By Karla Arboleda
Southeastern watermelon growers have been struggling with fusarium wilt and nematodes for decades, but a new rootstock may be the light at the end of the tunnel. Carolina Strongback, a new watermelon rootstock, is said to be resistant toward fusarium wilt and nematodes.
The watermelon line was developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Clemson University. The line was tested in soils infested with fusarium and nematodes. According to Pat Wechter, a plant pathologist with ARS, “Carolina Strongback performed well and maintained a high production level of harvested fruit.”
Bhabesh Dutta, an Extension plant pathologist at the University of Georgia (UGA) is looking forward to working with the fruit because of its promising qualities. “(It’s) a start towards the right direction,” Dutta said. “It has a big role to play.”
Dutta said UGA researchers will likely begin working with the new rootstock soon. However, Carolina Strongback watermelon won’t be common in other states for awhile. “That depends on the success of the variety in different multi-location trials,” Dutta said. “We’ll start looking at the experiment station maybe next year.”
Watermelon varieties that are currently grown in the Southeast can be susceptible to diseases like downy mildew, gummy stem blight, anthracnose and Fusarium wilt.
“In most vegetable fields … in Southeast Georgia, nematodes, especially rootknot nematodes, are common,” Dutta said. “There’s some management practices you can do for fusarium, but everything will be jeopardized if you do not control nematodes.”
“I do not know how it’s going to perform here, but by looking at its genetics, I’m looking forward to working with this variety in the future.” Dutta said.
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