Farming Magazine - June, 2012

COLUMNS

Seed Research: New Melons Combine Eating Quality with Disease Resistance

By Dorothy Noble

With delightful shades of orange, ivory or green, enticing fragrance, mouth-watering lusciousness, and sweet yet distinctive flavors, ripe melons rank high among pleasurable eating experiences.

Fortunately, melon growers now have more tools to cope with food safety considerations. Since the foodborne illness outbreak in cantaloupe last year, industry leaders have been developing more intensive safety guidance and education.

Two committees created by several trade associations have already focused on formulating the latest science-based safety guidelines for farm and packing practices for good agricultural practices (GAPs) and good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Using web-based seminars, the discussions permit input across and beyond the entire supply chain.

Weekly WebEx sessions are underway and continue through July. The website www.cantaloupe-guidance.com provides information on the topics as well as links to current documents on food safety. The group encourages participation from growers and others. Progress on the process can be tracked, and comments can be included by those who miss a session.

The new food safety guidelines for cantaloupes and other netted melons are expected by August 1. Although netting presents greater safety issues, all melons require good food safety practices.

At this writing, the produce safety regulations mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act have not yet been issued by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Updates are accessible at www.fda.gov/fsma.

Advancements in breeding, too, are brightening the outlook for melon sales. Breeders continue to incorporate resistances to several troubling diseases into their melons. All of the following new and nearly new varieties that were available by press time have some degree of resistance.

An eastern shipper early maturing cantaloupe, Avatar has a tan rind with minor netting. The oval fruits average 7 to 9 pounds. Its orange flesh boasts high sugars. Siegers Seeds notes that its excellent yields and large size with its other attributes make this Sakata hybrid particularly appealing for farmers' markets and local shipping. It has intermediate resistance to Fusarium wilt races 0, 1 and 2, and powdery mildew race 2, plus high resistance to powdery mildew race 1.

Maturing in 70 days, hybrid Cleopatra offers consistent fruit set and 4 to 6-pound fruit. The tight seed cavity plus the firm, delicious, salmon-colored flesh, Harris Seeds suggests, makes Cleopatra a great melon for local delivery, roadside stands and farmers' markets. The exterior has slight ribs and medium netting. Resistances include Fusarium wilt races 0, 1 and 2, and powdery mildew races 1 and 2.

Seedway calls Dewlightful a simply delicious honeydew with sugars ranging from 13 to 16 percent. It matures in 90 to 95 days, weighs 7.5 pounds and has smooth sutures on its light tan rind. With light green flesh, it has a small cavity as well. Developed by Hollar Seeds, Dewlightful ships well and has intermediate resistance to powdery mildew.

Harris Seeds says that Dream Dew's large, round, early maturing fruit develops its extra sweet flesh early. Its cream-colored rind is especially appealing. A hybrid honeydew, Dream Dew has strong resistance to Fusarium wilt and intermediate resistance to powdery mildew.

In midseason, Fiji produces high yields with a concentrated set of large fruit. Although it holds well on the vine, it can be harvested at full slip. Its breeder, Harris Moran, reports that the dark orange color of this cantaloupe is outstanding. Moreover, it has excellent firmness and ships well. It shows high resistance to Fusarium wilt races 0 and 2, and intermediate resistance to powdery mildew races 1 and 2.

Oblong-shaped, 3 to 4.5-pound Fantasista has high sugars and firm, dense, bright orange flesh with a small seed cavity. Maturing in about 77 days, Seedway recommends this Tuscan melon for an early start in the melon season. Sutured with a coarse net, it turns straw-tan when fully developed. It has high resistance to Fusarium wilt races 0 and 2 and intermediate resistance to powdery mildew.

A round, personal-size cantaloupe, Lilliput weighs only 2 to 3 pounds. Seedway targets it for fresh market use, particularly due to its exceptional flavor and aromatics described as combining sweetness and homegrown "melon" taste. It has coarse netting without suturing. Maturing in 81 days, Lilliput produces well for a small-sized fruit. Bred by Sakata, it resists Fusarium races 0, 1 and 2, plus powdery mildew races 1 and 2.

Majus weighs 6 to 8 pounds. Rupp Seeds compares it to Tirreno, except Majus is larger and has coarser netting. With orange flesh, medium net on its rind with deep green sutures, this hybrid cantaloupe matures in 83 days. Bred by Enza Zaden, it resists Fusarium wilt races 1, 2 and 5, and powdery mildew races 1, 2 and 3.

Melosso's outstanding concentrated yield, uniformity, attractive shape and large size fits main season honeydew slots. Bred by Harris Moran, its green flesh has high Brix and the seed cavity is small. High disease resistances include Fusarium wilt races 0 and 2 and intermediate resistance to powdery mildew race 2.

The vigorous, strong vines of Napoli provide ample sun protection. This Tuscan melon includes intermediate resistance to the podi virus group, as well and Fusarium wilt race 1, and powdery mildew races 1 and 2. Oval in shape, Napoli has a small cavity, dark orange flesh, sutures, medium net, and weighs 3 to 5 pounds. Seedway reports that it matures in 70 to 75 days, and is best harvested at half to three-quarters slip.

With its high Brix and strong melon flavor, Siegers Seeds says Orange Sherbet is one of the best eating cantaloupes available. A round-oval Tuscan type weighing 4.5 to 5 pounds, it matures in 80 to 85 days, has coarse green to cream sutures on a tan rind, and it ships well. This DP Seeds-developed hybrid has high resistance to Fusarium wilt races 1 and 2 and powdery mildew race 2.

Samoa's very firm flesh stands up to long distance shipping. The oval, 5 to 6.5-pound fruits are very uniform with well-developed netting, no sutures, dark orange flesh and a small cavity. This variety does not slip. Vertical cracks develop on the peduncle, or stem, at optimal ripeness. This Harris Moran LSL Harper type melon has high resistance to Fusarium wilt races 0, 1 and 2, plus intermediate resistance to powdery mildew.

Sigal, a 6-pound Galia type melon, matures in only 60 days. Corky net describes the external appearance, and the flesh is ivory-green. Rupp Seeds says it has superb flavor. It resists powdery mildew races 1 and 2.

Solstice looks like the old Eastern type melons but offers the full disease package of today's hybrids, including resistance to Fusarium wilt races 0, 1 and 2, and powdery mildew races 1 and 2. Its huge 7 to 9-pound fruits have deep sutures and heavy netting. Harris Seeds notes that it produced big yields and outstanding eating in their test plots.

Tirreno's exceptional plant health in the field leads to excellent yield potential. Moreover, Rupp Seeds describes this cantaloupe has having the best eating quality. The beautiful, firm, orange flesh holds well. Weighing 4 to 6 pounds, with medium netting and deep green sutures, it matures in 83 days. It resists Fusarium wilt races 1, 2 and 5, and powdery mildew races 1, 2 and 3.

NE Seed notes that Toscana has a very tight cavity, green sutures and dark orange, very sweet flesh. A Tuscan type hybrid developed by DP Seeds, Toscana matures in 77 to 82 days. It tolerates Fusarium races 0, 1 and 2, powdery mildew race 1, downy mildew and podi viruses.

The author is a writer-researcher specializing in agriculture. She currently resides in central Pennsylvania.