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Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 5:28-29 (article 14) 1982

Further Observations on "Birdsnest" Muskmelons

H. S. Paris, Z. Karchi, H. Nelson, M. Edelstein, A. Govers and D. Freudenberg

Division of Vegetable Crops, Agricultural Research Organization, Newe Ya'ar Experiment Station, P.O. Haifa, Israel

The birdsnest plant type or growth habit of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) has been described and compared with the familiar vine and short-internode types (1). Birdsnest muskmelons are distinguished by three main features: compact growth, placement of fruits close to the base of the plant, and uniform development and maturation of fruits. The expression of these features can be relegated to a number of component characteristics such as internode length, branching tendency, and concentration of fruit set. Birdsnest habit is a complex of a number of characters, and it is reasonable to assume that each is subject, in varying degrees, to genetic control and environmental influences. Continuous variation for growth habit has been exhibited by F2 populations and progeny testing of selections.

One of the initial objectives has been to observe the available genetic material and compare accessions, in a replicated trial, for expressivity of birdsnest habit. The results of such a comparison carried out during the 1979 growing season have already been reported (1). In 1980, four accessions, designated 'Persia 201', 'Persia 202', 'Persia 221', and 'Russia 5062' were again compared. Of these accessions, 'Russia 5062' once again was clearly the least compact, its fruits were significantly farther from the base of the plant (although this difference was, admittedly, small: 'Persia 202' -15.4 cm, 'Persia 221' - 15.8 cm, 'Persia 201' - 15.9 cm, 'Russia 5062' - 21.2 cm), and its yield appeared to be the least concentrated.

In a survey of plant introductions carried out in 1979, an accession represented by five plants, of which only one survived to maturity, appeared to have birdsnest habit. Seeds of this accession had been supplied to us by Mr. Y. Natav, former director of the Division of Vegetable Crops, Israel Ministry of Agriculture, Ha-Qirya, Tel Aviv, who described it as "a melon from southern Iran ... from a very hot and very dry region". The accession was designated 'Persia Hot Dry', and self-pollinated progeny of the surviving plant were grown out in 1980 alongside the above described comparison trial. All of the progeny had birdsnest habit, with an expressivity which appeared to be as high as that of the other 'Persia' accessions and greater than that of 'Russia 5062'. As is the case with other 'Persia' accessions, 'Persia Hot Dry' is vigorous, early maturing, andromonoecious, with large, light green leaves, thick stems, large seeds; it germinates well at 15°C, and is highly susceptible to diseases, especially downy mildew. Fruit weight averages 1-1 1/2 kg, the flesh is thin, averaging 3-4% soluble solids as measured by a refractometer, and the fruits decay quickly. Externally, the fruits resemble those of 'Persia 201' and 'Persia 202', having a coarse, heavy netting. Flesh color is green.

All of the 'Persia' birdsnest accessions reportedly originate from arid or semi-arid regions of Iran (Y. Natav, personal communication and ref. 2). In addition, all possess several seemingly unrelated characteristics which, taken altogether, could be argued to be indicative of a dry habitat origin: a) ability to germinate quickly at relatively low temperatures, b) extreme susceptibility to diseases such as downy mildew, which are prevalent in relatively humid, mild climates, and c) a short life cycle conditioned by early and concentrated fruit maturity. It is hypothesized that the 'Persia' birdsnest accessions represent an ecotype or group of cultivars adapted to desert or semi-desert conditions.

Literature Cited

  1. Paris, H.S., Z. Karchi, H, Nerson, M. Edelstein, A. Govers and D. Freudenberg. 1981. A new plant type in Cucumis melo L. Cucurbit Genet. Coop. Rep. 4:24-26.
  2. Slomnicki, I., A. Stein and J. Nothmann. 1968. Exploration, collection, and screening of indigenous and local varieties of vegetable crops cultivated in Turkey and Iran. Final Report submitted to the Ford Foundation, Project No. 5/4A4. The Volcani Institute of Agricultural Research, Bet Dagan, Israel.
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Page citation: Wehner, T.C., Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative;
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send questions to T.C. Wehner; last revised on 1 August, 2007