- Fruits: melons
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Pest Management: cultural control
- Production Systems: general crop production
Specialty melon varieties have been grown increasingly by small growers as a high premium produce for their superior flavor and outstanding eating quality. Fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. melonis) and root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita) infestations are becoming one of the most serious threats to sustainable production of specialty melons especially in the Southeastern US. Use of Fusarium wilt resistant melon cultivars is limited by new emerging pathogen races of F. oxysporum f. sp. melonis and there are no melon cultivars available which are resistant to root-knot nematodes. Furthermore, crop rotation and cover crops are of limited use in controlling Fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes because of the long-term survival of F. oxysporum f. sp. melonis in the soil and the wide host range of root-knot nematodes. As an environmentally friendly approach to reduce pesticide use and improve crop productivity, grafting with resistant rootstocks has been widely employed in Asia and the Mediterranean to successfully manage Fusarium wilt in cucurbits, and may also be useful for controlling root-knot nematodes. Interest in grafting vegetables is emerging among growers in the southern US; however, research and education efforts remain limited. The objective of this project is to develop an innovative pest management approach to Fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes in grafted specialty melon by integrating the grafting technology into current production systems for improved sustainability. A wide range of rootstock materials from commercially available rootstocks, wild species, and elite cultivars and breeding lines will be evaluated for disease resistance and grafting compatibility in greenhouse studies. Selected rootstocks will be tested on desirable specialty melon scions from the cultivar evaluation trials, under various farming conditions in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Both organic and conventional production systems will be targeted. New grafting methods will also be examined to reduce labor and increase production efficiency. Disease resistance, growth promotion, yield increase, fruit quality, and the economic costs and benefits in grafted melon production will be assessed. We will determine the feasibility of adopting and implementing the grafting technology into the Integrated Pest Management and Best Management Practices for specialty melon production to integrate environmental stewardship, crop productivity, food quality, and farm profitability. The findings will also provide a foundation for development of melon rootstock breeding programs to serve sustainable agriculture. Outreach and education programs on integrated use of melon grafting include agent and farmer training workshops, a series of publications for farmers, Extension personnel and academics, and vegetable grafting teaching module for undergraduates enrolled in organic and sustainable crop production courses.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1. Identify effective rootstocks for managing Fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes in grafted specialty melon production in the Southeastern US.
Objective 2. Examine grafting methods for specialty melon to reduce labor and increase production efficiency.
Objective 3. Assess growth promotion, yield increase, and fruit quality in grafted melon production beyond disease resistance under both organic and conventional conditions.
Objective 4. Analyze the economic costs and returns of field production of grafted specialty melon in commercial farming systems and provide updated information on economic feasibility for adopting melon grafting technology.
Objective 5. Develop and deliver education and outreach programs on integrated use of grafting technology in sustainable production of specialty melon.