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Watermelon Research and Development Group

Report from 2000 Annual Meeting

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20th ANNUAL MEETING, Lexington, Kentucky January 30, 2000

  • Benny D. Bruton, Chairman
    US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service
    Lane, Oklahoma 74555
    [Voice] 580-889-7395
    [Fax] 580-889-5783
    [Web Page]

Meeting Summary, June, 2000

  • The Watermelon Research and Development Working Group (WRDWG) met The Annual Meeting of the WRDWG was on Sunday, January 31, 2000 in Lexington, Kentucky. The meeting was held at the at the Radisson Hotel in conjunction with The Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (S.A.A.S.) and the Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Sciences (SR: ASHS).
  • Due to the terrible weather conditions (ice), we had a relatively low attendance with about 20 people present at the meeting. Several people got stranded in airports for the weekend and others could not even get started. In spite of the weather, we had four research reports and a highly enlightening report on watermelon germplasm from Dr. Alan Stoner.

I. Research Updates

  • Dr. Bob Maloney [ ], of Novartis Seeds discussed problems with triploid seed germination. First, "don't plant too shallow." Second, "don't over-water." If you over-water, water will get into the seed and you experience germination failure. Third, is temperature. Some triploids tend not to germinate evenly. After 14 days, you have all the germination your going to get. Bob also mentioned planting a cantaloupe (OP) or wheat seed into the cell along with the watermelon seed to relieve the problem of plantlets pulling out of the planting medium during transplanting.
  • Dr. Don Maynard [ ] University of Florida, mentioned that the American Horticultural Science Society was sponsoring crop specific books and that one would be published on watermelon characteristics, production, and marketing.
  • Dr. Dan Egel [ ] Purdue University, discussed "Sudden Wilt" of watermelon in Indianna. The disease tends to start in an area and move down the row. The disease is more severe using plastic mulch and fumigation has not shown a beneficial response. Symptoms on roots are variable, ranging from relatively white root system to roots having numerous lesions. To date, no fungus or bacterium has been consistently isolated. However, ground-up roots from symptomatic plants did induce some seedling disease in the greenhouse.
  • Dr. Benny Bruton [] USDA-ARS, Lane, Oklahoma, discussed the status of "Yellow Vine" of watermelon. The geographic distribution of the disease continues to increase. Dr. Robert Wick, University of Massachusetts [ ] sent pumpkin samples to the Lane Research Station for PCR testing. They were positive for the yellow vine bacterium. Although the disease was not observed in watermelon, this does expand the known distribution of the disease on cucurbits to include Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. We suspect that the disease is more widespread than is presently known. Symptoms have often been confused with Fusarium wilt and other vine declines. The best diagnostic characteristic is a honey-brown discoloration of the phloem. You can click on this Webb Site and go to photos and see examples of "Yellow Vine" on cucurbits including watermelon [ ]. If you suspect yellow vine in your state, please send us samples to run PCR.
  • Another topic that was discussed is a seed source for the watermelon differentials for determining race of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum. Dr. Todd Wehner agreed to get the differential germplasm, test it for purity, and increase it for distribution. I do believe that Dr. Wehner has increased them. Germplasm can be hard to find and impossible to know the genetic purity. I hope that, in the future, we can find someone to produce the differentials and offer them for sale.
  • Dr. Alan Stoner [] USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Maryland, graciously agreed to attend our meeting to help clarify some of the questions we have had about the watermelon germplasm. He gave us an overall view of the National Germplasm System which has about 450,000 accessions total. Dr. Stoner discussed the evolution of GRIN, Ft. Collins, and the Crop Advisory Committees. We have 40 Crop Advisory Committees at present. Dr. Stoner made a few suggestions that I think are worth noting here: * We need to get duplicate samples of all the Ft. Collins, Colorado watermelon germplasm to Griffin, Georgia. * We need to cut the duplication at Ft. Collins and at Griffin. * Core collection may be a good idea. We need to enlist help from the Curator in making decisions and choices. *What is the value of the Pis increased under the old system (open-pollinated)? *Does ARS, Universities, and Seed Companies have seeds they would like to put into the system?
  • Note from the Chairman: Dr. Bob Jarret has tried to get help in establishing a core collection for a long time. The Cucurbit Crop Advisory Committee and the Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Coordinating Committee for watermelon should take the lead. Perhaps, we can have input or we can take the lead and ask them for endorsement of a core collection. We need to do what we can, as a committee, to move this along if this is the direction we need to go. Please let me know what your individual thoughts are as to a "Core Collection."

II. News From the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB)

  • Mr. William Watson, Executive Director [ ], was not able to attend due to prior commitments. 1) A new project at the Lane Research Station, Lane, OK will investigate the content and health properties of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant in watermelon. USDA-ARS investigator Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie [ ] will lead a team of researchers from USDA, Oklahoma State University, and Texas A&M, who will determine yield, stability, and quality of lycopene from marketable fruit and from watermelons considered culls. 2) In another new project, a team of researchers from Oklahoma State University will set up a system to better collect and disseminate production-related research to watermelon industry members. Researchers see a need to regularly communicate and relay information to the watermelon industry about cultivar and pesticide evaluations, fertility rates, and cultural practices. The group hopes to develop a national information exchange group to establish a mechanism for distributing research results and information to all facets of the watermelon industry. 3) The Directors voted to expand the work of Purdue University plant pathologist Richard Latin, who has developed a weather-based system designed to reduce fungicide use without increasing the risk of serious disease outbreaks. The system is called MELCAST or Melon Disease Forcaster. Growers have relied upon MELCAST to provide temperature and moisture readings that enable them to spray at the most opportune time, thereby improving disease control while reducing fungicide costs. 4) The Board also voted to continue University of Florida research by plant pathologist Dr. Don Hopkins who is investigating how to marshal a plant's natural defense system to control disease through chemicals known as plant defense activators. These activators have no direct toxic effect on pathogenic fungi or bacteria and are not classified as fungicides. Early findings indicate thes activators are effective in preventing the spread of bacterial fruit blotch in the greenhouse and would be effective in reducing the amount of fruit blotch in the field.
  • The NWPB has budgeted $50,000 annually through 2001 to support research that addresses the following five research priority areas: (1) Postharvest physiology/quality, (2) Gummy stem blight, including host resistance, epidemiology, and control, (3) Standardization of variety evaluations and data accumulation, (4) Removal and disposal of plastic mulch, and (5) Disease forecast systems.

III. New Business

  • It was decided at the Memphis Meeting (1999) that we should invite all interested people (national and international) to become involved with our group. The new Watermelon Research and Development Working Group Web Page is up and operational. The address is: . We have a search engine so that a person can find an expert in watermelon culture, fertility, plastic mulch, postharvest problems, foliar diseases, or soilborne diseases, etc. This information should provide a very nice service to research and extension personnel to find needed information. We do not intend to try to duplicate information that is covered on other Web Pages. Please pull up the forms and fill them out and send to us. The "Expertise" section is very small and inadequate at the present time to be of much help. Hopefully, you will find our Web Page to be helpful.

IV. Jobs

  • Dr. Anshu Singh Bhatia [ ] of Addison, Texas has a PhD in Seed/Plant Pathology is looking for employment. She has experience in seed-borne diseases. If you are interested in obtaining more specific information, please contact her at the above E-mail address or at 972-488-0437.

V. Upcoming Meeting

  • 21th Annual Watermelon Research and Development Working Group will be at 1:00 to 5:00 PM on Sunday 28 of January, 2001 in Ft. Worth, Texas.

VI. Special Thanks

  • I would like to extend a special thanks to Mr. Don Dobbs of Willhite Seeds for sponsoring refreshments at this year's annual meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. We appreciate your support!

VII. Past Refreshment Sponsorships

  • Willhite Seeds: Lexington, Kentucky - 2000
  • Novartis Seeds Inc.: Memphis, Tennessee - 1999
  • Sunseeds: Little Rock, Arkansas - 1998
  • Barham Seeds: Birmingham, Alabama - 1997
  • American SunMelon: Greensboro, North Carolina - 1996
  • Willhite Seeds: New Orleans, Louisiana - 1995
  • Asgrow Seed Company: Nashville, Tennessee - 1994
  • American SunMelon:Tulsa, Oklahoma - 1993


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Page citation: Wehner, T.C., Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative;
Created by T.C. Wehner and T. Ng, 1 June 2005; design by C.T. Glenn;
send questions to T.C. Wehner; last revised on 19 February, 2008