The southern part of South Carolina aims for the “Before-July 4th Market” for watermelons and cantaloupe.
Southerners have taught the entire nation that “It’s not the 4th without a good, crisp, sweet watermelon.” That market is usually good, but many times it gets a little crowded with South Carolina, Florida and Georgia competing for the same customers, especially when the Florida/Georgia farmers are delayed by weather.
The farmers in the lower part of South Carolina use black plastic, transplants and early planting to push for the 4th market. There are many advantages to early watermelon/cantaloupe production in South Carolina, including missing the heat, less insect and disease pressure and, most of all, missing out on chemical-resistant downy mildew, which usually moves into South Carolina in late June or early July.
The northern part of South Carolina has mostly given up trying to compete in the “Before-July 4th Market.” They have discovered that after the “Post-July 4th Market Slump,” the market tends to pick back up. It is usually just a few days, then the market turns around, because people love watermelons/cantaloupes.
The commodity boards and associations have done an excellent job of pushing the healthy aspects of watermelon and telling folks it is a great treat, hydrator and source of nutrients. However, the farmers have to deal with the heat/humidity, diseases and insects.
The heat and humidity of late July and August in South Carolina have been referred to in biblical terms by many. If it’s tough on people, it is tough on plants, but many diseases and insects love it.
Many farmers in both sections of the state and most buyers have realized that South Carolina is a great all summer/fall supplier of watermelons/cantaloupes. In fact, the market usually has a resurgence nearing frost when more northern supplies are cut short.
However, it is of dire importance that growers rotate chemicals and do everything possible to protect the efficacy of the few chemicals available to control chemical resistant downy mildew.
Also, you know you are in a Southern watermelon-loving state when you have two large watermelon festivals. The first festival of the year is in Hampton in the southern part of the state and takes place in June. The northern part of the state has its festival in Pageland, and it takes place July 19-20 this year.
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