In Fall 2019, The Desert Farming Initiative was awarded funding through the state’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program for a three year proejct to investigate and determine best melon varieties, evaluate best production techniques and Integrated Pest Management methods for the Nevada High Desert climate. The project combines both research and outreach to the farming community. In addition, the production of melons at DFI provides a hands on learning opportunity for students, volunteers, and the general public. The research is being conducted at the DFI organic vegetable farm at the Nevada Agriculture Experiment Station in Reno. Farming practices will follow organic production standards, and fertilization practices will be consistent with DFI’s standard fertility program, which focuses on soil health management practices, annual compost application, and organic liquid fertilizer injections as need through the season.
For this 3 year study we have assembled an interdisciplinary team consisting of Felipe Barrios Masias, CABNR Assistant Professor and Researcher; Wendy Hanson Mazet, Extension Program Oficer and IPM specialist; Heidi Kratsch, Extension Associate Professor and lead on publication development; Charles Schembre, DFI Program Manager and Farm Director; Andrew Harrington, DFI Farm Manager; and Jose Velazquez, DFI Melon Research Intern and CABNR student. In addition, Rick Lattin from Lattin Farms will be serving as an advisor to the project with his 30 years of experience of producing melons in the Northern Nevada.
Screen melon varieties that confer improved crop performance, increased yields and fruit quality in the high desert
- Determine the best melon varieties for commercial production in Nevada.
Evaluate standard melon production techniques to accelerate crop establishment and improve crop performance, yield and fruit quality
- Evaluate the use of different plastic mulches.
- Evaluate the trade offs of direct seeding versus transplanting.
- Analyze and compare farming expenses for each combination of production techniques
Evaluate common melon pests for Nevada and develop a standard Integrated Pest Management Plan for organic melon production
- Identify major disease and insect pests of melon in NV.
- Test various control methods for management of these pests.
In addition, yield and sales revenue data will be tracked for each variety and production technique. Information gained from the project will be shared and report each year, and at the conclusion of the three year study and publication will produced to help guide growers in their production decisions.
Year 1: 2020
With the unknown impacts of the COVID restrictions to the Desert Farming Initiative operation, we decided in year one to first focus on a screening of melon varieties. We selected 12 melon varieties to screen which include 9 cantaloupe and 3 honeydew varieties, planted to a randomized block design. The randomized block consists of 6 subplots for each treatment (variety), and 6 plants per treatment. Variety selection includes varieties used in the large commercial melon industry throughout CA and AR, and strong varieties that are popular for smaller, direct to market farms. All melons were seeded in the greenhouse between May 6th-11th in the DFI greenhouse and transplanted on June 11th. All beds are covered with green plastic mulch. Upon transplanting were hardened off outside the greenhouse for a few days, and all beds were covered with frost cloth to protect the plants from desiccating winds.
- Honey Dew – Honey Pac
- Honey Dew – Santa Fe
- Honey Dew – Dream Dew
- Cantaloupe – Infinite Gold
- Cantaloupe – Athena
- Cantaloupe – Sarah’s Choice
- Cantaloupe – Desert Express
- Cantaloupe – Sweet Sunrise
- Cantaloupe – EZ815
- Cantaloupe – Zacapa Gold
- Cantaloupe (Galia Hybrid) – Melidor
- Cantaloupe – Caribbean JackPot RZ F1
Commercial seeds were provided by TS&L Seed as a donation and smaller market seeds were purchased from Johnny’s Select Seed and Harris Seed Co.
- Greenhouse seeding and transplant date
- Date of first flower
- Date of fruit set
- Fruit weight
- Total harvest yields
- Fruit brix
- Soil canopy cover images
- Above ground biomass
- Insect identification (pests and beneficials)
- Disease or plant issue identification
- Photo monitoring
- Fertilizer and Irrigation input
- Treatment methods of pest issues
Melon Growing Resources
- Commercial Melon Production – Iowa State University
- Specialty Melon Production for Small and Direct Market Growers – ATTRA
- Cantaloupe Production in California – UC Vegetable and Information Center
- Cantaloupes – Western Institute for Food Safety and Security
For information about growing melons in the Nevada High Desert commercially or as a hobby, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org