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International Journal of Vegetable Science
ISSN: 1931-5260 (Print) 1931-5279 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wijv20
Development, yield and quality of Cantaloupe
and Honeydew melon in soilless culture in a non-
temperature controlled high tunnel
Boitshepo L. Pulela, Martin M. Maboko, Puffy Soundy & Stephen O. Amoo
To cite this article: Boitshepo L. Pulela, Martin M. Maboko, Puffy Soundy & Stephen O. Amoo
(2020) Development, yield and quality of Cantaloupe and Honeydew melon in soilless culture in a
non-temperature controlled high tunnel, International Journal of Vegetable Science, 26:3, 292-301,
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/19315260.2020.1727075
Published online: 16 Feb 2020.
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Development, yield and quality of Cantaloupe and
Honeydew melon in soilless culture in a non-temperature
controlled high tunnel
Boitshepo L. Pulela
, Martin M. Maboko
, Puffy Soundy
, and Stephen O. Amoo
Department of Crop Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa;
Research Council, Vegetable and Ornamental Plants, Pretoria, South Africa;
College of Agriculture and
Environmental Science, University of South Africa, Roodepoort, South Africa
Yield and quality in cantaloupe, or honeydew melon (both
Cucumis melo L.) are important parameters for cultivar selec-
tion, potentially impacting grower profitability. Information on
melon cultivar performance in soilless systems under non-
temperature controlled (NTC) plastic tunnel is limited. The
cantaloupes, cvs. Majestic, Magritte, Divine, Cyclone, MAB
79001, Adore, E25F.00075 and E25F.00185, and honeydew
melons, cvs. Honey Brew, and Honey Star, were evaluated in
an NTC plastic tunnel in soilless culture for growth, yield and
quality at harvest. Cultivars Divine, Honey Brew, and Honey
Star produced the most fruit per plant, 4 to 6. Plant vine length
was positively correlated with fruit length, fruit diameter and
pericarp thickness. Total soluble solids for all cultivars met
commercial quality standards of 10% with ‘E25F.00185ʹbeing
the highest (12.7%). Fruit juice pH ranged from 5.71 to 6.66.
High yielding cantaloupe were cv. Divine with the highest-
yielding with no difference between honeydew ‘Honey Brew’
and ‘Honey Star.’Cantaloupes had high-quality parameters
compared to honeydew melons. Cultivars Divine, Honey
Brew, and Honey Star were suitable for soilless culture in an
NTC plastic tunnel because of high yields and total soluble
Cucumis melo; cultivar; fruit
cracking; melon; protected
Cantaloupe and honeydew melon (both Cucumis melo L.) vary in develop-
ment, maturation and ripening behavior, and in external color, flesh color,
firmness, seed cavity tissue, soluble solid content, flavor, aroma, size, and
shape (Miccolis and Saltveit, 1995; Pardo et al., 2000). With unique flavor,
shape, and color, melons generally command high prices. These factors
determine eating quality and consumer preference (Hoberg et al., 2003),
and extended seasons could increase grower income.
Naturally ventilated high-tunnel, protected culture are suitable for off-
season cultivation of C. melo (Sugani and Varma, 2014). High, and low,
plastic tunnels have been an important tool for crop diversification and
CONTACT Martin M. Maboko email@example.com College of Agriculture and Environmental Science,
University of South Africa, 28 Pioneer Ave, Florida Park, Roodepoort, South Africa
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF VEGETABLE SCIENCE
2020, VOL. 26, NO. 3, 292–301
© 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
season extension enabling growers to create a microclimate better suited to
warm-season crops such as melons (Lamont, 1996; Wells and Nugent, 1980).
Greater fruit yield/unit area may be achieved in high-tunnel protected culture
than in a field because plants are arranged more uniformly, large gaps
between plants and rows are avoided, and light interception is optimized
(Rodriguez et al., 2007; Vescera and Brown, 2016).
Melon fruit yield is a complex, quantitative trait, governed by several
components which are mutually associated and affected by environment,
with changes in any component likely to disrupt the network of cause and
effect (Reddy et al., 2017). In field grown muskmelon (C. melo L), vine length
and number of branches per vine largely determine photosynthetic area and
flower and fruit-bearing surface, and are regarded as beneficial growth
attributes (Reddy et al., 2017). Melon yield and size are important for
successful marketing and influence market price. Temperature and cultivar
are important factors affecting quality (Pardo et al., 2000). Use of tempera-
ture-controlled greenhouses for soilless production of melon can be prohi-
bitive due to high initial costs, and associated high maintenance costs. Non-
temperature controlled (NTC) plastic tunnels can be used due to low cost
and simplicity as they use natural ventilation to reduce temperature (Maboko
et al., 2012; Perdigones et al., 2005). Natural ventilation, however, may not
sufficiently reduce heat load in NTC (Perdigones et al., 2005). Cultivars may
vary in development and yield in NTC plastic tunnels.
Information on growth, yield and fruit quality of soilless grown melon in
NTC plastic tunnel is limited. Soilless cultivation of melons in NTC plastic
tunnels may be an alternative to field-based monoculture systems. The
objective of the study was to evaluate performance of soilless grown melon
cultivars in an NTC plastic tunnel.
Materials and methods
The experiment was carried out from September 2016 until January 2017 in
aNTC plastic tunnel at the Agricultural Research Council –Vegetable and
Ornamental Plants, Roodeplaat, Pretoria, South Africa (lat. 25°0.59ʹS, long.
28°0.35ʹE; altitude of 1,200 m above sea level). The NTC plastic tunnel relied
on natural ventilation using a flap and door system that could be opened on
each side of the structure. The 10 × 30 × 4.2 m (width × length × height)
NTC plastic tunnel was covered with 200 µm thick light diffusive Evadek
Green Tint plastic (Gundle plastics, Johannesburg, South Africa) and
a 150 µm thick white plastic sheet was placed on the floor, a practice popular
with local commercial growers. Temperatures in the plastic tunnel were on
average 33°C day/15°C night, during the growing season.
Seed of cantaloupe, cvs. Majestic, Magritte, Divine, Cyclone, MAB
79001, Adore, E25F.00075 and E25F.00185, and honeydew melon, cvs.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF VEGETABLE SCIENCE 293
Honey Brew, and Honey Star melon (Table 1), were sown on
5 September 2016 in 128 cavity seedling trays filled with Hygromix®
commercial growing medium (Hygrotech Pty Limited, Pretoria, South
Africa), and covered with a thin layer of vermiculite to produce trans-
plants according to the method described by Maboko and Du Plooy
(2008). ‘Majestic’is a local standard; the others are introductions. Three
weeks after sowing, seedlings with growing medium around roots, were
transplanted into 10 L open plastic bags filled with pine sawdust as
a soilless growing medium. Plants were established at a density of 2.5
, and arranged in a randomized complete block design with 4
Fertilizer composition and chemical concentration recommended by
Hygrotech for melon production using Hygroponic® were: N (68 mg∙kg
), K (208 mg∙kg
), Mg (30 mg∙kg
), S (64 mg∙kg
), Cu (0.022 mg∙kg
), Zn (0.149 mg∙kg
), Mn (0.299 mg∙kg
), and Mo (0.037 mg∙kg
); and calcium nitrate (Solu-Cal®)
) and Ca (166 mg∙kg
)]. Source of N, P and K was
from monoammonium phosphate, potassium nitrate, and potassium sulfate.
Fertilizer was applied plied at transplanting, then 7 times daily until plants were
6-week-old with 500 g Hygroponic® and 500 g Solu-Cal® in 1000 L water.
Thereafter, on a daily basis until last harvest, 800 g Hygroponic® and 800 g Solu-
Cal® were applied per 1000 L water. Plants were irrigated from transplanting
using 1 emitter per plant (discharge rate 2.1 L.h
) at 2 h intervals, 7 times daily
(total daily irrigation during the growing season ranged from 280 to 2,205 mL/
plant equivalent to 1 to 9 min, respectively). The irrigation volume was gradually
increased as plants enlarged to ensure 10–15% of water drained from planting
bags daily to reduce buildup of salts in the medium. Beginning 3 weeks after
transplanting, plants were pruned twice weekly to maintain a single stem and
vertically trained to a stray wire to a 2 m length. From the eighth week, plants
were hand pollinated weekly beginning at opening of first flowers. The flap of
the tunnel was left partially open to allow natural pollination of flowers by
honeybees (Apis mellifera).
Number of leaves were counted, and plant vine length measurements
recorded beginning 28 days after transplanting, at an interval of 2 weeks,
on 10 randomly chosen plants per replicate throughout the growing season
until vines reached 2 m, after which plants were lowered to 1.4 m for
continuous vertical growth.
Physiologically mature (full-slip) melon fruit were harvested 10 weeks
after transplanting when cantaloupe cvs. Magritte, MAB 79001, Majestic,
Adore, Divine, Cyclone, E 25 F.00075, E 25 F.00185 skin color had turned
from green to golden yellow, and developed a raised, well-rounded/corky
net appearance of the rind and musky smell. Honeydew melons cvs.
Honey Star and Honey Brew fruit were harvested when the rind had
294 B. L. PULELA ET AL.
Table 1. Description of cantaloupe and honeydew melon cultivars included in the study.
Cultivar Sweet melon type Rind color Flesh color Rind texture Fruit seed cavity Fruit shape Fruit size (kg/fruit)
Majestic Eastern shipper Light green Salmon-orange White netting Very small Oval 1.8–2.2
Magritte Cantaloupe Light green Deep orange Netted, sutures Small Round 1.0–2.2
Divine Eastern shipper Yellow Salmon-orange White netting Very small Oval 1.8–2.5
Honey Brew Honeydew Creamy white Pale green Smooth Medium Oval 1.8–2.3
Honey Star Honeydew Creamy white Pale green Smooth Small Round 1.5–2.5
Cyclone Cantaloupe Light yellow Deep orange Well-netted Medium Round/oval 1.8–2.6
MAB 79001 Cantaloupe Light green Deep orange Netted, sutures Small Round 1.0–2.0
Adore Eastern shipper Yellow Salmon-orange White netting Small Oval 1.5–2.0
E25F.00075 Cantaloupe Light yellow Salmon-orange Netted Small/medium Round/oval 1.5–2.5
E25F.00185 Cantaloupe Yellow Salmon-orange Netted Small/medium Round/oval 1.5–2.5
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF VEGETABLE SCIENCE 295
in the morning using pruning shears with 1 harvest per week. Marketable
and total yields were determined on 10 plants per plot. Cracked and
unripe fruit were culled. At the final harvest (16 January 2017) all fruit,
including culls were harvested from all plants. Length and diameter of
harvested fruit were determined, with fruit cut longitudinally from stem-
to blossom-end through the ground spot using a sharp knife, to determine
For determination of total soluble solids (TSS) and pH of melon juice, 10
fruit per replicate were peeled, sliced and placed in a laboratory blender to
produce a puree. The puree was squeezed and filtered by gravity through
cheese cloth to produce juice. The TSS and pH of the juice were deter-
mined using a hand-held refractometer(modelPAL-1,Atago,Tokyo,
Japan) and pH meter (Hanna Instruments Inc., Port Louis, Mauritius),
Data were transformed, where applicable, before being subjected to ana-
lysis of variance in GenStat® (ver. 11.1, Rothamsted, UK). Means were
separated using Fisher’s protected t-test least significant difference. Pearson
correlation analysis in XLSTAT (ver. 17.04.36025 Add-in-soft, New York)
was used to determine associations between characters.
Results and discussion
The longest vines were from ‘Adore,’‘Divine,’‘Honey Star,’and ‘Honey
Brew’; the shortest from ‘MAB 79001ʹand ‘E25F.00075ʹ(Table 2). Vine
Table 2. Growth and quality parameters of soilless grown cantaloupe and honeydew melon
cultivars at harvest.
Cultivar Plant vine length
17.1a 15.3a 4.6ab 10.65de 6.34a
Magritte 155.0bc 12.9de 12.5e 3.9cde 11.33bcd 6.35a
Divine 174.2ab 17.2a 15.1ab 4.8a 10.99cde 6.28a
163.9abc 17.2a 13.7cd 3.9de 10.64de 5.71c
Honey Star 171.2ab 15.4bc 14.0bcd 4.0cde 10.19e 5.82bc
Cyclone 154.4bc 15.9ab 14.7abc 4.7ab 10.31de 6.40a
128.3d 12.7e 12.3e 3.8e 11.76abc 5.65c
Adore 185.5a 17.0a 14.5abc 4.3bc 10.35de 6.21ab
E25F.00075 146.2cd 14.2cd 13.3de 4.2cd 12.18ab 6.50a
E25F.00185 152.9bc 14.2cd 13.6cd 4.3bc 12.69a 6.66a
0.05 22.9 1.3 1.1 0.4 1.097 0.4475
values in columns followed by the same letter are not significantly different, P ≤0.05, Fisher’s protected
LSD = least significant difference.
296 B. L. PULELA ET AL.
lengths for ‘Majestic,’‘Magritte,’‘Cyclone,’and ‘E25F.00185ʹwere similar
(Table 2). Cultivar did not affect leaf number per plant (avg. 25.2).
Fruit length indirectly increases yield and is considered an important trait
in selecting improved melon genotypes (Venkatesan et al., 2016). Cultivar
affected fruit length and diameter (Table 2). ‘Majestic,’‘Divine,’‘Honey
Brew,’‘Adore,’and ‘Cyclone’had the longest fruit; ‘MAB 79001ʹand
‘Magritte’had shorter fruit. ‘Magritte’,‘E25F.00075ʹand ‘MAB 79001ʹpro-
duced narrow fruit. ‘Majestic,’‘Divine,’‘Adore,’and ‘Cyclone’had fruit with
greater fruit diameter. Fruit length was greater than diameter in all cultivars
(Table 2). Oblong to oval shape melons are preferred as they are easier to
handle transport, pack, and market. A significant, positive, correlation
existed between fruit length and fruit diameter (Table 3). Generally, longer,
wider melons indicate marketable sized fruit of good quality.
The cvs. Majestic, Divine, and Cyclone had thicker pericarps. Those with
thinner pericarps were ‘MAB79001ʹ,‘Magritte,’‘Honey Star,’and ‘Honey Brew.’
Pericarp thickness increased with increase in fruit length and diameter (Table 3).
There was a significant, positive correlation between vine length, fruit length, fruit
diameter, and pericarp thickness (Table 3). Positive associations of vine length with
number of branches per vine, number of fruit per vine, fruit cavity length, and fruit
yield; and of pulp thickness with fruit diameter, fruit cavity width, and rind
thickness have been reported (Reddy et al., 2017). These attributes contribute to
improvement in yield, quality, and consumer acceptance.
Total soluble solids index is a quality parameter used to determine sweet-
ness, ripeness, and marketability of melons. For the commercial market,
melon fruit TSS should be ≥10% Brix and below that melons are not usually
suitable (Anonymous, 2006). The highest TSS content was for cvs.
E25F.00185, E25F.00075 and MAB790001; cvs. Majestic, Divine, Honey
Brew, Honey Star, Cyclone, and Adore had low TSS content (Table 2).
Despite variation, % Brix in all cultivars met commercial and local, quality
standards for sweet melons (10% Brix) with ≥11% Brix required for premium
markets (Burger et al., 2000; Paris et al., 2012).
Cultivars E25F.00185, Majestic, Magritte, Divine, Cyclone, Adore, and
E25F.00075 had the highest mean pH; cvs. MAB 79001, Honey Star and
Honey Brew had the lowest pH values (Table 2). A pH 6.55 occurs at fruit
maturity of melon (Villanueva et al., 2004). Cantaloupes had higher pH than
honeydew melons. Sweet melons are unique among fleshy fruit with pH
values near neutral (Cohen et al., 2014). A pH 6.5, and high soluble solids
contents are indicators of high sugar content (Saftner and Lester, 2009), fruits
are riper, and they contain more flavor volatiles, and these may be useful
parameters to predict consumer preference (Pardo et al., 2000).
There was a direct, positive, correlation between marketable yield and fruit size
(length and diameter), pericarp thickness, total number of fruit per plant, and
number of marketable fruit per plant (Table 3). These characters directly influence
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF VEGETABLE SCIENCE 297
Table 3. Pearson correlation of growth and quality parameters of cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
Growth and quality
Number leaves 0.839
Fruit length (mm) 0.628 0.451
Fruit diameter (mm) 0.628 0.568 0.873
0.454 0.456 0.665 0.829
TSS (%Brix) −0.425 −0.345 −0.524 −0.409 −0.300
)−0.261 −0.075 −0.460 −0.219 −0.130 0.399
No mkt. fruit/plant −0.169 −0.316 0.066 −0.076 0.064 0.072 −0.240
No. unripe fruit/plant −0.283 −0.244 −0.294 −0.362 −0.259 0.180 0.094 0.154
No. cracked fruit/plant −0.370 −0.454 −0.315 −0.490 −0.434 0.068 −0.216 0.328 0.097
Total fruit/plant −0.311 −0.412 −0.135 −0.295 −0.133 0.151 −0.160 0.863 0.619 0.417
Unripe fruit mass
0.210 0.219 0.061 0.110 0.069 −0.019 0.129 −0.037 0.581 −0.254 0.227
Cracked fruit mass
−0.241 −0.360 −0.153 −0.378 −0.327 −0.015 −0.327 0.383 0.092 0.942 0.448 −0.238
0.171 0.000 0.455 0.339 0.369 −0.151 −0.357 0.871 −0.028 0.005 0.637 0.054 0.123
Total yield (kg/plant) 0.179 0.005 0.426 0.300 0.326 −0.149 −0.350 0.865 0.110 0.062 0.707 0.239 0.185 0.976
values in bold indicate 2 variables are significantly related to each other at P= 0.05.
298 B. L. PULELA ET AL.
marketable fruit yield per plant (Venkatesan et al., 2016). Cultivar did not affect
total yield (avg. 5.42 kg/plant). Total yields of 4.3 to 5.9 kg.m
achieved under tunnels and greenhouses (Rodriguez et al., 2007). Since most
melons are sold on a per fruit basis, increased number of fruit produced because
of increased plant density is economically important only if they are of marketable
size and quality (Rodriguez et al., 2007). Increased marketable yield per unit area
in the open field (Vescera and Brown, 2016). With protective cropping, melon
Wiggenhauser, 2015). For maximum returns under protected culture, other high
value crops may be grown during the year. Investment and production costs are
substantially higher under protected culture than in the field, as methodologies
used to produce crops in high-tunnel production system require more efficiency
than those used in traditional field systems (Rodriguez et al., 2007). Low tunnels
cost less than high tunnels, and generally require less labor (Vescera and Brown,
2016), even though they are more problematic to work in and around.
The highest number and mass, of cracked fruit were for ‘Magritte’,‘Honey
Brew’,‘Honey Star’and ‘MAB 79001ʹ(Table 4). This may be due to the nature of
the fruit being prone to cracking, due to the smooth skin in ‘Honey Brew’and
‘Honey Star’, and accumulation of high temperatures in the NTC plastic tunnel.
Fruit cracking was not positively correlated with marketable yield of melons (Table
3). Cultivars exhibiting fruit cracking were. Magritte, Honey Brew, Honey Star and
MAB 79001 (Table 4). Thin rind melons such as ‘Hami’(C. melo, reticulatus
group), ‘Charentais’(C. melo,cantalupensisgroup),‘Canary’(C. melo,inodorus
group), snap melons (C. melo,momordicagroup),orgreenmelonswithrelatively
smooth skin such as ‘Piel de Sapo’(C. melo, inodorus group) are usually susceptible
to fruit cracking (Fernandez-Trujillo et al., 2013) which had similar characteristics
Table 4. Marketable, total and unmarketable yield of cantaloupe and
honeydew melon cultivars grown in soilless culture.
Cracked fruit mass
Magritte 0.28a 0.26ab 2.14d
Divine 0.03b 0.06bc 5.32a
0.30a 0.47a 5.19ab
Honey Star 0.23a 0.33a 5.37a
Cyclone 0.00b 0.00c 4.41abc
0.38a 0.35a 2.81cd
Adore 0.00b 0.00c 3.38bcd
E25F.00075 0.00b 0.00c 3.36bcd
E25F.00185 0.00b 0.00c 4.11abc
0.05 0.17 0.23 1.89
values in columns followed by the same letter are not significantly different,
P≤0.05, Fisher’s protected test
LSD = least significant difference.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF VEGETABLE SCIENCE 299
to ‘Honey Brew’and ‘Honey Star.’Melon cultivars with deep, or pronounced
sutures similar to ‘Magritte’and ‘MAB 79001ʹare highly susceptible to fruit
cracking during transportation, particularly if cracks were evident at harvest
(Fernandez-Trujillo et al., 2013). Fruit cracking is usually associated with rapid
absorption of large amounts of water, and development of higher turgor pressures
than the rind can withstand, resulting in rupture. Even if fruit rupture does not
occur, excessive water intake can dilute solutes, reduce quality, and delay harvest
maturity (Fernandez-Trujillo et al., 2013). High temperature, rapid fruit growth,
high humidity, thin skin, and wide day and night temperature differences in NTC
plastic tunnel seem to precede fruit cracking (Fernandez-Trujillo et al., 2013).
Decrease in rind thickness in mature and ripe fruit is due to cracks in the epidermal
layer, which preceded, and probably initiated, lenticel development (Ionica et al.,
2015). Fruit cracking was most pronounced in early harvests and declined at later
harvests for all cultivars (data not shown). Fruit cracking is a common problem for
small-scale farmers who harvest fruit at much later maturity, since vine ripe fruit
are more susceptible to cracking than fruit harvested at earlier stages (Fernandez-
Trujillo et al., 2013).
Cantaloupe had higher quality parameters than honeydew melons. Many
of the cantaloupe cultivars exhibited equal, or high %Brix, than honeydew
cultivars as well as increased pericarp thickness. The highest yielding canta-
loupe was cv. Divine and for honeydew cvs. Honey Brew and Honey Star,
and are suitable, and recommended for soilless culture in an NTC plastic
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