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Screening and Advancing New Specialty Melons for Market Potential, 2004

PROJECT LEADER(S): Jonathan Schultheis, Bill Jester

LOCATION: Cunningham Research Station

IMPACT
New melons continue to be identified which have unique characteristics and are adapted to NC growing conditions. This provides commercial growers with additional choices such that they can grow and market some of these new program melons. One melon grown on a limited scale in 2004 with two growers was Sugar Nut. It produced good yields and high quality melons. In the future, there is potential for increased production acreage of Sugar Nut.

INTRODUCTION

The consumer is interested in having melons of high quality with unique flavors and textures. New melon cultivars are being developed each year and there are a range of specialty melon types. Interspecific crosses result in new melons that often do not fit neatly into a particular melon category. This may offer new production and market opportunities. Disease resistance is another important component of variety development and many of these unique melons have limited disease resistance or tolerance. It is important to realize that a unique cultivar with a special quality or characteristic can have a dramatic impact, resulting in the opportunity to produce a product that can be marketed and be profitable.

The primary goal of the melon screening program is to assess advanced lines or new cultivars of the various melon types and to determine their adaptation to southeastern United States growing conditions (i.e. North Carolina). Another objective, which is equally important, is to take promising lines or cultivars of the various melon types and test market them for consumer acceptance. It is very important that markets are developed as production factors are being evaluated. Several reports have described tests that involved the evaluation of specialty melons, but it appears that there has been limited market penetration by these specialty products (Elmstrom and Maynard, 1992; Simon et al., 1993a, 1993b). A third objective of the melon evaluation program is to have grower participation in the market development. This is done through informal contacts during the season; through the use of advisory committees, and on-farm demonstrations and cooperation with county agents and farmers. Several on-farm demonstrations of specialty melons were conducted in 2004 (see specific reports for results). The most important end goal is to provide North Carolina farmers with a quality product they can grow which produces well, and can be successfully marketed for profit!

METHODS

Before the growing season, seed companies are contacted to obtain seeds for a variety of specialty melon types. Seed companies donate seeds in all cases as they are interested in their cultivar and product lines and how if they can be grown and produced in the southeastern United States, and if they have market potential. The primary melon type grown and marketed in North Carolina, and the United States is muskmelon. Thus, all other melon types (i.e. juan canary, ananas, charentais, Crenshaw, piel de sapo (Christmas), casaba, Japanese, etc.) are considered specialty types. This includes honeydew melons since these are not grown in any great quantity in North Carolina.

Once all seed were obtained, they were sown in transplant trays 1 April 2004. Fertilizer (10-10-10) was broadcast and incorporated on 6 April 2004 at a rate of 400 pounds per acre prior to the laying 60-inch wide black polyethylene plastic (1.25 mil thick). The 8-mil drip tube with a 12-inch emitter spacing (0.45 gallon/minute/10 ft, T-Tape) was placed beneath the soil surface during fumigation. On 7 April 2004, methyl bromide was injected at the time the plastic was laid. The remaining nitrogen and potassium was fertigated weekly for the season. Total nitrogen applied was 142 pounds per acre and 305 pounds per acre potash.

Transplants were treated with Kocide 101 two times before planting in the field. Approximately 4 weeks after seeding, the plants were established in the field (27 April 2004). Spacing between row middles was 5 feet and in-row spacing was 2 feet. Plot size was one row of 15 melon plants for the specialty melon observations. At time of transplant, a starter solution was applied using 20-20-20 (1 lb/50 gallons water) and Diazinon (3 oz/50 gallons water) for insect control. Insecticides and fungicides were applied weekly as a preventative measure beginning four weeks after transplanting (North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, 2000-2004).

Watering was reduced two weeks prior to harvest to improve fruit quality. Harvests were made Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week for the melon screening study. Evaluations of each melon entry included yield, production earliness, average fruit size, soluble solids using a hand held refractometer (5 fruit samples), fruit shape and size, exterior and interior descriptions, flavor, flesh texture, disease susceptibility/tolerance and harvesting criteria (i.e. slip vs. does not slip). Based on this information, cultivars or advanced lines which showed potential for commercial production will be included in a screening or evaluation trial in 2005. Melon entries with obvious defects or no special features will not be evaluated in 2005.

RESULTS

Each of the melon types are described in table 1. Specific descriptions are given for each melon entry as well. The second table contains yield information for the season as well as categorizes yields into early, mid, and late season.

CONCLUSION

Several of the ananas melons show promise with some of the best ones being from Hollar Seed Company (i.e Duke and HSR 4220). As has been found in previous years, harvest time is critical with this type of melon because the shelf life is limited compared with most other melon types that have been tested. Researching and finding ways to extend shelf life or improve handling of this type of melon may make this melon type more suitable for commercial shipping. Until shelf life extension can be obtained and handling is improved, it will be difficult to include this melon type in shipping markets.

Another melon type which is very tricky to grow is a Charentais melon. In 2003 and 2004, the HMX 9606 line was the most resistant Charentais melon to cracking of the four entries tested. This melon needs to be harvested at the ¾ slip stage to reduce the incidence of cracking.

Growers might find some success in growing and selling Crenshaw melons for local markets. This melon is not well adapted for grocery store chain sales. Of the two we tested, Burpee’s Early was best.

Shelf life of the Galia type melons is being improved though breeding efforts. It is not as good as a muskmelon, but generally better than an ananas melon. One of the melon cultivars that performed well in 2004 was Elario (Hazera Seed). It was one of the higher yielding of the Galia types with nearly 16,000 fruit being produced per acre. It also has a very attractive finish on the rind.

The juan canary melon can be grown commercially in North Carolina. Several cultivars are well adapted; Sonora, an older cultivar, and Golden Beauty 229. Bartlett Hybrid produced over 10,000 fruit per acre in 2004, up 2,000 fruit from 2003 trials. Bartlett Hybrid received notice in 2003 for its pear-like flavor as its namesake suggests. It was tested for the first time in 2003 and produced well in 2004.

The Christmas (piel del sapo) melons have been a challenge to grow in North Carolina due to their requirement for a longer time to ripen. Because of this, disease is more difficult to control over the longer period of time necessary to grow this type melon. The hot, humid growing conditions of North Carolina are conducive to increased disease versus dry, warm growing conditions. In spite of the challenge in growing the Christmas melons, Sancho did produce some wonderful tasting fruit which were rated very high at the Specialty Crops field day in July 2003 and 2004. The other four Christmas melon entries were inferior to Sancho because of less fruit quality and Ruidera and Daimiel being extremely susceptible to powdery mildew.

Sugar Nut was placed on two commercial farms in 2004. The melon quality was extremely good with very sweet with excellent flavor. Favorable reviews of this melon were received from both growers in 2004.

For the first time, a Hami melon was included in the specialty melon screening trials in 2004. These melons can have variable flesh color. The flesh is characterized by is crisp texture and sweetness. The melons can often be stored for several weeks. New Century was the Hami melon tested in 2004. It had a light orange flesh and produced reasonable quality fruits.

Funding has become limited for the Specialty Crops program and the melon program will no longer be funded by this program in 2005. We are trying to secure funding in order to continue the melon screening program in 2005.

TABLES & PHOTOS

Photo 1: New Century, Hami melon

Photo 1: New Century, Hami melon

Table 1. Specialty melon cultigen/line name, seed company, and fruit description.
Cunningham Research Station, Kinston, N.C. 2004.
Ananas: These melons are oval to round with medium-fine netting. The rind turns from green to gold
when ripe. They have a sweet, aromatic, soft white flesh. Ananas melons tend to be very perishable.
Cultigens Company Description
Amie Hazera Seeds, Inc oval to round shape, variable sizes; rind color is green to burnt orange;
flesh color is green to white to orange; small to medium stem scar;
medium to large cavity; soft to medium firm flesh; harvest when
abscission layer appears; flavor is aromatic with sweet aftertaste
Arava Zeraim Gedera very round uniform shape; no sutures; green with a fine netting when
unripe turning to a golden-yellow with fine netting; harvest when abscission
layer appears and melon is a golden color with some greenish
background; splits if taken to full slip
Duke F1 Hollar & Company Ananas melon; mostly oval, a few blocky, variable size, uniform shape;
rind color is dark green to green and yellow to burnt orange when overripe;
flesh color is light green to white to salmon in cavity; medium stem scar;
medium cavity; soft-medium firmness; sweet Ananas flavor
HSR 4011 Hollar & Company round; rind color is green to golden yellow; flesh color is slight green,
mostly white with pale salmon cavity; medium stem scar with little
cracking; small to medium cavity; soft to medium firmness; flavor is mild,
 pleasing taste; firmer than most Ananas melons
HSR 4022 Hollar & Company round shape; small stem scar; small to medium cavity size; soft to medium flesh
firmness; diffuse medium netting; harvest when abscission layer forms but before it
slips, harvest when melons starts to turn from green to yellow; light green flesh
when optimum for harvest, white flesh when too ripe
HSR 4220 Hollar & Company oval to oblong; variable shapes; uniform sizes; rind color is green to greenish yellow
to a burnt orange when overripe; fine netting of medium density; flesh color is light
green to white with pale salmon in cavity; medium stem scar; harvest when
50-90% green but before full slip, netting tends to slip in places; mild fruity flavor
Ophir Zeraim Gedera Oblong with fine netting; no sutures; rind color turns from green to beige; flesh color
is mint to light green; medium deep stem scar if allowed to slip
Raymond Hazera Seeds, Inc Elongated, oblong shape; dark green with light net to burnt orange when over ripe;
light green to a faint salmon color near cavity, golden background intermingled with
green; flesh turns from light green to white; small stem scar; medium dense netting;
no suture; harvest when abscission has begun to form but will not slip.
Table 1 cont.
Galia: Galia melons are generally round with a netted, sutureless rind that turns golden yellow as the melon
matures. They slip when mature. They are aromatic, with green flesh  and  resist cracking under wet conditions.
Cultigens Company Description
Elario Hazera Seeds, Inc round, uniform shape, slightly variable in size; rind goes from green to golden yellow
when ripe; flesh color is light green to white with some salmon coloring in cavity;
medium to large stem scar with slight cracking; small to medium cavity;
medium dense fine netting; soft-medium flesh; aromatic Galia flavor, attractive finish-
much better than the standard; harvest when abscission appears, need some green
background for commercial harvest
Elba Nunhems round, uniform shape; rind color is green, turns to golden yellow as ripens; flesh
color is mint-green; harvest with force slip; small to medium cavity; medium-soft
flesh firmness; flavor is very good
Gallardo Seminis Vegetable round; rind color goes from green to medium golden-yellow as it ripens;
Seeds, Inc flesh color is very light green; flavor is sweet, has the characteristic aroma
of a Galia melon
HSR 4036 Hollar & Company noncommercial because of poor quality and poor yield; unable to harvest for market
quality
RS 11105026 Royal Sluis elongated, oblong shape; orange flesh – cantaloupe type; medium net density with
medium size netting; medium to firm flesh texture; harvest when mix of green
and burnt orange color at first abscission layer formation
Charentais (French Breakfast Melon): These melons are smooth or slightly netted with gray-green rind
 and dark green, shallow sutures. The flesh is deep orange to salmon, firm and intensely sweet. These
melons should be harvested prior to slip as abscission layer forms due to splitting. Water management is
critical to prevent cracking. Determination of when to harvest is difficult in some cases.
Cultigens Company Description
HMX 9606 Harris-Moran Seed round; rind color is gray with suture to beige background and netting; flesh
color is bright salmon; medium to large stem scar; small cavity; very firm flesh;
harvest at 3/4 slip; flavor is very sweet and aromatic; cracks under wet conditions
HMXP 6885 Harris-Moran Seed extreme variability in size and shape
Honey Girl W Atlee Burpee round; rind color is gray to cream color; flesh color is salmon; medium to large
stem scar; small to medium cavity; firm flesh; slight to no netting; green fading
sutures occur as ripens
SVR-1084 Seminis Vegetable extreme variability in size and shape
Seeds, Inc
Italian Sweet Melon: These are European type cantaloupes, intensely sweet with extended storage life if
harvested when the abscission layer appears but prior to full slip.
Cultigens Company Description
Magenta Nunhems round; rind color is green-gray to tan as it ripens with deep green sutures;
flesh is deep salmon color; medium stem scar; medium cavity; diffuse, thick
netting; firm flesh; very sweet, excellent taste; harvest when abscission layer
is visible on stem
Table 1 cont.
Italian Sweet Melon:
Mirage Nunhems oval to oblong shape; rind color is green-gray to tan as ripens; flesh color is orange;
small to medium stem scar; large cavity; medium dense ropy netting; slight
sutures; medium firm flesh; flavor is an excellent muskmelon taste
Shilan Nunhems oval; rind color is tan as ripens; melon has an Athena look; flesh color is dark
salmon; small stem scar; small very tight cavity; diffused medium fine netting;
no sutures; firm flesh, flavor is excellent
Crenshaw: A large melon that progresses from smooth dark green rind to a blotchy yellow-green when
ready for harvest. Fruit turns solid yellow with soft flesh that becomes sweeter after harvest. Most
varieties sunburn in NC.
Cultigens Company Description
Bolero Siegers Seed Co blocky oblong to oval shape; ripe when it turns light green with yellow blotches
with cracking
Burpee’s Early W Atlee Burpee teardrop shape; rind color is dark green turning to green with light
speckled background then yellow; flesh color is light orange; medium
to large cavity; soft flesh; very susceptible to downy and powdery mildew
Juan Canary: These melons do not slip. They turn golden yellow when ripe.
 
Cultigens Company Description
Bartlett Hybrid W Atlee Burpee obovate (larger at one end); rind color is light green to yellow to
& Co. golden yellow as it ripens; ripe when gold yellow; flesh color is white; large cavity;
thin rind; medium to firm flesh; flavor is good, very sweet
Gold 264 Seminis Vegetable Canary – Casaba type; oval to obovate in shape; green to golden-yellow, wrinkled
Seeds, Inc appearance (extensively over melon); corky striations in furrows when ripe;
does not slip; flesh color is milky white
Golden Beauty 229 Johnny’s Selected elliptic; white flesh; wrinkles intensify as it ripens; exterior golden yellow
Seed when ripe; corky striations develop as it ripens; excellent flavor
Golden Lady Known-You Seed oval to tear drop shape; rind color is canary yellow; flesh color is very light green;
doesn’t slip, forms sugar net; flesh is crunchy; very sweet with a fruity taste
Golden Prize Known-You Seed tear drop to American football shape; dark green turning golden-yellow when
ripe; ripen characteristic could not be determined because of defoliation
by downy and powdery mildew
HMX 1602 Harris-Moran Juan Canary- Casaba type; rind color is green to golden-yellow when ripe;
flesh color is light green to white, medium canary; medium large cavity; develops
corky striations in wrinkled furrows around stem; medium firm flesh
William Flavor Known-You Seed rind color is green to green with yellow cast; flesh color goes from green to yellow
and golden-yellow, does not slip; medium firm flesh with slight crunch;
excellent fruity-sweet flavor without an aftertaste; havest when yellow to
golden-yellow and mottling predominates over 80-90% of the fruit
Table 1 cont.
Juan Canary:
WS 5003 Western Seed Co Juan Canary – Casaba type; variable shapes, oblong to football shape, large fruit;
rind color is light green to light yellow to golden-yellow; flesh color is light green;
medium cavity; texture is medium; corky striations developing in the wrinkled furrows
on the stem end; pleasant taste, some say it has a nutty taste
Sol Zeraim Gedera oval, some have point at either end, slight wrinkling, uniform shapes and sizes;
rind color is green to light yellow to golden-yellow when ripe, no netting formed,
color is indicative of ripeness; flesh color is light green to white; medium to large
cavity; soft to medium flesh; very sweet and fruity flavor
Oriental: Most of these melons are smaller melons and do not slip. They have crisp white flesh.
 
Cultigens Company Description
PS 614 Seminis Vegetable variable shapes and sizes, pancake round, round ovoid, oblong, some assymetrical;
Seeds, Inc when rind color is golden to golden-yellow, turns light to golden yellow with
corky diffuse netting when ripe; mint-green flesh; small to large tight cavity;
doesn’t slip for optimum quality; slightly aromatic, mild flavor and firm flesh
Sprite Sakata Seeds, Inc round to oval; cream to mottled yellow when ripe; crisp flesh; ugly netting  and
cracks cover the fruit when it becomes over ripe; harvest as blossom end netting
develops; very high sugars
Piel de Sapo (Christmas Melon, Santa Claus Melon): This melon is typified by the frog skin rind.
It does not slip but develops diffuse netting at peak ripeness. This melon has white flesh.
Cultigens Company Description
Ruidera Nunhems small cavity; very susceptible to powdery mildew; lots of sunburn and poor sugar
Sancho Syngenta Seeds Piel de Sapo; obovate, calyx end is small; flesh color is very light on edge to
off-white with pale salmon cavity; develops diffuse netting over the whole melon;
small to medium cavity; flesh texture is soft to medium; wonderful fruity taste
Trijilla Nunhems oblong with pointed end; with a few exceptions, the stem is larger
than the calyx; netting starts at either end; flesh color is green to light greenish-white
to pale salmon in cavity; medium cavity; medium flesh texture; rich fruity flavor
WS 5010 Western Seed Co large Piel de Sapo; typical blocky oblong shape with pointed calyx end, some football
shape; sunburns, small calyx scar; as it ripens, is starts to show netting beginning at
stem end, golden flecking becomes more predominiate as ripening occurs;
flesh color is light green to white to pale salmon in cavity; medium to large cavity;
flesh has soft to medium firmness; average taste
Daimiel Nunhems small cavity; very susceptible (more than Ruidera) to powdery mildew; lots
of sunburn and poor sugars
Table 1 cont.
Hami melon: This ancient melon originated in the northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Hami melons may have either red-pink, orange, white or green flesh. The flesh is crisp and very sweet.
These melons may be stored for several weeks to a few months with little quality loss.
Cultigens Company Description
New Century Known-You Seed ovate to oblong; variable in shape and size; rind color turns from a light green with
gray flecking to light green with golden flecking in background when ripe; develops
diffuse, fine netting over the entire fruit when ripe; white indistinct inch-wide area
next to rind; small to medium cavity; light orange flesh; firm crunchy flesh;
pleasant melon flavor
Miscellaneous: These melons do not fall in the other groups but have unique characteristics.
 
Cultigens Company Description
Jade Flower Known-You Seed highly susceptible to downy and powdery mildew; oval shape, fairly uniform shape
and size; flesh color is white; medium texture; medium to large cavity; lacks
traditional honeydew taste; harvest when it turns from greenish white to cream color
with no pubescence
Red Queen Known-You Seed oval, uniform size and shape; rind color turns from gray-green to beige with light
yellow flush; flesh color is regular orange with 1/2 inch light green rind ring;
medium stem scar; large cavity; netting develops with color change, diffuse thin
net which cracks into flesh; medium firm flesh; harvest with stem intact
Riosol Seminis Vegetable obovate, small canary, slightly pointed end; ripe when golden yellow; slight netting
Seeds, Inc around stem end; flesh color is light green to white when ripe; medium firm flesh
Sugar Nut Johnny’s Selected obovate, small canary, slightly pointed end; ripe when golden yellow; slight netting
Seeds around stem end; flesh color is light green to white when ripe; medium firm flesh
Diosa Known-You Seed Honeydew  type- doesn’t slip; noncommercial, too much splitting under wet
conditions; variable in size and lots of surface netting; flesh color is mint-green;
large cavity; very sweet
Table 2. Specialty Melon, Cultivar Trial. Yield (number/acre and
soluble solids) Cunningham Research Station, Kinston, NC 2004.1
Cultivar No./Acre
Soluble
Ananas Early2 Mid3 Late4 Season Solids5
Amie 2323 4937 2323 9583 11.3
Arva 6389 7260 2033 15682 11.4
Duke 871 9583 1452 11906 11.3
HSR 4011 2904 2323 1162 6389 11.6
HSR 4022 3194 7260 1742 12197 12.5
HSR 4220 290 5518 4937 10745 10.5
Ophir 581 7841 1162 9583 11.0
Raymond 581 5518 871 6970 11.6
Charentais
HMX 9606 5518 9002 2323 16843 13.0
HMXP 6885 871 8131 3194 12197 11.7
Honey Girl 581 15391 2904 18876 12.6
SVR-1084 871 8131 2323 11326 12.2
Crenshaw
Bolero 581 2904 6389 9874 13.4
Burpees Early 1452 3194 0 4646 *
Galia
Elario 11035 4356 581 15972 11.1
Elba 11035 1162 1162 13358 12.0
Gallardo 8422 4066 871 13358 12.9
HSR 4036 9874 7260 0 17134 10.5
RS 11105026 0 9583 2033 11616 11.4
Italian Sweet Melon
Magenta 290 11616 4937 16843 12.2
Mirage 1452 9002 4937 15391 11.8
Shilan 581 7841 4937 13358 11.7
Juan Canary
Bartlett 1162 6970 2323 10454 13.2
Gold 264 1742 9874 2904 14520 13.2
Golden Beauty 290 9874 4937 15101 12.4
Golden Lady 6389 3775 4356 14520 15.1
Golden Prize 4646 3194 581 8422 12.7
HMX1602 0 6970 6679 13649 13.2
William Flavor 1162 8712 871 10745 15.1
WS 5003 871 4356 4646 9874 12.7
Sol 0 8131 2904 11035 12.2
Oriental
PS 614 9293 4066 2904 16262 12.9
Sprite 14520 16553 12487 43560 13.8
Table 2. Cont.
No./Acre
Soluble
Cultivar Early2 Mid3 Late4 Season Solids5
           
Piel de Sapo
Daimiel 1452 6098 1162 8712 *
Ruidera 0 8422 581 9002 13.8
Sancho 0 5227 2033 7260 13.0
Trijilla 0 1162 3775 4937 12.9
WS 5010 0 1742 5808 7550 13.1
Hami
New Century 1452 8422 1162 11035 13.1
Miscellaneous
Jade Flower 9293 4356 581 14230 12.6
Red Queen 581 4356 2323 7260 15.3
Riosol 581 9874 11906 22361 13.2
Sugar Nut 0 9583 11616 21199 13.9
Diosa 1162 3775 1742 6679 13.5
* These varieties never ripened because of early powdery mildew
infestation and complete defoliation.
1Melons harvested 3 times per week, 15 plants per plot at 30 feet.
2Early harvest 1-4, June 22-28 (57, 58, 60 and 63) days after planting.
3Mid harvest 5-7, June 30-July 7 (65, 67, 70, and 72) days after planting.
4Late harvest 9-16, July 17-25 (74, 77, 79, and 81) days after planting.
5Solube Solids; reflects the sugar content of a fruit (average of 5 melons).
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