Watermelon & Figs

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  5/9/2018 4:44:48 PM

News Article for June 26, 2017

Too much water has been a problem for growing just about anything this year. Even grasses do not like this much rain.

Watermelons have the highest percentage of water of any fruit, in the range of 92% water and around 6% sugar. With excess rains that ratio can vary and you can taste the difference. We see the same thing in strawberries. During rainy periods the melons are not as sweet and during dry weather they seem to become exceptionally sweet. You can taste even a slight change in the sugar content, but varieties also play a big role in sweetness.

As we get down to the time of year to celebrate the independence of our nation, many of us will include watermelon in our celebration feast. It quenches the thirst and helps to hydrate us on hot July days. The dilemma is always how to pick the right one.

Maturity is one of the factors that make watermelons sweet. Since the vast majority of us will not be in the field pulling ripe melons, we are left with using physical features we can both hear and see to help us with our selection. Looking at the ground spot is probably your best indicator of a ripe melon. The ground spot is the part of the melon that is lying on the ground as it grows.

It is easy to find the ground spot. Just roll the melon over and you will see a side that is not green. This ground spot will start off white and will change to cream or yellow in color as the melon ripens. Turn over several melons and you can tell the difference. It does require a little practice to tell which is ripe enough but not over ripe.

Another method that is tried and true is to thump or slap the melons. You can actually hear the differences in sound made by individual melons. You will hear a hollow sound from a ripe melon. Those melons that are less ripe will sound more solid. Again, it takes a little practice to recognize the right sound but you can definitely hear differences.

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Some years we will see lots of figs drop from dry weather but that has not been the case this year. What I have seen is the opposite. It is not uncommon for some varieties to split and sour when rainy and high humidity conditions occur during the ripening season.

I have also seen two other problems with figs over the past several weeks. Rust and thread blight, which are both fungal diseases that thrive in hot moist environments.

Thread blight is the most damaging disease of Louisiana figs. It typically starts at the base of the leaves and spreads outward forming large semicircular dead spots. Infected leaves shrivel and cling to the twig while other leaves will be full of irregular-shaped holes. A large number of leaves can be killed in a few days. If this occurs before fruit are ripe, figs can become hard and dry up on the tree.

Rust starts out as small, yellowish orange spots on the leaves that grow and become numerous with time. You can get defoliation but that usually occurs after the fruit gets ripe so harvest is possible. The tree looks ragged and if the tree has to put on a new set of leaves in late summer, the tree becomes more vulnerable to cold damage in the winter.

Unfortunately there are no current fungicides labeled on edible figs in Louisiana. Your only choice is to try to get good air movement through the tree to promote drying. You can prune trees to open them up but heavy pruning should be accomplished in winter and any light pruning in the spring should be accomplished before July 4th.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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