Hollow-heart melon test goes high-tech

By Tom Lollis

wireless technology in watermelon patchWireless technology is helping track water and nutrients to pinpoint the causes of hollow-heart in watermelons.

Gilbert Miller, area vegetable specialist at the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, is using equipment provided by EarthTec Solutions to construct a three-dimensional soil profile. This information allows moisture and nutrients to be targeted to the root zone.

By starving, then overfeeding test plots for water or nutrients, he can determine what causes hollow-heart, which makes melons unmarketable. Four solar-powered monitoring stands collect data from vertical and horizontal sensors buried at depths of 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20 inches. Another solar array powers a weather station.

Every two hours each stand communicates via cell phone to a server in New Jersey, where EarthTec puts the data in chart form that Miller can access on the Internet. In the future a fiber optic line in the field will post data locally.

For information: Gilbert Miller, 803-284-3343, ext. 225, gmllr@clemson.edu