Cooperative Research

An Evaluation of the Potential for the Production of Sweet Potato and Water Melon in Central Missouri Using Alternative Management Practices

 Principal Investigator: Dr. Rufus Jones
Co-Investigator: Dr. Wesseh Wollo        Research Technician: Mr. Phillip Markway
Tel: (573)681-5391

Small farms account for over 75% of the total number of farms in the State of Missouri (The New Farm Committee 1998). Almost eight out of every ten Missouri farms were classified as small (gross sales of less than $40,000 per farm). About 85, 000 of Missouri’s farms are in this category (Missouri Farm Facts 1999). Almost half the farms in Missouri sold less than $10,000 in farm products in 1987 (The new Farm Committee, 1989), however, the vast majority of the research conducted in the state emphasizes the needs of the large scale so called commercial farmer. Horticultural crops are most attractive to the small-scale producer because they produce high returns per unit land area. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPS) ranks sweet potato as the number one most nutritional vegetable and ranked it significantly higher in nutrients than the Idaho potato (LA Sweet Potato Commission).  Very little research data has been collected on sweet potato in Missouri. State Extension Specialists have relied primarily on data collected in other states to guide decision-making on sweet production in Missouri.  Prior research investigations of primary market outlets for sweet potato in Missouri (Wollo, 1993) indicate that St. Louis offers good market opportunity for sweet potato producers in Missouri.

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is a major vegetable crop grown in 44 states (Levi et al., 2006) in the U.S. Watermelon production has increased from 1.2 M tons in 1980 to 4.2 M tons in 2003 with a farm value of $310 million. Watermelon production in Missouri has decreased from 4, 800 acres harvested in 2004 to $6,356 thousand 2005 (NASS 2006).  The U.S. harvested 136,400 acres of watermelon in 2005.  Five states (Florida, California, Texas, Georgia and Arizona) produce 75 percent of the watermelons produced in United States.  Per Capita watermelon consumption in 2004 was 13.0 pounds (Geisler, 2006).  Watermelon is a good source of citrulline, which is metabolized to arginine, an amino acid needed for heart and immune heath (Collins et al., 2007). There is great interest in the nutritive value of watermelon. Recently, researchers reported that watermelon contains high level of naturally occurring pigments called carotenoids (Tadmor et al., 2005). Also, watermelon contains lycopene, a pigment that has been found to prevent heart disease and may prevent certain cancers (Perkins-Veazie et al., 2004). Watermelon is a warm- season crop and is most productive in areas that have a long, warm growing season. There is a possibility that the growing period can be extended utilizing different management practices. This study involves the development of cultural and management systems to improve the adaptation of sweet potato and watermelon in central Missouri, and assessing the economic implications of these practices. Such a study is very appropriate because this type of data for sweet potato and watermelon in Missouri apparently have not been sufficiently collected or at least not widely available to farmers and other producers in the state. It will continue the development of a data base on sweet potato and watermelon in Missouri and supply valuable economic information relevant to the production systems of these crops.