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Watermelon landrace (perfect flowers)  RSS feed

 
Posts: 99
Location: Utah
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I started a watermelon landrace last year (watermelon because I have seeds of several different varieties and I wanted to try it out before I did the major food crops) so this year is the first year hybrids. I have come up with some surprising results, which I first attributed to the mixing of the different varieties but now I think is possibly related to my soil. I noticed this spring that I had two plants in the landrace producing perfect watermelon flowers--male and female in the same flower. One of the plants seems to be highly prolific, with 5 watermelons fertilizing, although three aborted later. I think this high rate of pollination is partially because of the perfect flowers. I assumed it was because of some recessive gene activating because of the landrace mix, but later one of my Hopi Red watermelons showed the same trait (six watermelons pollinated, three surviving), and there is 0 chance that they are directly related because I acquired the Hopi Red seeds this spring.

Has anyone else ever seen this? I'm excited about it (not specifically for this stage of the landrace but because these flowers won't need bees to pollinate) but cautious at the same time. Can you see any disadvantages or problems with breeding for this trait?
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Perfect Watermelon Flower
 
Posts: 104
Location: Northern Colorado
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I havn't. Joseph and i both started our watermelon (pre) proto-landraces around the same time. I can't say i have seen such flowers then or now. Perhaps you have a chemical in your soil? Not sure if it could be good or bad. The only disadvantage i could think of if you could stabilize it (which is not likely in my opinion) is that it would not really be helpful in adaptivar landrace or evolutionary breeding as it could lead to more inbreeding than outcrossing. Could be chemical or environmentally influenced and will probably go away next year.

Last year was a fairly decent watermelon breeding year for me. But this year i planted 2 year old seed and i have not been able to tend to it as well. But i still have plants setting fruits and survived the early die off this summer. I also have some plants from my F1 hybrids between [Citron melons x domestic watermelon landrace] project that i'm also working on this year. The first few years are weird and iffy, but they steadily get better if you keep at it.
 
Lauren Ritz
Posts: 99
Location: Utah
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The stable "varieties" are so stinking inbred that there's liable to be oddities when they mix. ("So, which cousin are you marrying? You're marrying someone unrelated!? You'll never be able to have kids!" 0_o) I'm glad this was found in second generation rather than first, but I'm still not sure if I want it in my landrace. It would be nice, as I said, because the flowers wouldn't need bees for pollination, but I'm seeing possible down-sides as well. Unfortunately these are three of the better adapted of the sixteen survivors. so two of them (the two from the landrace group) would be my primary female parents for the next generation.

It could easily be soil. All the watermelons are planted in bad areas, but these three are separated by about fifty feet and in entirely different areas of the yard. Both areas are almost straight sand, but one has been fertilized about five years in the past (previously lawn) and the other has never had any kind of amendments so I'm not sure what could be causing it if it's the soil. Unless the soil is just so bad that those that CAN are using this as a survival mechanism. :)
 
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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This trait is called andromonoecious: having a mix of male flowers and perfect flowers. While it's not common in watermelon, it is a known to occur in watermelon, cucumbers, and muskmelons. I wouldn't select against it. Seems like it may be a good trait to have in a population that was growing in an area where pollinators are sparse, or where there is a lot of rain that interferes with pollination.

At least for me, I tend to do very few manual pollinations. And of those that I attempt, it's rare for me to emasculate the flowers. I tend to just add pollen from the desired donor, and then screen among the children for plants that match the expected phenotype.

 
Lauren Ritz
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Location: Utah
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:This trait is called andromonoecious: having a mix of male flowers and perfect flowers. While it's not common in watermelon, it is a known to occur in watermelon, cucumbers, and muskmelons. I wouldn't select against it. Seems like it may be a good trait to have in a population that was growing in an area where pollinators are sparse, or where there is a lot of rain that interferes with pollination.

At least for me, I tend to do very few manual pollinations. And of those that I attempt, it's rare for me to emasculate the flowers. I tend to just add pollen from the desired donor, and then screen among the children for plants that match the expected phenotype.


Since this is just the 2nd generation for my landrace, I wanted to make sure that all the flowers had pollen from all the "donors." I expect that I'll continue to force pollination when there are new varieties in the mix, and let the bees do their thing beyond that.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Location: Utah
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An update, of a sort. I think this may also be a response to stress. As it cools off, several of my watermelons that had normal flowers earlier in the season are starting to do the perfect flower thing. One has both normal female flowers and perfect flowers at the same time.
 
Andrew Barney
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Location: Northern Colorado
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Lauren Ritz wrote:An update, of a sort. I think this may also be a response to stress. As it cools off, several of my watermelons that had normal flowers earlier in the season are starting to do the perfect flower thing. One has both normal female flowers and perfect flowers at the same time.



Yeah that sounds more like it. I figured it was probably environmental somehow. Probably nothing you need to really worry about.  If You are worried about genetic diversity you can always add more new seed in periodically. That's kinda what i've done with mine.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Location: Utah
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I dry gardened the watermelons (in a sense--insufficient water, sand, no soil amendments) so this may actually be a good test of which were stressed by the growing conditions. One has regular flowers now that had perfect flowers earlier (better adapted to cold than heat?) and one has half and half now since I pulled the water off it entirely, but the two largest, best adapted plants still have only perfect flowers.
 
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