Research and Education Project, Region: North Central. The management of watermelon vine decline through sustainable management practices

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $98,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Dr. dan Egel
Purdue University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola, rye
  • Fruits: melons


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, cover crops, fallow, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, cultural control, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulching - vegetative
  • Soil Management: green manures

    Proposal abstract:

    Since the late 1980's, Indiana watermelon growers have been plagued by a disease known as mature watermelon vine decline (MWVD). Affected watermelon plants begin to wilt and decline at or shortly before harvest. In 2000, more than 50% of Indiana watermelon acreage was affected by MWVD. In 2004, growers in additional states began to observe a similar vine decline of watermelon. The proposed research will lead to the sustainable management of MWVD. The proposal will be evaluated using the interest generated in winter meeting, requests for more information and surveys to determine the number of growers likely to adopt one of the new treatments.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Since mature watermelon vine decline (MWVD) is a disease of unknown etiology, the outcomes of the proposed project will be new knowledge about the disease in the scientific and grower communities. Short-term outcomes include 1) scientifically accepted information about the biology and management of MWVD 2) increased awareness among growers about the biology and management of MWVD produced by extension bulletins and presentations at winter meetings. Watermelon growers support these outcomes as evidenced by the funds already committed to my research program for MWVD research by the National Watermelon Promotion Board ($10,000) and the Illiana Watermelon Association ($1,000).

    Intermediate-term outcomes will be changes in behavior of watermelon growers. This can only be accomplished when appropriate research has been completed and the knowledge imparted by extension. Such behavioral changes might include adoption of a particular cover crop, mulch type or biological control agent.

    Long term outcomes to which this project will contribute include the increased sustainability of watermelon culture in the Midwest. Cover crops will lead to greater fertility and organic matter in the soil; increased fertility is linked to lower inputs of synthetic fertilizers. Cover crops are also linked to less soil erosion (Clark, 1998). Biological control agents and alternative mulch types will lead to healthier vines. Growers will be less inclined to apply unneeded pesticides on healthy vines. A decrease in the incidence and severity of MWVD will lead to an increase in profitability of growers. Watermelon growers spend $1,000 or more per acre in preharvest costs in the local community for supplies and labor. Therefore any increase in profitability to the grower will be reflected in the community.

    The outcomes specified above are for the watermelon growers in Indiana, Missouri, and, to a lesser extent, Illinois and Ohio. In Indiana these growers are represented primarily by the Indiana Vegetable Growers Association (IVGA) and the Southwest Melon and Vegetable Growers Association (SMVGA). Watermelon marketing organizations that have expressed interest in this proposal include the Illiana Watermelon Association (IWA) and the National Watermelon Promotion Board (see above).

    The short-term outcomes of scientific and extension publications can be measured by the number and acceptance of the publications themselves. Presentations at winter meetings can similarly be measured by the presentations made (since growers themselves control the agendas of these meetings, presentations given on this research will be an expression of interest by the growers). Behavioral changes by the growers will be measured by survey. This will be difficult to do within the 3 years of this project since grower demonstration projects are scheduled for the 3rd year after two years of research.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.