Sweet melons are looking for residence permit

President’s successful melon harvest at official residence of Drozdy, in central Belarus, proves that these southern, heat-loving plants, feel ‘at home’ in Belarus — just as in Astrakhan

By Anna Kornevskaya

President’s successful melon harvest at official residence of Drozdy, in central Belarus, proves that these southern, heat-loving plants, feel ‘at home’ in Belarus — just as in Astrakhan

melon.pngWho first suggested growing melons in Belarus? Doctor of Sciences, Professor Mechislav Stepuro, who heads agrochemistry and plant nutrition laboratory at the Republican Unitary Enterprise Institute of Vegetable Growing, can hardly remember. Since then, 8 years have passed, with such crops proving a success when raised with care. Melons could soon oust traditional crops from fields.

The Institute’s experimental plot of hundreds of square metres is covered in ‘striped balls’. It’s an amazing sight! Each plant is nurtured carefully, to ensure it survives Belarusian conditions black mesh under each one keeps it safe. In fact, Mechislav Stepuro assures us that melons could be grown almost countrywide, and at great profit. Farmers and enterprises in the Minsk, Brest and Gomel regions are only sowing small volumes at present but have found 200 percent profitability, even after expenses are taken into account.

Many of us have already tasted Belarusian melons without realising, since market traders often fail to advertise the fact — perhaps anxious that buyers will think them inferior. However, biochemical research confirms that home-grown melons are not only sweeter but tastier than those which are imported: 10 percent sugar against 6-7 percent! The reason is simply that they are fresher, having been spared a long import journey, and riper: those from abroad are harvested just before they reach peak ripeness, so that they survive travel. The riper the fruit, the juicier and sweeter it is.

Dozens of hybrids have been tested at the Institute, with the conclusion that 4-5 Dutch and 4-5 Russian melon varieties grow best in Belarus. Mr. Stepuro believes that special cultivators can help in the process, as well as machines for laying the platforms and mesh. He is convinced that enough proof has been gathered and that the crop is ready for greater investment. Next year, he plans to cultivate melons to the full.
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