Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for cantaloupe production will vary by a grower’s preferred production method and operation size. The following discussion shares basic machinery and equipment needs for cantaloupe production. Depending on a grower’s operation size, expertise and previous machinery investments, the grower must determine whether to purchase and operate the equipment, engage a custom service provider or possibly rent and operate the necessary equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

Land preparation for cantaloupe production first involves deeply turning the soil and burying crop residues. These activities should occur two weeks to three weeks before planting to ensure that the residues have time to break down. Possible field preparation operations include those that use a chisel, disk and field cultivator. If using a preplant fertilizer, then time the fertilizer application to occur before arranging the last soil preparation activities. For operations that plant cantaloupe seeds instead of transplants, they must prepare a smooth planting surface that lacks clods and debris that could inhibit seed performance. Using a harrow would smooth the seedbed.

Possible cantaloupe production models involve those that grow cantaloupe on bare ground or in a plasticulture environment. If producers lay plastic mulch and choose to plant transplants, then they’ll need the right equipment to punch holes in the plastic. A bulb setter or some mechanical transplanters would have the ability to make holes in the mulch. The table below assumes that the cantaloupe-growing operation would form raised beds, lay plastic mulch and install a drip irrigation system. The operation would also need equipment to remove these production aids after harvest.

When planting cantaloupe by seed, a precision seeder works best for operations planting large areas or using hybrid seed. The table below, however, assumes that an operation would establish cantaloupe fields using transplants, not seeds. Thus, it accounts for needing access to a transplanter.

When applying fertilizer, research indicates that banding has more effectiveness than broadcasting. However, modified broadcast practices could be a possibility. In a modified broadcast approach, producers would broadcast product but target it specifically in the bed.

Weed control methods are diverse for cantaloupe growers. Before planting, creating a stale seedbed by chemically addressing weeds before crop emergence would help to control weeds. During the growing season, small-scale growers or those with adequate labor resources may justify weeding by hand or hoeing. Otherwise, cultivation may be possible as long as the plants haven’t spread runners. To apply insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and foliar fertilizers, consider using a boom sprayer or air-assisted sprayer.

With respect to irrigation needs, cantaloupe growers can use sprinkler irrigation or drip irrigation systems. Center pivot, linear move, traveling big gun, permanent set and portable aluminum pipe systems all represent sprinkler irrigation system options. Typically, producers won’t use sprinkler irrigation if they’ve laid plastic mulch. Drip irrigation, however, may have application in areas that use plastic mulch, but growers could also use drip irrigation if they haven’t laid the plastic mulch. Drip irrigation enables efficient water use, and such systems can inject fertilizer for cantaloupe production. Other benefits associated with drip irrigation use include uniformly applying water, directly targeting the root zone with water, reducing foliage and fruit exposure to water and minimizing the effect on pollinators.

To harvest cantaloupes, producers rely on hand labor. Fields typically require several harvests given their staggered pollination. Harvesting aids may make the process easier. A transverse conveyor system is an example. It uses a belt to bridge the space between workers harvesting the fruit and a loading vehicle.

After harvest, field heat should be removed. Hydrocooling or forced-air cooling could both remove field heat from cantaloupe fruit. If a cantaloupe grower markets fruit directly after harvest, then he or she wouldn’t need cold storage infrastructure. Renting cold storage space provides another alternative if the producer decides to store fruit temporarily.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Cantaloupe Production

Tractor

X

Chisel

X

Disk

X

Field cultivator

X

Bed shaper

X

Mulch layer

X

Transplanter

X

Boom sprayer

X

Mulch lifter

X

Forced air cold storage

X

Drip irrigation

X

Wagon or trailer

X

Sources

Brees, Melvin. 2002. Trickle-Irrigation Cantaloupe Cost-Return Budget for Missouri. University of Missouri. Columbia, MO 65201.

Coolong, Tim and George E. Boyhan. 2014. Cantaloupe and Specialty Melons . University of Georgia. Athens, GA 30602.

Harper, Jayson, Lynn Kime, Michael Orzolek and Steve Bogash. Cantaloupe Production. Penn State Extension. University Park, State College, PA 16801.

Motes, Jim, Warren Roberts, Jonathan Edelson, John Damicone and Jim Duthie. Cantaloupe Production. Oklahoma State University. Stillwater, OK 74074.

Schultheis, Jonathan. 1998. Muskmelons (Cantaloupes). North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Raleigh, NC 27695-7602.