magazine story to find out more.
ARS scientists in Oklahoma are
grafting watermelon stems onto squash or gourd rootstock to produce firmer
melons. Click the image for more information about it.
Grafting Watermelon Makes Firmer, Healthier
Fruit By Jim
Core July 1, 2005
Packaged, cut-up watermelon is convenient for consumers and represents
a rapidly expanding market. But the fruit can quickly lose crispness when cut,
presenting a challenge to the "fresh-cut" market that demands a firm,
One way to meet this challenge is to graft watermelon tops onto gourd
or squash rootstock, according to
Bruton, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist with the agency's
Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane, Okla. Bruton and his
colleagues found that grafted watermelons are resistant to Fusarium
wilt, a widespread and costly plant fungus.
Fruit from certain grafted plants was also at least 25 to 30 percent
firmer and was resistant not only to Fusarium, but to many other
soilborne pathogens, according to Bruton and cooperators Warren Roberts and
Fish. Roberts is a horticulturalist with Oklahoma State University's Wes Watkins
Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Lane, and Fish is an ARS
biochemist at Lane.
Fusarium fungi live in the soil and attack plants at all stages of
growth. Until now, watermelon growers in the United States have dealt with
Fusarium-infested soil by treating with methyl bromide to kill the fungus,
rotating the fields or growing partially resistant cultivars.
The U.S. watermelon industry did not embrace grafting previously
because it was considered too expensive. However, the first two solutions to
Fusarium wilt control are becoming less workable as land becomes less
available for field rotation, and agricultural use of methyl bromide is being
discontinued because of its negative impact on the ozone layer.
A number of watermelon cultivars are available that have varying
resistance to Fusarium, but not to the degree of grafted watermelon, and
not with the added benefit of fruit firmness that was found with grafting.
Because of the improved fruit quality characteristics of grafted watermelon,
they may eventually be targeted for the "fresh-cut" market.
about the research in the July 2005 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.