Watermelon Pollenizer Choice Makes a Difference

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist; gcjohn@udel.edu

Research on pollenizers for seedless watermelon production in several production regions including Delmarva, Georgia, and Indiana have shown some interesting results. The bottom line is that pollenizer selection can be as important for overall yield, fruit quality, and early crown set as the triploid seedless variety selected.

I recently attended a presentation by Cecelia McGregor from the University of Georgia who conducted research showing that early flowering differed with pollenizers and seedless varieties and that some combinations were better matched than others. This has also been the case in research conducted at the University of Delaware where field surveys and pollenizer trials showed significant differences in effectiveness with different pollenizers. Results of some of the work in Delaware were summarized in the WCU article titled Watermelon Pollenizer Variety Selection Matters from April 26, 2012.

An interesting point to consider is that no one pollenizer is perfect for achieving high early sets, high later sets, reduced hollow heart, and total over all yields. In addition, some standard seeded and special pollenizers are better suited for in-row use than others.

The following are some thoughts on how to get achieve the best results for seedless watermelon production with pollenizer choice:

● For in-row use, choose only those pollenizers that provide good male flower production but that are not overly competitive. Most special pollenizers work well, but fewer standard seeded types are adapted to in-row use (Stargazer, Mickylee, hybrid “sugar baby” types). In contrast, the more vigorous seeded types are well suited for separate bed systems.

● Consider using two pollenizers in a field. Choose a good early flowering type for effective early yield and long flowering type for sustained yield. Surveys have shown good results where this type of combination has been used.

● In fields where diseases are a concern such as second year fields, or those that have had shorter rotations, use only pollenizers with good disease resistance packages. For example, research in Indiana has shown that some pollenizers are much more susceptible to anthracnose and Fusarium wilt than others. Tables summarizing disease resistance reactions from the screening done in Indiana is in the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide online at: http://mwveguide.org/90_Cucurbits.pdf.