By Clint Thompson
Cantaloupes and cotton might seem like an odd couple but they're proving to be a perfect pair.
Planting the two together reduces planting time and costs while generating the same, if not more, profit for some Georgia farmers.
University of Georgia Tift County Extension Coordinator Brian Tankersley has been studying the planting method, called intercropping, since 2010 and has seen positive results in some of his farmers' fields. He has also found that management and yields from intercropping canteloupes and watermelons with cotton are comparable to planting the melons alone.
William Dillard, who farms in Excelsior, approached Tankersley about planting cantaloupe and cotton in the same field after seeing the process in another farmer's field.
"You prep your land one time for the melons. All you're doing is going in and seeding so you don't have as much cost as far as re-prepping your land," Dillard said.
Intercropping also saves valuable time during the growing season. "Once you get through with the melons, it's very hard to get a second crop and get it to where you can get it to grow before frost. This way you're able to get it planted in a timely manner," he said.
One of Dillard's intercropped fields produced 1,200 pounds of cotton without affecting the cantaloupe yields and the other produced 800 pounds of cotton without affecting the melon yield. "The difference was he ran out of water in the cotton crop on that second field," Tankersley said.