prev | next
index for this volume | New Crops News | NewCROPS home page

New Crops News, Spring 1992, vol. 2no. 1

New Opportunities In Melons

Growers throughout Indiana are evaluating plans to expand specialty melon and muskmelon (cantaloupe) production. Purdue’s New Crops Initiative has provided the leadership for assessing the current retail market requirements for improved varieties and postharvest handling services. Studies indicate that the introduction of new melon varieties and production practices, combined with improved marketing services, provide Indiana growers with over 6,000 acres of new melon production opportunities in retail markets throughout the East North Central and Mid-Atlantic Regions. Successful development of these markets would generate over $25 million in new farmgate revenues annually for melon growers statewide, and create over $58 million in value-added economic benefits in processing and distribution. Specialty watermelon production opportunities could add another $4 million annually to grower revenues.

The key to successfully realizing these new market opportunities for melons clearly centers on growers’ commitment to developing fully integrated production and marketing service programs. New Crops Center studies reveal that production planning must start with a determination of the strategic market requirements of retail buyers, and result in an integrated production/post-harvest handling program that satisfies these requirements. Studies indicate that changing consumer preferences and market conditions have necessitated that growers provide melon varieties and marketing services that guarantee consistently high product quality and uniform supply throughout the entire July to September marketing period. Dependability of supply is viewed by retail buyers as a major weakness among Indiana melon growers. Achieving supply consistency will require a grower commitment to: (1) planting varieties that are consistent with current consumer preferences, (2) adopting improved production management practices that help assure product quality—such as irrigation, integrated pest management, and strategic production scheduling, and (3) investing in advanced grading, packing, cooling, and distribution technologies that help maintain product quality in the marketing system for 10 to 12 days.

New Crops Center activities in 1992/93 will focus on assisting melon growers in the development of strategic marketing plans designed to meet the current product quality and delivery requirements of retail buyers. Melon Acres, Inc., one of Indiana’s largest melon growers, has recently committed to the state’s first full-service grading, packing, forced-air cooling, and distribution facility. Forced-air cooling enables Melon Acres to quickly remove the field heat from freshly harvested melons, thereby reducing respiration rates and maintaining peak product quality for about two weeks. At full operation, this state-of-the-art facility will process 750 to 1000 acres of melons annually.

Glenn Sullivan
Department of Horticulture