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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Charleston, South Carolina » Vegetable Research » Research » Research Project #443233

Research Project: Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program 2021

Location: Vegetable Research

Project Number: 6080-21000-020-003-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 26, 2022
End Date: Mar 31, 2023

This grant expands on current collaborative work by the USDA, ARS and Clemson scientists, and builds on our study to enhance watermelon root development while reducing the impact of soil-born diseases like Fusarium wilt, Phytophthora, gummy stem blight or anthracnose on watermelon crops by enriching the soil with beneficial microorganisms. The objective of the proposed research is to utilize the USDA’s watermelon genetic resources and beneficial micro-organisms in soil living like Rhizobium bacteria strains the exist symbiosis inside plant roots by fixing nitrogen. The main objective is to determine if the presence of certain watermelon genotypes and beneficial bacteria strains could significantly reduce the presence and effect of soil-borne disease on watermelon crop and result in enhancing yield and quality. In addition work will be done on identifying appropriate genotypes or plant introductions (PI) that are tolerant to salt water, as salt water intrusion into farms is becoming a major problem in some parts of the country.

ARS researchers will select watermelon genotypes and Rhizobium bacterial strains to be used in greenhouse and field experiments to determine if there is any significant interaction in enhancing watermelon plant growth, yield and fruit quality. In addition, Rhizobium treated versus untreated field plots will be surveyed for presence of soil-borne diseases. The experiments will be repeated in 2 fields in two consecutive years. Additionally, roots of Rhizobium treated versus untreated plants will be phenotyped via analysis of scanned images using an established WinRHIZO instrument software. The results of this study should facilitate a new approach for improving sustainable cultivation while reducing the presence and adverse effects of soil-born diseases on the watermelon crop. Salt tolerant watermelon PI and other rootstocks for watermelon grafting will be used to determine if a watermelon crop can be produced in areas where salt water intrusion occurs.