Four week old watermelon (cv. Royal Sweet) transplants were obtained from long distance (FL) and local (AR) commercial transplant growers and set in plots in a commercial watermelon field near Leachville AR. Transplants (plugs) from AR (Burton's Inc., Tupelo, AR) were grown in inverted pyramid, Todd Flats (model 100A; 5/8″ length X 1/2″ width X 3″ height) (Speedling Inc., Sun City, FL). FL transplants (LaBelle Plant World, LaBelle, FL) were grown in 1.5″ square cells, 2″ deep. All transplants were delivered 15 April and set on 16 April. Transit time for local transplants was < 2 hrs, and plants were delivered in original flats. FL transplants were shipped on 14 April and were in transit ca. 28 hrs. They had been pulled from trays and were shipped in cardboard boxes. Plot size was 6 beds, 53.3m long with treatments arranged in a RCB with 4 replications. Bed spacing was 2.9m with between plant spacing of 1.5m. Data were subjected to ANOVA with mean separation by LSD.
Plots were harvested 3, 8, 15 and 22 July. Total number of fruit produced from plots planted with AR transplants was greater than FL treatment plots in the first 3 of 4 harvests; significantly higher total cumulative yield was observed with AR compared to FL transplants (45,115 and 35,172 kg ha-1, respectively). Increases in-yield and earliness resulted in an increase in gross profit of $1225 ha-1 for local transplants (based on national price data from that time period). No differences in average weights of fruit were observed for any harvests. Results indicate that Mid-South watermelon producers could benefit from utilizing locally grown transplants if plants are of comparable quality to those available from distant suppliers.