Melon crops are one of the primary cash crops in Nigeria and provide a source of income to many Nigerians. Melon planting occurs mostly in the northern portion of the country because the amount of rainfall aids melon growth. For Nigerians, melons are important sources of vitamins such as A and C and the seeds are high in protein.
The most common type of melon planted in Nigeria is the watermelon, which is also referred to as Egusi or Bara melon. Nigerians plant different varieties of watermelon, including Sugar Baby and Chaliston Grey varieties, among others, most of which are sweet with red flesh and green or yellow rinds.
When planting melons in Nigeria, one of the primary factors considered is the land, both the plot location and soil quality. The land chosen for planting needs to be flat and receive plenty of sunlight. Soil should be loamy, fertile and drain well. Melons can be planted in both savannah and forested areas as long as the land is prepared appropriately, meaning trees are chopped or burnt and fields are cleared.
Melon planting occurs in Nigeria about two times per year. The first melon crops are planted after the first rain of the year, which occurs in February or March. These melons are generally ready to sell by May or June. The second melon crop is planted around September and goes to the market by December. Melons are planted with enough space for the vine to grow fully, with two seeds per ground hole.
Weeding and Disease
Nigerian melon crops, like many other crops, are weeded and protected from disease with pesticides. Nigerians weed melon plants a few weeks after planting as well as after harvesting to keep the soil healthy for future crops. Occasionally herbicides are also used. Melons are protected from pests and other disease with a combination of pesticides depending on the insect. Common pests are termites and grasshoppers.
Harvesting and Storage
Nigerians harvest their melon crops 75 to 95 days after planting once the fruit has reached maturity. A melon is ripe to pick when the tendrils nearest the fruit become brown and dry and a muffled sound is made when the melon is thumped. Melons are cut from the vine with a long stem and are usually shipped to markets immediately after harvest. Storing watermelons for up to a week at room temperature can improve their taste and colour; however, they should never be stored with ethylene-emitting fruits, such as ripe bananas and pears, because they are ethylene-sensitive and easily over-ripen.
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