International Activities in Cucurbit Breeding
Training of international scientists, cooperative research with
scientists around the world, and germplasm collection are the
major international activities of the cucurbit breeding project at NC State University. Work typical of
this project is outlined below, as well as on another page, International
Training of Horticultural Breeders (FAO-NCSU), and reports
by former FAO scientists such as Kanwaldeep
New scientists on the cucurbit breeding project at NC State should visit the page on getting
One of the objectives of my project is to collect germplasm from
the centers of origin (Vavilov) or centers
of diversity (Harlan) for cucumber, luffa gourd, and watermelon.
Below are some of the expeditions I have been involved with.
team of 4 researchers -- Todd Wehner (NCSU, Raleigh, NC), James
McCreight (USDA-ARS, Salinas, CA), Roger Ellis and Mariana Jooste
(PGRU-ARC, Pretoria, RSA) -- collected cucurbit germplasm from
the arid regions of the Republic of South Africa near Zimbabwe,
Botswana, and Namibia. The trip was 4,213 km (2528 miles) in length. The first photograph shows seed collection from wild relatives of melon near the border with Zimbabwe (click on the photograph to see a larger version).
The objective of the expedition was to collect land races and
related species of melons (Cucumis melo and Citrullus lanatus)
from areas that were remote and less developed. The primary center
of diversity for watermelon is southwestern Africa, so the collections
are expected to be valuable to plant breeders and others interested
in preserving accessions of potential use to agriculture (Whitaker
and Davis, 1962). The second photograph shows 3 of the 4 team members having lunch with the ranger (protective escort) in the Kalahari Desert near the border with Namibia.
One major accomplishment was to establish links between U.S. researchers
interested in cucurbit germplasm and the new Plant Genetic Resources
Unit in Pretoria, Republic of South Africa. A second accomplishment
was to collect melon (Cucumis) and watermelon (Citrullus) land
races, and related species (Kirkbride, 1993). Such germplasm is
useful for improving cultivars by adding new traits or increasing
performance. Future germplasm exchanges with and expeditions to
southern Africa are planned to expand the world's germplasm collection
of species related to melon and watermelon. The primary countries
of interest for new expeditions are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe,
Zambia, and Angola.
team of 4 researchers (Todd Wehner, James McCreight,
Bill Rhodes and Xingping Zhang) went to the People's
Republic of China to exchange cucurbit germplasm and
tour institutes working in areas of mutual interest. The third photograph shows the team in a Mongolian-style restaurant in Beijing.
The objectives of Team #8 were to exchange germplasm of cucumber,
melon watermelon and luffa gourd between the People's
Republic of China and American researchers,
to find common areas of research on cucurbit breeding, and to
learn about research being done at the major cucurbit institutes
in the People's
Republic of China. Luffa was not a major emphasis in either country, but
information was gathered on that crop whenever it was available.
The itinerary of the trip took the team through the northern
provinces of the People's
Republic of China, with stops in Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Xian, Yangling,
Urumqi, Turpan, ChiangJi City, Beijing and Tianjin.
Germplasm collected from PRC consisted of 51 watermelons, 50
cucumbers, 30 melons, 15 luffa gourds and 2 bittergourds. Germplasm
given to PRC included 13 cucumbers, 1 luffa gourd, 26 melons and
11 watermelons. The fourth photograph shows the team at a research station near Shanghai.
Accomplishments included the germplasm exchange mentioned above,
but more importantly, cucurbit researchers from the two countries
got acquainted with each other. Future opportunities for cooperative
research may be the most useful accomplishment for the two countries.
We would like to invite the cucurbit scientists from PRC to visit
researchers in the US who are doing work in areas of mutual interest.
team of 2 -- Todd Wehner (NCSU researcher), Jonathan Schultheis
(NCSU extensionist) -- consulted with cucumber growers and processors in Sri
Lanka. Their tour covered the production areas of the Sri Lanka
Gherkin Exporters and Growers. The 5 processing companies involved were SunFrost,
Forbes, Aitken-Spence, Pickle Packers, and Vanathawilluwa. The
tour went through Colombo, Puttalam, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, irrigation
system C, Mahiyangana, Kandy, Embilipitiya, and back to Colombo. The fifth photograph shows the team consulting with processors at Vanathawilluwa.
The objective of the consulting tour was to assist the Sri Lanka
Gherkin Exporters and Growers in producing small pickling cucumbers
for export to other countries.
Solutions were provided for disease and insect control, improved
yield, and better adapted cultivars. The sixth photograph shows cucumbers being grown in a rice paddy.
Additional work was recommended for the growers to run performance
trials on new cultivars and production practices. In the future,
their scientists should be provided with new research and training
opportunities through cooperative exchange programs with NCSU.