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Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 21:67-68 (article 26) 1998
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Evaluation of two Benincasa hispida Genotypes for Fruit Yield, Vine Growth, Size and Shape Characteristics.

Alejandro Ching

Alternative Crops Research and Development Center, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, MO 64468, U.S.A.

Introduction. Winter melon (white or ash gourd, fuzzy gourd, don-kwa) is botanically known as Benincasa hispida (Thunb. Cogn. and has a chromosome number of 2n=24 (2,3,6). Rubatsky and Yamaguchi (4) list four major cultivar groups recognizable by their size, shape, fuzziness, waxiness, and presence or absence of a dusty or ashy layer. There re reports that fruit weight ranges from 7.5 to 45 kg depending on genotype and the production system utilized (4,5). furthermore, fruits of . B. hispida are known to have medium (4) to large (5) size fruit, with oblong (5) to cylindrical or elongated (4) shapes. The objective of this study was to evaluate two genotypes of B. hispida for fruit yield, vine growth, size and shape characteristics when grown under northern Missouri conditions.

Materials and Methods. Seeds of a green, hairy winter melon with sparsely waxed surface (from Long Island NY growers) and of a white,/ashy gourd (Evergreen Enterprises) were planted and grow non inverted pyramid celled flats using Metro Mix 500 as soil media under greenhouse conditions during April-May 1997. On the last week of May, 1997, the seedlings were transplanted in the field on a Sharpsburg silty clay soil (fine, montmorillonitic, mesic Typic Agriuddolls) under black plastic mulch and drip irrigation. The transplants were established with 1.5 m distance between plants and 2.5 m between bed rows. The transplants were fertigated with a 101-10-10 (N-P205 -K20) liquid formulation. Fruits were harvested when reaching maximum growth, and were counted, weighed and measured for length and width until the first frost, 145 days after transplanting. Fruit shape index was calculated using L/W (1). At this time, plant vine length was also recorded. The collected data were statistically analyzed using a completely randomized experimental design.

Results and Discussion. The green winter melon genotype produced an average yield of 105.7 kg/plant while the fuzzy white gourd genotype produced an average yield of 27.3 lbs/plant (Table 1). The number of fruit per plant and average fruit weight were also greater with the green winter melon genotype (Table 1). Thus, these two B. hispida genotypes can be categorized in two different groups based on their productivity and other genetic traits (3, 4).

The U.S. market tends of have a lower degree of acceptance for extra-large fruit of B. hispida. In this study, the green winter melon genotype produced extra-large size fruit measuring 55.5 cm x 24.7 cm (L x W) compared to 48.9 cm x 22.1 cm for the fuzzy white gourd (Table 2). The green winter melon genotype produced a longer vine, measuring an average of 460 cm/plant as compared to 310 cm/plant for the fuzzy white gourd genotype, (Table 2). Field observations agree with these data, and clearly indicate that the greater vine length of the green winter melon increased the potential for a greater number of lateral branches, and hence a larger number of fruits. However, despite its larger productivity and larger melons,very few growers produce the green winter melon.

With regard to other observed characteristics, the fuzzy white gourd produced a slight biter flavor as compared to the mild flavor of the green winter melon. When fruits were harvested late in the season, with temperature ranging from 0-10 C, and stored for six months at 20 C, the green winter melon showed susceptibility to bacterial fruit soft rot compared to the very low susceptibility of the fuzzy white gourd. For breeding purposes, these two genotypes possess genetic traits that may bring together the best characteristics of both genotypes, with an acceptable fruit size, high yield, and resistance to bacterial fruit soft rot.

Table 1. The average fruit weight, average number of fruit/plant, and the average total yield plant from two Benincase hispida genotypes.

No. fruits/plant
Fruit weight (kg)
Total yield per plant (kg)
Green winter melon
Fuzzy white gourd

** Highly significant (P = 0.01).

Table 2. Plant vine growth length, fruit size and shape characteristics of two Benincasa hispida genotypes.

Fruit size L x W (cm)
Shape index ((L x W)
Plant vine length (cm)
Green winter melon
55.5 x 24.7
Cylindrical* or elongated
Fuzzy white gourd
48.9 x 22.1
Cylindrical or elongated

Acknowledgement: I am very grateful to Mr. Scott Walk and his crew for their fieldwork and assistance in the collection of data.

Literature Cited

  1. Lippert, L.F, and P.D. Legg. 1972. Appearance and quality characters in muskmelon fruit evaluated by a ten cultivars diallel cross. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 97:84-87.
  2. Mini-Raj, N., K.P. Prasanna and K.V. Peter. 1993. Ash gourd Benincase hispida (Thunb.) Cogn. In: Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops. Eds. G. Kallo and B.O. Bergh. Elsevier. pp. 235-238.
  3. Robinson, R.W. and D.S. Decker-Walters. 1997. Was gourd. In: Cucurbits. CAB International. pp. 101-105.
  4. Rubatzky, V.E. and M. Yamaguchi. 1997. Chinese winter melon / wax gourd Benincase hispida (Thunb.) Cogn. In: World Vegetables: principles, production, and nutritive values. Chapman Hall, ITP. pp 625-627.
  5. Stephens, J.M. 1988. Manual of minor vegetables. Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Bulletin SP-40. pp. 54.
  6. Walters, T.W. and D.S. Decker-Walters. 1989. Systematic re-evaluation of Benincase hispida (Cucurbitaceae). Econ. Bot. 43:274-278.