The cultivation of watermelon can be a profitable activity in Nigeria. In spite of the fact that watermelon growing is lucrative, there are pitfalls that can derail your plan of making money from this venture.
The top pitfalls to avoid in watermelon farming in Nigeria are explained as follows:
Forsaking Soil Test or Analysis
We conducted an empirical survey and realized that about 90% of the watermelon farmers in Nigeria do not conduct an analysis of test of their soil samples.
This is one of the biggest pitfalls in watermelon growing and indeed farming in Nigeria.
Never cultivate any crop on your farmland if you have not done a soil test. Soil tests are cheap and affordable but unfortunately a lot of farmers do not see this ritual as important.
Planting in poor soil
The foundation of farming is the soil. The soil is very important in farming. If you want to have a good yield in watermelon cultivation, you need to grow your watermelon in a soil rich in nutrients.
The soil to be used for watermelon farming should have the necessary nutrients in the right quantity. If any nutrient is lacking, it should be added.
The nutrients needed in the soil include nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, boron, molybdenum, manganese and sodium etc.
The Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil should also be okay.
The pH of the soil should also fall between the ideal ranges for watermelon farming.
Using poor watermelon seeds
Another pitfall in watermelon growing in Nigeria is the planting of poor watermelon seeds. We have seen watermelon farmers who buy washed and untreated seeds; this often leads to poor yields.
Planting poor seeds can also bring new diseases to your soil.
You should buy cleaned and treated seeds from accredited seed sellers in Nigeria.
Hybrid watermelon seeds are also often more productive than open pollinated watermelon seeds in Nigeria.
Hybrid watermelon seeds have good tolerances and resistances to a lot of pests and diseases. Some hybrid watermelon seeds yield 100-200% more than open pollinated watermelon seeds.
Not using manure
A lot of the soil in Nigeria is poor. Although, most farmers in Nigeria erroneously think Nigeria has a lot of soil rich in nutrients.
Amending your soil with manures like chicken manure, compost and guano etc. can improve the soil and make it more suitable for watermelon cultivation.
We have seen watermelon farmers who tripled their yields, thanks to the use of chicken manure.
Forsaking humates, biologics and microbials
Using humates like humic acid, fluvic acid and potassium humate can go a long way in improving the health and yield of your watermelon plants.
King Humus is a popular type of humates that can be used in Nigeria.
Microbials can also help in increasing the yield of watermelon plants. Beneficial microbes can also help in managing the pests and diseases in farming.
Beneficial microbes occupy the space and prevent harmful microbes from getting a hold of the plants.
Some beneficial microbes also play antagonistic roles to harmful pests and microbes.
Using sub-standard fertilizers
You should be extraordinarily careful when buying fertilizers in Nigeria. Most of the fertilizers in Nigeria, even those sold by big brands are sub-standard and of a very low quality.
You may be wasting your money by buying some fertilizers in Nigeria.
You should ensure that the fertilizers you buy are of a high quality. You may also conduct your own independent laboratory analysis of the fertilizers.
Using the wrong types of fertilizers
Most of the watermelon farmers we have met in Nigeria only use NPK 15:15:15 fertilizer. You will not get a good yield if you use only this type of fertilizers.
To maximize your yield and profitability in watermelon farming in Nigeria, you need to use potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate, calmag, NPK and other types of fertilizers.
You should use fertilizers according to the advice of your agronomist.
Using cheap and poor quality pesticides
Farmers in Nigeria generally like cheap things, they do not think about quality when they see cheap pesticides, only to pay for it later with little or no yield.
Do not let any seller trick you with cheap products, ensure you buy high quality pesticides even if they are expensive.
A lot of pesticides sold in Nigeria are sub-standard though very cheap.
Rains are now very erratic. It will be the height of foolishness to cultivate your watermelon without having irrigation in place.
Even if you are planting in the rainy season, you should have irrigation systems in place.
Drip irrigation is the best type of irrigation for the growing of watermelon. It is water efficient and drips water to the roots of each plant.
Fertigation can increase the yield in watermelon farming significantly. With fertigation, lesser quantity of fertilizers is used to achieve a higher yield.
With fertigation, fertilizers can be applied to plants in small doses periodically, say daily, twice a week or monthly etc.
With fertigation, cost of labour to apply fertilizers can also be significantly reduced.
Not weeding on time
Leaving weeds on your watermelon farm can reduce your yield by as much as 98%.
Weeds share nutrients with the main crop. Weeds also harbour pests and diseases that can infect the main crop.
Growing watermelon can be lucrative, if all the pitfalls are avoided or better managed.