Consumer interest in organically produced fruits and vegetables is increasing. To help growers meet this demand, Clemson University scientists are now studying watermelon production methods to develop strategies to improve productivity and profitability of organic vegetables.

The team is led by Bhupinder Jatana, a researcher at the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, South Carolina, and assistant professor of vegetable crops in the university’s plant and environmental sciences department.

Watermelon was selected as the crop for the study because it uses the same cultural and other management practices as other organic crops grown under plastic mulch, such as cucumbers, muskmelons, pumpkins and other cucurbits. Using plastic mulch is a common cultural practice in organic farming. Cultural practices are agricultural methods used to enhance crop productivity through conserving water and soil by reducing weeds, pests and diseases without the use of chemicals.

“Our long-term goal is to develop organic fertilizers and strategies for higher nutrient-use efficiency, as well as weed and soilborne pest management,” Jatana said.