Heavy Rains Hurt Watermelon Crops

Watermelons are always a big part of most 4th of July celebrations. What started off to be a great season for South Mississippi melon growers has been washed out by Mother Nature.

"This is the worst year I've ever had," Charles Henley, a watermelon farmer in Hancock County's Kiln community said.

Henley has been growing watermelons for nearly 40 years. He owns one of the largest melon farms in Hancock County. But this year, a majority of his 28 acre crop is ruined.

"I see a lot of bad watermelons, small melons rotting all over the field. It's pretty sickening to see all of this gone to waste"

Watermelons don't like water, neither do cantaloupe.

" All the rain we had in the past 30 days and then the tropical storm came and really finished it off. Bill put the last nail in the coffin. Too much rain causes the sun to scull the vines . They stay so wet then the sun pops out and sculls the vines and kills them you've got this heat and the water creates a steam and the steam and the heat the vines can't take it. The melons rot on the end and they are very small they can't finish maturing. You get showers this time of year but we've been getting floods," Henley said.

Only 20 percent of his crop made it to harvest. Henley sells to supermarkets, and along the roadside. In a good year his crop brings $20,000 to $25,000. This year it will bring only about $6,000, barely enough to cover the cost of the seeds and fertilizer.

"I'd imagine it's like losing a ball game, you know. You're hoping to win, but you just lost."

But Henley says he'll be back in the melon game next year. He says the going rate for watermelons right now is about 8 cents a pound. He says usually in the days following the 4th of July holiday prices drop to about 4 cents a pound, but because there will be some what of a shortage, prices are likely to remain the same.

by Al Showers