Grafted melon growing closer to commercial viability

By Tom Lollis

Grafted melon plantsIn the second year of research, seven gourd and squash rootstocks are being screened for disease resistance and ease of grafting to protect watermelons against fusarium wilt that can devastate melon crops. Grafting, widely used in Asia, offers an alternative to using the chemical pesticide methyl bromide.

Richard Hassell, horticulturist at Clemson’s Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston, is adapting the grafted production system for use in South Carolina. He is evaluating row spacing and looking for ways to reduce grafting costs. He hopes better quality fruit and more production per plant will offset the $1 cost of each grafted transplant.

“We have some indication that grafted melons produce firmer fleshed-fruit, which interests the fresh cut industry,” Hassell said.

The National Watermelon Association sent grafted plants for evaluation at research sites in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. In South Carolina, plantings were at Clemson’s Coastal center and the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville. Project support also came from watermelon associations in each state.

For information: Richard Hassell, 843-402-5394,