UACES Facebook Watermelons get top billing at June 15 SWREC Horticulture Field Day in Hope
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Watermelons get top billing at June 15 SWREC Horticulture Field Day in Hope

May 5, 2017

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture  

Fast facts:

  • June 15, annual Horticulture Field Day at SWREC
  • Registration info: Sherri Pote, 870-777-9702, x100
  • Watermelons, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes on the agenda 

(500 words)

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HOPE, Ark. – The town whose first claim to fame was its giant watermelons, is now host to research into better ways to grow one of summer’s favorite fruits; research that will be showcased at the June 15 Horticulture Field Day at the Southwest Research and Extension Center.

The annual field day in Hope begins with registration at 7:30 a.m. and runs through 2 p.m. As is a tradition with this field day, includes plenty of homemade snacks, many made from local produce. Registration is $17 in advance, or $20 at the door. The deadline for early registration is June 12.  For more information about the field day, contact Sherri Pote at the SWREC at 870-777-9702.

The program will include presentations on growing pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and more. 

2017 SWREC hort day brochure cover
U of A System Division of Agriculture image by Kim Rowe. 

Amanda McWhirt, extension specialist-horticulture crops for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, has two research projects in the works for watermelons. The first, in which she’s working with Jackie Lee, extension horticulture specialist-integrated pest management, uses winter cover crops to prepare for spring planting of melons. The other is a watermelon variety test.

When it comes to watermelons, “growers plant really early in the spring,” she said. “In the winter, the ground is just fallow. This trial is about growing a cool season cover crop.”

Winter cover crops can provide many benefits, including adding nitrogen to the soil during the winter months. The cover crop then dies down as melon growing season begins.

“Growers can transplant watermelons into the cover crop, which provides a natural weed barrier,” McWhirt said. In addition to adding nitrogen and tamping down weed growth, the cover crops can provide another benefit to growers the eastern parts of the state, where soils are sandy. The plant matter can provide a shield for the melons, preventing them from becoming sandblasted.

McWhirt is also testing how well several different varieties of watermelons grow in the different soils of southeastern and southwestern Arkansas. 

Proper pumpkin production

McWhirt and Lee are also teaming together for a talk on proper pumpkin production.

“People are getting a lot more interested in pumpkins for agritourism,” McWhirt said. “We are wanting to show the optimal way to do pre-emergence weed control and using recommended fertilizer rates.”

Their demonstration will also include how irrigation and use of plastic mulch can fit into a pumpkin patch.

The day’s agenda:

  • 7:30-8:15 a.m. -  Registration
  • 8:15-8:30 a.m. - Welcome -  Terry Kirkpatrick—center director
  • 8:30-8:45 a.m. – Division of Agriculture fruit breeding update – Margaret Worthington, assistant professor-horticulture
  • 8:45-9:15 a.m. - Plasticulture and Raised Beds – Amanda McWhirt, extension specialist-horticulture crops
  • 9:15-9:45 a.m. -  Weed Management for the Grower or Home Gardener— Jackie Lee, extension specialist-horticulture-integrated pest management
  • 9:45 a.m.-10:30 a.m. – Pumpkin production in the South – Mike McClintock, Boone County extension agent
  • 10:30-10:45 a.m.- Watermelon cover crop trial -  McWhirt
  • 10:45-11 a.m. - Watermelon variety trial - McWhirt
  • 11-11:15 a.m. -  Pumpkin best management trial - McWhirt and Jackie Lee
  • 11:15—11:30 a.m. - Tomato and pepper weed management Trial- Lee and McWhirt
  • 11:30-11:45 a.m. -  Question and Answers – Discussion
  • Noon-1 p.m. -   Lunch and door prizes
  • 1-2 p.m. - Plastic layer demonstration and Water Wheel transplanter demonstration, with Irrigation Mart Salesman on hand to answer questions.

For more information on crop production, visit or contact your county extension office. 

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.  If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact the SW Research and Extension Center at 870-777-9702 as soon as possible.  Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. 

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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