • Fertilizer and Irrigation input
  • Treatment methods of pest issues

Melon Growing Resources

Schembre, C. 2020, Melon Research, Desert Farming Initiative, University of Nevada, Reno, Research Report

Learn more about the author(s)

 

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Saliga III, R. and Skelly, J. 2013, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-13-23