Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

watermelon - watch ur melon

as briefly touched in previous post, watermelon (WM) has been a money spinner to farmers this year.
one of the obvious reasons has been the relentless heat right from Jan 2016 onwards, keeping the demand high through this year's 3 odd months.

it is also a fact that WM has not been this big a hit since 2011.  so it could just be an one-in-five year blip.

WM growing and economics - circa 2009 - from the TamilNadu Agriculture University (tnau) website, gives a complete breakdown of growing/chemicals used/yields/revenue-expenses-profit calculations.
careful reading of the above, clearly shows the regularity and intensity of use of chemicals over the 65-75 day growing period.
and the costs of these chemicals is approx Rs. 25000 out of a total of Rs 45000.
the farmer misses out on seed cost which is pretty high.
this year farmers in our area have made a profit of around Rs.50000-75000/acre. these kind of figures are impossible with regular-joe crops like grains/millets/oilseeds.

WM growing fields used to be a classic ridge-furrow system with flood-watering in the furrows once a week or so.
since the advent and growing popularity of drip irrigation and plastic sheet mulching, most WM growing is now by this system.
just image search for "watermelon sheet mulch" to get a sense of how WM field looks like.
and the drip irrigation ensures that all the growth-promoting chemicals are delivered right at the root zone of the plant.

this type of mulching lasts for 2 crops (i.e., 5 months) on an average and then is gathered and burnt and the process is repeated the next season.
hence there is a slow but steady influx of plastic particles into the soil.

that the final WM fruit is riddled with multiple chemicals is a undeniable fact. it is also true that the WM farmers barely eat their own output. even the local villagers are now wise to the fact of these WMs ill effects. it is not uncommon to see fields strewn with "off-spec" WM (misshapen, too small, etc.) and no takers for them, not even cattle.

we avoid WM unless we grow them.
readers are advised to be careful, very careful when it comes to eating this fruit.

regular readers may recall - watermelon bonanza from 2011.