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Sprite Type Melons

North Carolina produces hundreds of acres of 'Sprite' type melons as part of its specialty crops program. Fruit of the 'Sprite' type are small, oval, white skinned, white fleshed, crisp textured, and have a sweet taste.

The North Carolina melon breeding and production programs are developing new 'Sprite' type cultivars for use by growers in the state. Funding is provided by the GoldenLEAF Foundation, NC Agricultural Research Service, and NC Cooperative Extension. The new cultivars being developed will have high yield, early maturity, and high quality, as demanded by consumers used to the melons from specialty crop growers.

Oriental Crisp-Flesh Melon Cultivars

Oriental crisp-flesh melons (Cucumis melo L.) have been a popular specialty crop in North Carolina for the past few years.  Seven inbreds (NC-301, NC-302, NC-303, NC-304, NC-305, NC-306, and NC-309) and four hybrids ('NC-Sparta', 'NC-Sapphire', 'NC-Star' and 'NC-Stella') are being released by North Carolina State University for use by that industry.  As with most cucurbit cultivars released from N.C. State, 'NC-Sparta', 'NC-Sapphire', 'NC-Star' and 'NC-Stella' were named for places in North Carolina.  'NC-Sparta' is the F1 of NC-301 x NC-304, 'NC-Sapphire' is the F1 of NC-303 x NC-309, 'NC-Star' is the F1 of NC-302 x NC-305, and 'NC-Stella' is the F1 of NC-302 x NC-306.  The inbreds have been self-pollinated past the S7 generation.  Selection was for fruit shape, smooth rind, crisp flesh texture, white flesh color, high sugar content, Sprite melon flavor, high marketable yield, early maturity, small seed cavity, freedom from defects, resistance to downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis), and resistance to powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii).  There was also selection for basic growth and reproduction traits, including good seed yield, rapid seed germination and emergence, and rapid vine growth and flowering.

Development of the families began in 2002 with the intercross of 'Sprite' F1 in isolation.  The F2 progeny were then planted in the greenhouse in the fall and spring for self-pollination of 340 single plants per generation.  In summer 2003, 115 F4 families (plus 'Sprite' checks) were tested in replicated progeny rows.  Field tests were run at 2 locations (Clinton and Kinston, NC) with 2 replications and 2 harvests.  The best S4 progeny were then planted in the greenhouse in the fall and spring for self-pollination of 340 single plants per generation.  In summer 2004, 127 S6 white-skinned and 75 yellow-skinned families (plus 'Sprite' checks) were tested in replicated progeny rows at 2 locations with 2 replications and 2 harvests.  The best S7 progeny were then planted in the greenhouse in the fall and spring for self-pollination of 340 single plants per generation.  In summer 2005, 73 F1 hybrids and 51 inbreds (plus 'Sprite' checks) were tested in replicated progeny rows at 2 locations with 2 replications and 2 harvests.  In summer 2006, 9 F1 hybrids and 12 inbreds (plus 'Sprite' checks) were tested in replicated progeny rows at 2 locations with 4 replications and 5 harvests.

Seeds of the hybrids and inbreds are available to interested plant breeders who sign an intellectual property agreement.

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