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Published: Saturday May 29, 2010 MYT 12:29:00 PM

Bigger and sweeter rock melon

KUALA LUMPUR: A research by the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and two other organisations on the usage of locally-produced organic fertiliser, known as AgroPlus, has succeeded in increasing rock melon yield and enhances its sweetness.

The university's senior lecturer at the School of Chemical Sciences and Food Technology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Dr Sahilah Abdul Mutalib, said an average of 2.5kg of A grade rock melon with sweetness level of more than 13 on the Brix meter, was harvested as a result of spraying AgroPlus on the plant.

Normally, a rock melon weighs between 1.3 and 1.5kg while its sweetness level is 12 and below on the Brix scale, added Dr Sahilah.

Known in Malay as "timun batu", the fruit was evaluated after being harvested from 100 plants at Sutera Nursery, Chendering, Kuala Terengganu, one of the pilot projects for the organic fertiliser research conducted by the university and its partners, she said.

"The sweetness level in rock melon produced using AgroPlus is comparable to the sugar content in soft drinks," she said in her write-up on the research findings, published on the university's news portal Saturday.

The organic fertiliser research is headed by Dr Sahilah who is also a research fellow at the Institute of West Asian Studies and Prof Dr Salmijah Surif, from the School of Environment and Natural Resources.

UKM is collaborating with DUHC Sdn Bhd and Universiti Putra Malaysia in ensuring the success of the project, specially-designed to assist Bumiputera companies in research.

The programme, which is also a collaboration with the Terengganu Department of Agriculture and the Terengganu Agrotech Development Corporation, was carried out in seven districts in Terengganu namely Besut, Dungun, Setiu, Kemaman, Marang, Hulu Terengganu and Kuala Terengganu.

A total of 250 local participants took part, with rock melon and chilli as the main crop from fertigation agriculture in Terengganu, she said.

"The increase in rock melon yield does help the farmers to get more income and with strong marketing support, the fruit succeeded in breaking through the European market since October 2007," she added.

"It seems customers in Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Greece like our rock melon especially during their winter months when their own fruit production stops," she said, adding that the fruits are available at Tesco and Carrefour supermarket.

Dr Sahilah said the current research was part of their social responsibility and community services to support the production of organic products.

DUCH Sdn Bhd develops and produces AgroPlus, commercially based on sugarcane agro waste or molasses which is reformulated by Ghazali Abdullah, a former agricultural officer at the Department of Agriculture.

Dr Sahilah said during the research, AgroPlus was also tested on oil palm and corn in which similar characteristics as observed on rock melon were also found, indicating that the fertilizer helped spur good growth while increasing the yield. Studies on the organic fertiliser's usage were also carried out on longan, rambutan, durian and turmeric, she said.

Recent work was focused on developing and broadening the usage of AgroPlus in enhancing paddy production by looking at its function as a decomposer, she said.

At this stage, research conducted by the two universities indicated that AgroPlus organic fertilizer is safe, and has been tested and applied on the organic paddy crop in Kampung Ewa, Langkawi and several paddy fields in Kedah which resulted in a 50 per cent increase in paddy production, she said. - Bernama

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