Watermelon Pollenizer Variety Selection Matters

Emmalea Ernest, Extension Associate-Vegetable Crops; emmalea@udel.edu

For several years now seed companies have been offering special pollenizer varieties for use in the in-row planting scheme for seedless watermelon production. Ideal pollenizers for the in-row system will produce many male flowers throughout the season, be non-competitive with the seedless watermelon plants and possess a high level of disease resistance. Many special pollenizers do not produce marketable fruit.

In 2011 we set up an experiment to evaluate some of the special pollenizer varieties that are available, as well as some seeded Allsweet-type hybrids (large, elongated fruit shape) in an in-row pollenizer planting scheme. The plots in this trial were isolated from one another by at least three rows of seedless watermelons without pollenizers, so we were able to collect meaningful yield data from the seedless melons in the experimental plots and draw conclusions about pollenizer variety performance.

My interpretation of the results from this trial is summarized in the table below. Many of special pollenizers supported a good total yield of seedless melons, however some produced significantly lower yields. In terms of total yield, only one of the Allsweet-type hybrids, ‘Stargazer’, performed as well as the best special pollenizer varieties. The other Allsweet-types were too competitive with the seedless plants, however would still work for dedicated bed systems where they are not growing with the seedless plants. We saw big differences between the special pollenizers in terms of early and late yields. For plantings where you are targeting an early market it will be especially important to choose a pollenizer that isn’t working against your goals. Similarly, pollenizer choice will also affect how long you can keep a field in production, as some pollenizers did not have the longevity of others.

The full report on this trial is available online at: http://ag.udel.edu/extension/vegprogram/documents/2011pollenizer.pdf or by contacting me at (302) 856-7303.

* Allsweet-type hybrid, all others are special pollenizer varieties.