Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for honeydew production will vary by a grower’s preferred production method and operation size. The following discussion shares basic machinery and equipment needs for honeydew 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

To prepare the planting site, machinery and equipment needs vary by production system. Basic machinery operations such as plowing, disking and harrowing can create a suitable planting site. Producers may consider adding a cover crop, such as cereal rye, to the production plan. After growing the cover crop, an option is to use strip tillage to prepare planting strips. Advantages to this approach include weed control, soil moisture conservation and erosion reduction. With this system, producers may kill the cover crop using practices such as a herbicide application, mower or roller crimper. Then, a strip tiller could prepare the soil in strips for planting. An alternative approach to creating strips would involve strategically planning cover crop planting. By plugging holes in the cover crop planting drill, growers can plant the cereal rye and leave the ground open in alternating strips. By alternating strips of bare ground and cover crops at planting, operators reduce the likelihood that the strip tiller becomes clogged by cover crop residues during strip preparation. Raised beds are another option. If growers choose to grow honeydew in raised beds, then equipment will be needed to form the raised beds and cover them with plastic mulch. Bed shaping equipment should have the capability to create raised beds that measure 6 inches to 8 inches tall.

At planting, growers may choose to plant seeds or transplants. When planting transplants, a water wheel setter works well if the operator has applied plastic mulch. If growing honeydew from seed, then a precision seeder could plant the seeds.

Fertilizer application methods vary by nutrient and application timing. Banded applications for phosphorus often work well, and they often occur roughly as seeds or transplants are planted. For other nutrients, banded or broadcast applications are common. Instead of broadcasting fertilizer across a whole field, producers could adopt a modified broadcast approach where they concentrate the broadcast application in the planting row or bed. If producers choose to broadcast fertilizer, then a best practice is to use a rototiller to incorporate the fertilizer into the soil. To apply in-season fertilizer, including the nutrients in drip irrigation water would be an option.

Two irrigation options are available to honeydew melon producers: trickle irrigation and overhead irrigation. If applying moisture via overhead irrigation, then note that foliar disease may follow, and the overhead water applications may affect pollination.

In terms of weed control, using a chemical burndown or cultivation to create a stale seedbed is a good practice. Post-planting, spraying herbicide is one weed management option. Note, however, that herbicide sprayed between rows should be safe for the crop given that honeydew roots can grow into these areas. Before honeydew plants begin to vine, mechanical cultivation is a possible weed control tool, but it should avoid harming honeydew plants. Weeding by hand or using a hoe can manage weeds effectively. Growers that opt to use plastic mulch are encouraged to first apply a pre-emergent herbicide and then lay the mulch. To control weeds along the plastic’s edges, producers may use an implement — such as a cultivating shank and hiller disk — designed to straddle the raised bed. Addressing weeds between rows covered in plastic can be achieved with a spider weeder.

Producers should prioritize pest and disease control because healthy honeydew plant leaves will lead to developing sweet melons that have good flavor. With respect to pest control, producers often choose a combination of soil-applied and spray insecticides. Depending on the pest targeted and the insecticide used, injecting the insecticide through a trickle irrigation system may be an option. Early in the growing season, installing row covers over rows may limit pest damage. Fumigating the soil may help to control nematodes. For disease control, fungicides can be applied with a sprayer. Sprayer options include boom and air-assisted equipment. Not only could one of these sprayers manage fungicide applications, but the sprayer could also apply insecticides and herbicides.

Harvesting honeydew melons relies on hand labor because the melons don’t naturally “slip” from the plant when they’re ready for harvest. Laborers will need to cut melons from plants and then collect melons for distribution or storage. Harvest aids, such as a conveyor, can help workers to load melons onto a trailer or wagon. Quickly after harvest, operators should use a forced-air cooling unit to remove field heat from melons. To store the melons, the temperature should be roughly 45°F, and the relative humidity level should range from 85 percent to 90 percent. Choose a cold storage system that can provide these conditions.

The following table outlines honeydew equipment and machinery needs, assuming that the operator chooses to plant seeds and not use raised beds or plastic mulch.

Basic Equipment and Machinery Needs for Honeydew Production

Equipment  Needed
Tractor X
Plow X
Disk X
Harrow X
Rototiller X
Broadcast spreader X
Precision seeder X
Sidedresser X
Irrigation system X
Sprayer X
Wagon or trailer X
Forced-air cooling unit X
Cold storage X



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