- Fruits: melons
- Crop Production: beekeeping, crop improvement and selection, grafting, high tunnels or hoop houses, pollination, pollinator habitat
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
- Pest Management: mulching - plastic
This two-year project is investigating whether grafting short-season watermelons onto cool tolerant rootstocks improves production in unheated high tunnels in Alaska versus their non-grafted counterparts. In addition, the principal researcher is teaching methods of grafting that are applicable to most cucurbits to groups throughout Alaska with the intent of enabling or improving their production and increasing sustainability and crop diversity in a state that imports 95 percent of all of it's food. Multiple methods of encouraging native pollinators to visit the growing area are being explored that have proven useful in the lower 48 states, but not in Alaska. After the first year of growing (2017), there appears to be a statistically significant positive influence of grafting on fruit production and size. 2018 was a successful growing season, producing over 450 pounds of fruit, and the results will be presented in the final report.
The main objectives of the project are to test whether an interspecific squash x pumpkin hybrid rootstock can enable or increase watermelon production in an already cold tolerant and short season watermelon variety. We also aim to teach methods that growers can apply to most Cucurbits, potentially increasing their production and availability in Alaska. An additional objective is to assess whether it is possible to encourage native pollinators to establish nests near crops by building housing other SARE funded projects have recommended for native pollinators in the lower 48 states.