Submitted to: Horticulture Industries Show
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 3, 2000
Publication Date: April 1, 2000
Citation: DAVIS, A.R., PAIR, S.D. POTENTIAL FOR GENETIC IMPROVEMENT OF WATERMELON CULTIVARS. PROCEEDING OF THE 19TH ANNUAL HORTICULTURE INDUSTRIES CONFERENCE. 2000. P. 141-144. Interpretive Summary: Modern watermelon cultivar selection has focused on yield, disease resistance, and traditional market performance. Selecting for these characteristics has inadvertently narrowed this crop's genetic diversity, with a resulting decrease in its ability to withstand adverse biotic and abiotic conditions. New watermelon cultivars must continue to be developed din order to maintain their competitiveness as production systems and consumer preference change. Agricultural research scientists who understand changes in global conditions are well situated to develop tools they can use to overcome the challenges to their industry, and can use them to develop better cultivars for the future. Genetically engineered plants, advances in precision breeding, and the utilization of wild plants to strengthen agriculture's genetic foundation, will introduce valuable genetic diversity and gene flow into crop plants, including watermelon, to keep agriculture productive.
Technical Abstract: Domestic watermelon cultivars have a very narrow genetic base which makes them vulnerable to emerging diseases. Wild cultivars, on the other hand, although not suitable for agricultural production, often contain the genetic survival traits that are lacking in their domestic counterparts. The development of a genetic stockpile from wild cultivars can provide scientists with a genetic foundation they can draw upon to improve the vigor of domestic cultivars. Scientists can also use this foundation to improve the marketability of watermelon cultivars: to meet consumer demands for nutritionally enhanced, seedless, cut and packaged fruits, and to meet long-distance shipping durability standards. Without a diverse genetic foundation to draw from, the watermelon industry will remain static, unable to meet new demands, and may eventually lose its competitive edge. Other components, however, must be considered and integrated into production systems. To this end, genetically engineered plants, advances in precisio breeding, and the utilization of wild plants to strengthen agriculture's genetic foundation, will introduce valuable genetic diversity and gene flow into crop plants to keep agriculture productive.