Local farmers are reaping benefits from the off-season watermelon harvest
For the first time in Gopalganj, local farmers have successfully grown off-season watermelons by using a modern agricultural method called the “floating platform.”
The farmers’ joy at seeing the results of the unconventional approach was boundless as watermelons are usually harvested during the dry season.
Researchers at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) Gopalganj said they have developed two varieties of watermelon seeds, Bengal Tiger-1 and Bengal Tiger-2. Both were used by the farmers.
The method is particularly remarkable as it does not require irrigation, pesticides, or fertilizers. As a result, farmers can use this soil-free method without spending much money, and the financial gain is also high as it is the off-season, they added.
Although Gopalganj farmers have previously grown other vegetables on floating beds, this is their first year planting watermelons in collaboration with the researchers at BARI.
BARI Senior Scientific Officer Mohsin Hawlader said: “Under the Vegetables and Spice Cultivation Research, Extension and Popularization on Floating Bed project, some 200 farmers grew watermelon on at least 1,000 floating platforms for the first time this year.
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"Each bed has yielded watermelon as expected," he added.
He also said: "We want floating platform agriculture to become more profitable. Hence, I encourage farmers to cultivate high-value crops like watermelons.”
In Bangladesh, bottle gourds are sold for Tk 20-40 each. Compared to that, selling a watermelon allows the farmers to make up to Tk200, he added.
Shakti Kirtaniya, a farmer of Tungipara upazila in Gopalganj, said they had grown a variety of vegetables on floating beds before, including pumpkins, cauliflowers, cabbages, cucumbers, and tomatoes, but this year they planted watermelons for the first time.
“We did not need to use fertilizers, pesticides, or irrigation for our crops,” he added.
"We have produced organic watermelons that are safe to consume," said Tarpad Bala, another local farmer.
Ratan Saha, a fruit seller in Gopalganj Boro Bazar, said that a large quantity of off-season watermelons have been brought in, so far.
"We have sold each watermelon for between Tk150-300. Watermelon farmers have benefited from this, and so have we,” he said.
In 2019, floating beds made from hyacinths and bamboo were quite popular among farmers in Tungipara upazila of Gopalganj for growing vegetables and spices.
The farmers chose to adapt this method of cultivation to counter the waterlogging issues caused by the recent floods in the district, which had rendered the arable lands unsuitable for cultivation.