Rain-fed fruit rot hits Georgia watermelon crop this season

11/26/2013 08:33:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Phytophthora fruit rot on watermelonCourtesy University of GeorgiaPhytophthora fruit rot makes watermelons unmarketable.The summer of 2012 was marked by above-average rainfall across much of the Southeast.

And with the heavy rains came increased outbreaks of Phytophthora fruit rot in watermelons, according to a news release.

"Since we had more wet weather this growing season than we've ever had since I've been here, that really made (Phytophthora) a lot worse," David Langston, a University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist, said in the release."It just never stopped raining during the watermelon season."

Up to 30 percent of the state's watermelon crop was likely affected by the fungal disease this year.

Phytophthora fruit rot affects fruit in the field and also postharvest. 

Growers may harvest what they think is a good crop, only to have the water-soaked lesions appear in cold storage. “Not only will the grower not get paid for the watermelons, but the grower has to pay for the shipping to the location," Langston said in the release. "And the grower also has to pay to have them disposed of, so it’s a real double whammy."

At the university's Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network station at Tifton, sensors recorded 19.1 inches of rainfall between June 1 and July 31.

Moultrie received 20.79 inches and Cordele, 13.5 inches.

Those three locations also are the top watermelon-producing counties in the state.

Scott Utley, an Extension coordinator in Turner County, echoed Langston's observations.

Until this season, he had only seen it twice in 15 years.

In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, Georgia watermelons had a farmgate value of nearly $100 million.



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