It’s a melon on top but a gourd underground

By Tom Lollis

grafted watermelonThe possibility of improving disease resistance has Clemson scientists developing new techniques to produce watermelons grafted to gourd rootstock.

“Grafted watermelons are common in Asia, where manpower is plentiful,” said Gilbert Miller, area vegetable specialist at the Edisto Research and Education Center. “The advantage is that the gourd rootstock is resistant to some of the soil-borne diseases that affect watermelons.”

Grafted melons also hold the promise of earlier planting, greater yields and drought tolerance. Growers viewed a demonstration planting at the Edisto Center’s Watermelon and Vegetable Field Day in July. They also learned how to prepare a graft from Richard Hassell, state vegetable specialist at the Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston.

“Grafted melons are too expensive to use in this country right now,” Hassell said. “We’re working on techniques to reduce the cost for U.S. growers.”

For information: Gilbert Miller, 803-284-3343, ext. 225, gmllr@clemson.edu, or Richard Hassell, 843-402-5394, rhassel@clemson.edu.