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Fruit Set of Triploid Watermelons as a Function of Distance from a Diploid Pollinizer


Abstract and Figures

During 1998 and 1999, 'Genesis' triploid watermelons [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nak.] were grown in large blocks with a single row of the diploid 'Ferarri' planted as a pollinizer in the middle. A once-over harvest each year was made in harvest lanes 0, 1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, 7.5, and 9.0 m perpendicular distances from the pollinizer row. Individual fruit were weighed and counted. Data from both years indicated a similar distribution of triploid fruit with respect to distance from the pollinizer row. The greatest number of triploid fruit per unit land area was in the harvest row 3.0 m from the pollinizer row. When distance from the pollinizer row was 6.0 m or greater, triploid fruit numbers diminished substantially. Yield estimates made each year using the fruit density data suggested that a 1 pollinizer: 4 triploid ratio gave the maximum total triploid fruit yield per hectare for 1.5-m row spacings. These results should prove useful in designing field planting strategies to optimize triploid watermelon production.
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HORTSCIENCE 36(1):60–61. 2001.
Received for publication 10 Dec. 1999. Accepted
for publication 26 June 2000. A contribution of the
Univ. of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations,
Georgia Station, Griffin. This research was sup-
ported by state and Hatch Act funds allocated to the
Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations. The cost
of publishing this paper was defrayed in part by the
payment of page charges. Under postal regulations,
this paper therefore must be hereby marked adver-
tisement solely to indicate this fact.
1Professor. E-mail address: snesmit@gaes.griffin.
2Assistant Professor.
Fruit Set of Triploid Watermelons
as a Function of Distance from a
Diploid Pollinizer
D. Scott NeSmith1
Department of Horticulture, Georgia Station, Griffin, GA 30223-1797
John R. Duval2
University of Florida, GCREC–Dover, 13138 Lewis Gallagher Road, Dover,
FL 33257
Additional index words. seedless watermelon, pollination, pollinizer ratio, Citrullus lanatus
Abstract. During 1998 and 1999, ‘Genesis’ triploid watermelons [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.)
Matsum. & Nak.] were grown in large blocks with a single row of the diploid ‘Ferarri’
planted as a pollinizer in the middle. A once-over harvest each year was made in harvest
lanes 0, 1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, 7.5, and 9.0 m perpendicular distances from the pollinizer row.
Individual fruit were weighed and counted. Data from both years indicated a similar
distribution of triploid fruit with respect to distance from the pollinizer row. The greatest
number of triploid fruit per unit land area was in the harvest row 3.0 m from the pollinizer
row. When distance from the pollinizer row was 6.0 m or greater, triploid fruit numbers
diminished substantially. Yield estimates made each year using the fruit density data
suggested that a 1 pollinizer : 4 triploid ratio gave the maximum total triploid fruit yield
per hectare for 1.5-m row spacings. These results should prove useful in designing field
planting strategies to optimize triploid watermelon production.
watermelons should provide a good triploid
crop. Maynard and Elmstrom (1992) advised
that every third row of a triploid watermelon
field should be planted with a pollinizer. Par-
sons et al. (1992) recommended that one-third
of the plants in a seedless watermelon produc-
tion field be a standard (diploid) cultivar that is
dissimilar in appearance from the triploid
cultivar (for ease of identification). For the
most part, these recommendations have been
based more on experience than on research
findings. The objective of this research was to
determine pollinizer frequency requirements
for optimizing triploid watermelon produc-
tion per unit land area.
Materials and Methods
In 1998 and 1999, ‘Genesis’ (Shamrock
Seed Co., Salinas, Calif.) triploid watermel-
ons were grown in a field with ‘Ferrari’ (Sham-
rock Seed Co.) as a pollinizer at the Georgia
Experiment Station in Griffin. The soil was a
Cecil sandy clay loam (clayey, kaolinitic, ther-
mic Typic Hapludult). The design was a single
factor (distance), replicated experiment, which
consisted of a single row of the pollinizer
(‘Ferrari’) with six rows of the triploid (‘Gen-
esis’) planted on either side. Four large blocks
or replications of the planting design were
established each year. Row width used was 1.5
m, in-row spacing of plants was 1.2 m, and
individual rows were 24.4 m long. A buffer
distance was left between blocks so that the
closest distance to a pollinizer plant for any
triploid would be in its own block. All plants
were established using 5-week-old transplants.
Field planting dates were 20 May 1998 and 18
May 1999. Fertilization, pesticide applica-
tion, and irrigation practices recommended by
the Univ. of Georgia Cooperative Extension
Service were used in growing the crop (Mizelle,
1988). Pollination relied solely on natural pol-
linators; no supplemental bees were used.
Once-over harvests of ‘Genesis’ fruit
occurred on 4 Aug. 1998 and 10 Aug. 1999.
Each 1.5-m wide row was harvested sepa-
rately. All fruit >10 cm in diameter were
harvested and weighed. The harvest strategy
provided 1.5 × 24.4-m harvest lanes that had
centers 1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, 7.5, and 9.0 m per-
pendicular distances from the center of the
pollinizer row. The triploid watermelons that
were in the pollinizer row (due to vine growth
Triploid, or “seedless”, watermelons are
becoming increasingly popular among con-
sumers. Marr and Gast (1991) indicated that
consumers were willing to pay 50% more for
seedless watermelons than for traditional
seeded watermelons. Karst (1990) suggested
that there is a potential for seedless watermel-
ons to gain up to 50% of the market share.
Because of this enthusiasm of consumers for
seedless watermelons, growers are also be-
coming more interested in producing the spe-
cialty crop. Many traditional seeded water-
melon cultural practices can be utilized in
growing triploid watermelons, but there are a
few key differences. A major difference is that
triploid watermelons are sparse pollen pro-
ducers; therefore, a source of pollen (tradi-
tional diploid watermelon cultivar) must be
planted with triploids (Maynard and Elmstrom,
There are few published data on the
pollinizer frequency requirement for optimum
pollination and fruit production of triploid
watermelons. Kihara (1951) suggested that
one diploid pollinizer per four to five triploid
Fig. 1. Fruit number of ‘Genesis’ triploid watermelon as a function of distance from pollinizer row during 1998
and 1999 at Griffin, Ga. The pollinizer was ‘Ferrari’. Each vertical bar represents one 1.5-m-wide row. The
0 distance represents the location of the pollinizer row. Standard errors are depicted by vertical lines.
across rows) were also harvested (0 m from the
pollinizer). Harvest lanes of the specified dis-
tances were designated on each side of the
pollinizer row (east and west) to determine if
there was a “directional” effect on fruit density.
Results and Discussion
Overall, fruit yield for the rows of ‘Genesis’
plants varied depending on their distance from
the pollinizer row (Fig. 1). The patterns of fruit
density across the rows were similar for both
years. The pollinizer row itself (0 m distance)
had some triploid watermelons because of vine
growth from nearby plants. The first triploid
row adjacent to the pollinizer had a substantial
number of ‘Genesis’ watermelons, but the great-
est number of seedless watermelons per unit
area were present in the second row (3.0 m
distance) away from the pollinizer each year.
The number of triploid watermelons dimin-
ished by 37% to 40% from the second to the
third row (4.5 m distance). The remaining rows
(distances of 6.0, 7.5, and 9.0 m) set very few
fruit, suggesting that distances of 6.0 m or
Fig. 2. Estimates of yield (total fruit number/ha) of ‘Genesis’ triploid watermelon in response to different
pollinizer : triploid row ratios during 1998 and 1999. The pollinizer was ‘Ferrari’. Estimates are based
on 1.5-m row widths.
greater from the pollinizer row are too great for
adequate pollination, either because of the dis-
tance from the pollen source, or pollen dilution
and/or lack of bee visits.
Directionally biased pollen flow was not
apparent in the planting blocks of these experi-
ments. Fruit yields were similar for triploid
rows planted equal distances on either side of
the pollinizer row (data not shown). Also,
there were no differences in average indi-
vidual fruit weight or percentage of market-
able fruit (data not shown) from the different
harvest lanes, only in total fruit number per
unit area.
Using the fruit density results from the
1998 and 1999 field experiments, yield pro-
jections for different pollinizer : triploid ratios
were calculated (Fig. 2). Estimates of fruit
yield/ha increased with increasing number of
triploid rows up to a ratio of one pollinizer to
four triploid rows in both years. A trend to-
ward declining yields/ha was apparent as the
number of triploid rows per pollinizer row
increased beyond four. Triploid yield (fruit/
ha) for the current, commonly used ratio of 1:2
(every third row a pollinizer) was 25% less
than that resulting from the 1:4 ratio in 1998
and 1999.
The triploid yield estimates in these experi-
ments were based on 1.5-m row widths. This
would probably be very acceptable for triploid
watermelons, since vine coverage area tends to
be smaller than that of traditional seeded water-
melons. NeSmith (1993) reported that diploid
watermelons grown in 1.5-m-wide rows at in-
row spacings of 0.9 m yielded 29% to 34%
more than did watermelons planted at in-row
spacings of 2.1 m. When deciding on pollinizer
ratio using data from the current study, one
must consider that increasing row width be-
yond 1.5 m may slightly modify calculations of
yields. The current data indicated that when
distance from the pollinizer row approached
6.0 m, triploid fruit number declined sharply.
Therefore, if growers use 1.8-m row widths,
perhaps a ratio of 1:3 would be best.
In summary, triploid watermelons do re-
quire a pollinizer and adequate pollinator insect
activity for successful fruit set. Growers should
realize that exceeding distances of 6.0 m from
the diploid pollinizer will probably reduce
yields. Also, planting too many pollinizers
(i.e., ratios of 1:1 and 1:2) will reduce triploid
yields. The results presented here suggest that
triploid yields per unit land area would be
optimized using a ratio of 1 pollinizer row : 4
triploid rows for 1.5-m row widths.
Literature Cited
Karst, T. 1990. Seedless watermelon sure to grow.
The Grower 23(8):61.
Kihara, H. 1951. Triploid watermelons. Proc. Amer.
Soc. Hort. Sci. 58:217–230.
Marr, C.W. and K.L.B. Gast. 1991. Reactions by
consumers in a farmers’ market to prices for
seedless watermelon and ratings of eating qual-
ity. HortTechnology. 1:105–106.
Maynard, D.N. and G.W. Elmstrom. 1992. Triploid
watermelon production practices and varieties.
Acta Hort. 318:169–173.
Mizelle, W.O., Jr. 1988. Commercial watermelon
production. Coop. Ext. Serv. Publ. B-996. Univ.
of Georgia, Athens.
NeSmith, D.S. 1993. Plant spacing influences
watermelon yield and yield components.
HortScience 28:885–887.
Parsons, J., L. Stein, T. Longbrake, S. Cotner, and J.
Johnson. 1992. Seedless watermelon produc-
tion. Agr. Ext. Serv. Bul. L-2303. Texas A&M
Univ., College Station.
... Traditionally, growers cultivated seeded cultivars as dedicated rows between every third or fourth row of seedless plants. Early planting trials suggested that pollen donor frequency should be 16-20% (1:4 or 1:5) (Kihara, 1951), but more recently, optimum yield from seedless watermelon was reported with a pollen donor frequency of 20-33% (mostly 1:3) (NeSmith and Duval, 2001;Fiacchino and Walters, 2003;. Thus, dedicated row systems allow for only 67-80% seedless cultivars in the field. ...
... Distance to pollen donor can affect yield in seedless watermelon cultivars. NeSmith and Duval (2001) assessed fruit set in sat distances between 3m-9m from a pollen donor. They found that fruit set decreased with distance from a pollen donor, with optimum yield was obtained with a seedless to pollen donor distance of 3 m, in traditional seeded rows. ...
Many commercially grown fruits and vegetables benefit substantially from biotic pollination, worth more than US$ 316 bn to the global economy. Watermelon is one of the most economically important global food crops both in terms of production quantity (118.4 million tons (MT)) and production value (GDP US$ 33.9 million). Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the pollination ecology of seeded and seedless watermelons. Specifically we compare the floral biology, pollination requirements and production. Triploid watermelon cultivars (seedless) are becoming more widespread compared to traditional diploids (seeded). However, few published studies have focused on seedless cultivars due to their relatively recent cultivation. The results of this review indicate that different watermelon genotypes require specific management to ensure optimal production.
... This experimental design spaced the trip- loid watermelon from a pollenizer cultivar by 24 ft. NeSmith and Duval (2001) illustrated that when distance of a triploid from a pollenizer was 6.0 m or greater, triploid fruit numbers diminished substantially. Triploid pis- tillate flowers ('Tri-X Palomar') in plot buffers served to filter viable diploid pollen before pollinators entered another plot. ...
As triploid watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) increase in popularity, production has shifted away from seeded watermelons. To achieve successful fruit set in triploid watermelons, a diploid watermelon cultivar must be planted as a pollen source. Three diploid cultivars in 2005 and seven diploid cultivars in 2006 were evaluated at one and three locations, respectively, to determine their effectiveness as pollenizers. Each cultivar was planted within plots of the triploid watermelons 'Tri-X 313' (2005) and 'Supercrisp' (2006) with buffers on all sides of the plots to contain pollen flow within individual plots. Performance of pollenizers was based on triploid watermelon yield, soluble solids concentration, and incidence of hollowheart. In 2005, there were no significant differences in total weight, fruit per acre, average weight, or soluble solids concentration among pollenizers. In 2006, significant differences in yield were observed, and plots with 'Sidekick' as a pollenizer yielded the highest but were not significantly different from 'Patron', 'SP-1', 'Jenny', or 'Mickylee'. In 2006, there were no significant differences in fruit per acre, soluble solids concentration, or incidence of hollowheart between pollenizers. The experimental design was successful in isolating pollenizers and there was minimal pollen flow outside of experimental plots as indicated by minimal fruit set in control plots.
... Pollenizer frequencies ranging from 20% to 33% of the total plants in the field have been recommended (Fiacchino and Walters, 2003;Maynard, 2003;NeSmith and Duval, 2001). These findings are based on various field arrangements. ...
Diploid watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) pollenizers are planted within triploid watermelon fields to provide viable pollen for triploid fruit set. In recent years, pollenizer cultivars with desirable characteristics for planting in-row with triploid watermelons have been commercially available. The degree of plant competition from in-row pollenizers grown in the commercially common arrangement where pollenizers are placed equidistant from neighboring triploid plants has not been reported. Field experiments were conducted in 2005, 2006, and 2007 in Quincy, FL, to examine the competitive impact of in-row pollenizers grown equidistant from neighboring triploid plants. Four ratios of pollenizers-to-triploids: 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4 were used to provide various levels of pollenizer competition. No significant difference in yield based on the weight or number of fruit per triploid plant resulted from the varied pollenizer ratios. Therefore, pollenizers grown in-row at an equidistant spacing from the neighboring triploid plants had no competitive impact on the yield of the triploid watermelon crop.
... Seedless watermelons are generally smaller in size than seeded watermelons. Over the past 15 years, the introduction of new triploid hybrids with improved seed germination and improved production practices have resulted in increased cost-effective, seedless watermelon production (Maynard and Elmstrom, 1992;Motsenbocker and Arancibia, 2002;NeSmith and Duval, 2001;Walters, 2005). Seedless watermelon production now comprises >70% of the watermelon shipments in the United States (USDA, 2004). ...
The goal of this study was to evaluate miniwatermelon (Citrullus lanatus) cultivars/experimental hybrids (cultigens) for yield, quality, and adaptability in various growing environments. Eighteen cultigens were evaluated in field locations at southern Florida (Bradenton), northern Florida (Quincy), central South Carolina (Blackville), coastal South Carolina (Charleston), and eastern North Carolina (Kinston). Fruit at each site were harvested when watermelons in several plots were at market maturity. Fruit were categorized as marketable if they weighed between 3.0 and 9.0 lb. Fruit were categorized by size as follows: ≤3.0 lb (cull), 3.1-5.0 lb, 5.1-7.0 lb, 7.1-9.0 lb, and ≥9.1 lb (cull). Fruit were graded according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grading standards for all watermelon fruit. We found that eight cultigens (Meilhart, Petite Perfection, Precious Petite, Little Deuce Coupe, RWT 8162, Master, Bibo, and Vanessa) were consistently among the top yielding and four cultigens (HA 5138, HA 5117, Petite Treat, and Valdoria) were consistently among the lowest yielding. These had a consistent yield response regardless of location. Within the small marketable melon category (3.1-5.0 lb), 'Bibo', 'Precious Petite', and RWT 8162 produced a uniform fruit over the five locations. Within the medium marketable melon category (5.1-7.0 lb) 'Meilhart', 'Little Deuce Coupe', HA 5109, 'Xite', 'Mohican', SR 8101, and 'Vanessa' produced uniform fruit size over the five locations. HA 5117, HA 5109, 'Extazy', 'Mohican', 'Petite Treat', and 'Valdoria' produced more fruit in the larger category. Those cultigens that produced melons that were consistently >9.0 lb were HA 5138, HA 5117, Bobbie, and Valdoria. The larger USDA marketable class (7.1-9.0 lb) was considered too large to be in the miniwatermelon market. We found five cultigens that provided consistently high soluble solids readings at each location: Master, RWT 8162, Betsy, Bobbie, and Bibo. We sampled only five fruit at each location for internal quality, and found dark seeds in all of the cultigens in at least one of the locations. Rind thickness and fruit shape did not appear to be influenced by test site location.
... Unlike diploid plants, triploid watermelon plants do not produce sufficient viable pollen to pollenize themselves (Maynard, 1992;Maynard and Elmstrom, 1992). To achieve optimal triploid watermelon yields, 20% to 33% of the plants in the field should be diploid, because a diploid cultivar can provide pollen for the pollination of the triploids (Fiacchino and Walters, 2003;NeSmith and Duval, 2001). Traditionally, dedicated rows were set aside for the diploid cultivars. ...
Successful fruit set in triploid watermelons [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] requires a diploid watermelon cultivar, or pollenizer, to be planted nearby as a pollen source. Pollenizer cultivars have been developed to be planted in-row with triploid plants without spacing change, which decreases area per plant. These cultivars have different growth habits, from highly reduced foliage to standard foliage, and it is uncertain how pollenizer growth habit may affect triploid plant growth and yield. Two diploid watermelon pollenizers, 'Mickylee' and 'SP-1', with markedly different growth habits were planted at five in-row spacings from triploid plants to determine the effect of plant competition on triploid watermelon yield. All treatments used a 1:1 pollenizer to triploid ratio to measure the direct effect of pollenizer growth on associated triploid yields. Experiments were conducted at two locations during Spring 2006 (Quincy and Citra, FL) and one during Fall 2006 (Quincy). Triploid plants paired with 'Mickylee' yielded 11.4% (Citra) and 22.4% (Quincy) less weight in the spring and 8.5% less in the fall than plants paired with 'SP-1' and also produced fewer fruits per plant. However, the results from the fall trial were not significant. Pollenizer to triploid spacing had a linear effect on yield per plant and fruits per plant, and there was no interaction between pollenizer cultivar and spacing. The use of 'Mickylee' as a pollenizer may be an attractive option because of lower seed costs compared with other pollenizers, but these results indicated lower triploid watermelon yields from plants paired with 'Mickylee', which is most likely a result of increased plant competition.
Odd-allotetraploid lily ‘Honesty’ (LAAA) is a new type of allotetraploid. It would be valuable for lily breeding to analyze its meiosis and fertility. In this study, the odd-allotetraploid lily was investigated for its meiosis and fertility using conventional method, and its progenies were analyzed with genomic in situ hybridization. The results showed that many stages of its microsporogenesis seemed to be normal but some chromosomes were lagged at telophase II and tetrad; only about 6.3% of its pollen grains germinated, much lower than that of diploid or tetraploid Asiatic lilies; Regardless of its high male sterility, it could be hybridized with diploid and tetraploid Asiatic lilies, however, it was much more compatible with tetraploid than with diploid Asiatic lilies; their progenies were usually aneuploid. The results are similar to those reported in allotriploid lilies. Triploid is usually regarded as bottleneck for introgression breeding in polygonum-type crops; nevertheless, Lilium are Fritillaria-type plants, allotriploid or odd-allotetraploid could be good source for lily introgression breeding.
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Consumers in six farmers' market locations in Kansas indicated that they would pay an additional 5¢ per pound for seedless watermelons. When asked to rate seeded and seedless melons on a 1 to 10 scale after tasting samples, consumers rated the seedless melon 7.35 and the seeded melon 7.01. There were no practical differences among the six locations studied. With the difficulties in growing seedless melons and greater costs of production, growers and marketers need to assess carefully the market potential for seedless watermelons and plan a merchandis-ing strategy to differentiate seedless from seeded melons. Our studies indicated a slight eating quality preference for seedless melons. S eedless watermelons have be-come more popular in the past several years. Seedless cultivars are estimated currently at 5% of the commercial watermelon market, with a potential share of 15% to 50% (Karst, 1990). Much of the seedless melon market may be driven by sales of cut melons for produce counters, salad bars, institutional servings, and similar outlets with an emphasis on mer-chandising (Unrein, 1990).
Seedless watermelon sure to grow
  • T Karst
Karst, T. 1990. Seedless watermelon sure to grow. The Grower 23(8):61.
Commercial watermelon production
  • W O Mizelle
  • Jr
Mizelle, W.O., Jr. 1988. Commercial watermelon production. Coop. Ext. Serv. Publ. B-996. Univ. of Georgia, Athens.
Seedless watermelon production
  • J Parsons
  • L Stein
  • T Longbrake
  • S Cotner
  • J Johnson
Parsons, J., L. Stein, T. Longbrake, S. Cotner, and J. Johnson. 1992. Seedless watermelon production. Agr. Ext. Serv. Bul. L-2303. Texas A&M Univ., College Station.