Seed ResearchNew Watermelons
by Dorothy Noble
A pleasurable treat anytime, but summertime wouldn't be the same without watermelon. These fun fruits not only delight, watermelon is the lycopene leader among produce. Plus, they provide excellent levels of vitamins A and C, plus good amounts of vitamin B6.
Because seedless watermelons (triploids) are sterile hybrids, they must be planted with a pollinator to produce fruit. This can be a normal seeded watermelon (diploid), or a watermelon developed strictly as a pollinator for seedless watermelon production. Most seedsmen recommend the latter because its vines bring the male flowers into close proximity with the triploid variety without competing with the triploid plant.
In addition, since triploid seeds will not germinate in the field, growers often contract their seedling production with experienced greenhouse producers.
Adequate bees must also be present to pollinate both diploids and triploids.
Over the past decade seed companies have required waivers from commercial growers prior to selling watermelon seeds. Typically the waiver requires the buyer to assume all risk for the crop. The waivers resulted from numerous lawsuits stemming from an outbreak of watermelon fruit blotch, which occurred principally in the South.
Bacterial fruit blotch in a field may easily escape detection until two weeks from harvest, and then completely devastate the crop. What's more, even though the bacteria may be seedborne, secondary sources can infect the field.
Each seed developer requires its own waiver. It often also releases the company from damages from the gummy stem blight fungus and other diseases in addition to bacterial fruit blotch. The seed distributor may also require a waiver.
Seed developers have made significant progress in combating bacterial fruit blotch and other diseases. However, since testing is necessarily performed from samples, 100 percent accuracy of the assay cannot be guaranteed. Consequently, waivers are in use.
However, growers can grow watermelons profitably. Led by rising demand of seedless types, watermelon sales continue to grow.
Whether seedless or seeded, mini or full size, red, pink, orange or yellow, breeders have developed watermelons to please all segments of the marketplace. The following lists new and nearly new varieties available to us by press time. Almost all are hybrids, with some new open-pollinated varieties available.
Deep red flesh with excellent high sugar flavor describes 85-day Sangria. Weighing 20 to 23 pounds and elongated in shape, this Allsweet type hybrid diploid sports broken light green stripes on its dark green rind. Also, Stokes Seeds notes its intermediate tolerance to anthracnose and fusarium.
Sweet Harmony, weighing 18 to 22 pounds and maturing in 87 days, produces uniform fruit on a vigorous vine, which Rupp Seeds reports enhances its fruit protection. This hybrid is long and blocky, with medium green rind, dark green stripes and deep red flesh. An Allsweet type, it resists anthracnose race 1 and fusarium.
Similar to Crimson Sweet with its 15 to 30-pound size and blocky shape, Yellow Crimson also displays light green with dark green stripes, but has bright yellow flesh. Maturing in 80 days, this open-pollinated variety, new to Rupp Seeds, is popular for garden, market or shipping.
Summer Flavor 720, a new Abbott and Cobb diploid hybrid with very good flavor and anthracnose race 1 resistance, matures in 82 days. Rupp says it can replace Royal Jubilee and Jubilation. With bright red flesh, it is oblong to blocky in shape, has medium green rind with distinct thin, dark green stripes, weighs 28 to 30 pounds and has a medium to large vine.
With extra firm, crisp, sweet, bright red flesh, Affirmed produces uniform, consistent yields. This Sakata-bred 18 to 20-pound, round oval triploid matures in 90 days. It is suited for all major markets and diverse growing regions. Its medium green background and dark green stripe pattern enhance its attractiveness. Seedway says Affirmed has better interior color and earlier ripening than other large seedless watermelons.
Rupp Seeds says that Arcadia, a new triploid hybrid bred by Hollar Seeds is superior to other elongated seedless varieties. This 88 to 90-day watermelon has small pips and no funny aftertaste. Dark red fleshed, with a dark green rind and wide stripes, it weighs 22 to 24 pounds. Seedway notes that Arcadia sets well in heat.
Round to oval shaped, Bold Ruler matures in 83 days and sets well in cool conditions. A Crimson Sweet type, it weighs 16 to 18 pounds. Bred by Sakata, this hybrid triploid has dark green stripes on a medium green background and has bright red, crisp, sweet flesh with dense texture. Both Seedway and Rupp recommend planting with an early pollinator such as Ace. Siegers Seed notes its uniformity. Bold Ruler has demonstrated high yields.
Citation, at 68 days, can jump-start the watermelon season. With beautiful internal demarcation and deep red, dense flesh, this round oval is part of Sakata's new generation of high-quality seedless that are true 60-count watermelons. Medium green with dark green stripes, it weighs 12 to 14 pounds and has a good holding ability and shelf life. Setting well in cool conditions, Seedway suggests Ace for pollination for its early blooming ability.
With 12 percent brix, Declaration boasts excellent internal quality according to Stokes Seeds. Early, averaging 76 days, this Nunhems triploid hybrid reaches 16 to 18 pounds. Its green background and medium dark green striped fruit are oval shaped with red flesh.
Bright contrasting stripes and sweet, firm, red flesh, round oval Distinction weighs 15 to 18 pounds. It matures in 88 days. With intermediate resistance to both anthracnose and fusarium, Seedway recommends it for growers with fusarium problems. Additionally, it notes Distinction is less likely to crack and have hollow heart.
With light green fruits with dark green stripes and orange flesh, Orange Crisp matures in 87 days. Johnny's Selected Seeds says this new hybrid, which also is firmer and crisper than Orange Sweet, has great flavor. It averages 17 to 19 pounds and has better resistance to hollow heart. One to two fruits per plant can be expected.
Bred by DPSeeds, seedless Red Rock exhibits a round to oval shape with excellent crisp, bright red flesh. It matures in 84 to 86 days and tolerates both anthracnose and fusarium. Bred by DP Seeds, it features high brix, plus excellent shipping capability and shelf life. Its average weight is 15 to 18 pounds, and the shell has the standard triploid appearance<0x2014>light green with dark green stripes.
With vigor and consistent yields, Summer Sweet 5244 matures in 85 days. Oval shaped, it averages 16 to 20 pounds. Its bright red interior contrasts with its medium green stripes splashed on a light green rind. Rupp Seeds views this Abbott and Cobb seedless melon as an industry standard. It tolerates anthracnose race 1.
Developed by Zeraim Gedera, Summer Bright produces 4 to 5-pound uniform fruit in 80 days. With firm flesh and a thin rind, it ships and maintains quality well. Siegers indicates its brix at 11 to 12 percent.
The thick rind of SuperSeedless 7167 ensures good shipping. In addition, this Abbott and Cobb variety shows excellent yields. Maturing in 85 days, the light green, medium green striped oval fruit weighs 16 to 20 pounds and has improved bright red interior. Its vigorous rind also tolerates anthracnose race 1.
Another Zeraim Gedera triploid, round Sweet Bite weighs between 5 and 8 pounds. Johnny's Selected Seeds reports sweet, flavorful, crisp, bright red flesh and an attractively striped pattern for this 75 day hybrid. Siegers Seed says the high brix gives this personal size seedless watermelon fantastic flavor. It averages two to three fruits per plant in a concentrated set.
Blocky, oval Sweet Polly displays exceptional rind appearance with a deep green, Crimson-type pattern. The high-quality, vivid red flesh is firm with small pips. This 88 day triploid weighs 15 to 18 pounds and resists anthracnose race 1 and fusarium. Siegers Seed reports its count as mostly 45.
The vigorous, lacy vines of new Pollen Pro with its small non-harvestable fruit do not compete with the triploid crop. Developed by Zeraim Gedera, Pollen Pro, with its early set and long duration of pollinating flowers, more than adequately pollinates the seedless watermelon varieties.
The author is a writer-researcher specializing in agriculture. She currently resides in central Pennsylvania.
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