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Charles Fredric Andrus

Watermelon Breeder

Charles Fredric Andrus, known as Fred by friends and associates over the years, was born on January 21, 1906. He attended a rural school in Mr. Carmel, Illinois, completing high school in 1924. He studied agriculture at the State Normal University in Illinois intending to become a teacher. Fred transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. where he completed an A.B. degree with distinction and honors in botany in 1931 and an M.A. in 1932. Although working full time from 1932 to 1937, he continued taking graduate courses in Plant Pathology and Genetics at the University of Maryland.

Fred Andrus transferred to the U.S.D.A. Vegetable Breeding Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina in 1938, where he was a vegetable Plant Pathologist until 1948. He was than reclassified as a Horticulturist and continued his work developing disease resistant vegetables and emphasizing improvement in important horticultural characteristics so that the varieties released became of great value to the vegetable industry Although he developed many fine vegetable varieties, his introduction of 'Congo', the first anthracnose resistant watermelon made a dramatic impact on the watermelon industry. 'Congo' demonstrated that new watermelon varieties to succeed in the southern states should have anthracnose resistance.

He was asked about a gray breeding line that looked promising in Warren Barham's North Carolina test “Why consider gray rind watermelon when there are so many gray rind failures?” Fred replied “I am convinced that the coat color will not prevent the acceptance of a fine quality Fusarium and anthracnose resistant watermelon if it produces high yields of the size and shape wanted by shippers (long, 20-30 lb fruit), with a relatively thin rind tough enough to hold in shipment. He also said, “The gray rind will also help reflect sunlight and reduce the sunscald problem common to dark rind watermelons.” The tremendous popularity of 'Charleston Gray', the first anthracnose and Fusarium wilt resistant watermelon, with growers, shippers, and consumers demonstrated Fred's unique ingenuity to recognize important characteristics as building blocks and the ability to put them together in the final product.

Fred Andrus developed screening techniques including production of the inoculum, determining concentration and methods of inoculation to effectively infect susceptible lines permitting the identification of varying levels of resistance and the selection of plants possessing resistance and desirable horticultural characteristics. Fred's plant pathology training was also of value in his ability to encourage plant pathologists' participation in the collaborative research and testing programs he initiated. It was encouraging for horticulturists who were fortunate enough to have competent plant pathologists and other discipline scientists working closely with us to see Fred's successful efforts in stimulating collaborative work by horticulturists, plant pathologists, entomologists, and agronomists in all the southern states.

Watermelon cultivars and breeding lines developed by Andrus:

  • 1950 - Congo
  • 1952 - Ironsides
  • 1952 - Fairfax
  • 1953 - Dunbarton
  • 1954 - Charleston Gray
  • 1956 - Blackstone
  • 1957 - Garrisonian
  • 1963 - Graybelle
  • 1969 - Summerfield
  • 1962 - 59-1 (Sugar Baby type)
  • 1962 - 59-6 (Sugar Baby type)
  • 1962 - Tetra 1 (tetraploid)
  • 1962 - Tetra 2 (tetraploid)
  • 1962 - Tetra 3 (tetraploid)
  • 1969 - 55-6 (wilt-resistant Congo)

Fred's modest demeanor and helpful attitude contributed to his success in organizing germplasm exchange and cooperative testing programs that advanced the breeding of vegetables adapted to the southern United States. It is also recognized by the vegetable industry that Fred's generosity and leadership plus his personal vegetable variety contributions not only contributed tremendously during his 42-year employment but are having lasting influence and value to the horticulture profession.

Providing skilled graduates, scientific research, and useful germplasm to the cucurbit industry
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maintained by T.C. Wehner; last revised on 20 June, 2010