Author Topic: Need advice re: watermelons  (Read 190 times)

Ferdzy

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Need advice re: watermelons
« on: 2019-02-06, 07:14:52 AM »
Hello all -

As some of you will know, Mr. Ferdzy and I have been working on 2 varieties of watermelon.

One is a cross between Orange Glow and Sweet SIberian, to create a mid-sized, tasty, northern-adapted orange fleshed watermelon. We have been making good progress on that.

The other is a cross between Golden Midget with Crimson Sweet and Grover Delaney. The goal here is to create a bigger, better melon than Golden Midget, but with the trait that the rind turns yellow when ripe. We've made some really exciting progress with this one too.

Here's the problem: last summer, during harvest, I discovered one of the Orange cross in the Golden Rind project bed. Up until now they have been staying separated very nicely. On examining the plant and the fruit my conclusion is that this did not happen as a result of the two projects crossing, but by some bird or animal moving a seed from the Orange project bed. This happens pretty commonly with peas and beans in my experience, but this is the first time I have seen it with melons. However it happened, we now have a dilemma.

Do we go back a year and replant the batch of seeds we planted last summer and chalk this one up to bad luck? I have a horrid suspicion the answer is yes, at least for the Golden Rind project. The Orange project should be okay.

Or do we go ahead and plant this years seeds and hope for the best? If crosses turn up, how many years do you think it will take to weed them and their offspring out?

reed

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #1 on: 2019-02-06, 07:33:32 AM »
All I know is that the watermelons I got from you are the most wonderful I have ever tasted and it is great fun not knowing what color they are until I cut them open.  I know this isn't helpful at all in solving your issue, just couldn't resist tossing it out there.  ;D 

Mike Jennings

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #2 on: 2019-02-06, 09:31:03 AM »
I have noticed that watermelons with a golden/yellow skin color usually have a yellowish tint to the leaves as well. So, you may be able to plant the most recent seed of the Golden Rind and if there are any crosses with the orange that show up, they should have the normal gray-green color to the leaves. Then you would be able to cull them before they can contribute any pollen.

Iím not sure if the yellow leaves/golden rind link holds true in all cases though.

Ferdzy

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #3 on: 2019-02-06, 10:41:54 AM »
All I know is that the watermelons I got from you are the most wonderful I have ever tasted and it is great fun not knowing what color they are until I cut them open.  I know this isn't helpful at all in solving your issue, just couldn't resist tossing it out there.  ;D

Thanks, Reed! That's nice to hear. I think those seeds were from when we were doing a mass-cross of everything we could get our hands on, so yes, that should be a group with a lot of variety and all kinds of forms and colours to follow.


Ferdzy

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #4 on: 2019-02-06, 10:46:19 AM »
I have noticed that watermelons with a golden/yellow skin color usually have a yellowish tint to the leaves as well. So, you may be able to plant the most recent seed of the Golden Rind and if there are any crosses with the orange that show up, they should have the normal gray-green color to the leaves. Then you would be able to cull them before they can contribute any pollen.

Iím not sure if the yellow leaves/golden rind link holds true in all cases though.

Yes, you are right on both counts. If the gene is present, it usually does show itself fairly early in the form of slightly yellowish leaves, even when the fruit is not going to turn golden  when ripe. But it isn't guaranteed. Some of the plants that carry the golden gene won't show any yellowness. Also, if we have crosses between the Golden Rind project and the Orange project, they may turn up as the slightly yellowed seedlings. I don't think we want to be adding yellow flesh to our Golden Rind project at this stage in the proceedings. Even though it could be quite interesting... Hmm, hmm. Lots to think about.

Carol Deppe

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #5 on: 2019-02-06, 02:46:18 PM »
Did you save seed from the stray orange-flesh melon that was in the orange skin project bed? If so, I think I would be inclined to think that the orange flesh project would also be improved by having yellow skin, and the seed from the unruly stray represents the first year of incorporating orange skin into your orange flesh project.

And I'd remember to thank the plant. "Thanks, unruly little plant. I realised it would be better to have yellow skin in all my watermelon protects. But I just hadn't quite faced up to the extra work and complexity. Thanks for the gentle nudge and encouragement to aim high."

I don't know whether all yellow skinned watermelon plants would have yellow tinted leaves, but based on how the B gene acts in Goldini Zucchini and other pepos, I would guess no. The B Gene can confer a golden tint to leaves in seedlings and young plants. But only in the presence of at least one modifying gene, maybe more. So in a planting of the gold-fruited Goldini Zucchini, some seedlings and young plants have yellow tinted leaves and some don't. And, as a matter of principle, I left both phenotypes in the variety. The yellowish appearance of young leaves can be mistaken for disease, so the issue is making sure they don't get culled aÁcidentally. If they grew slower than the others I would have selected against them. But they don't. By the time the Goldini plants are a foot or two across, the gold in younger leaves has largely vanished.
« Last Edit: 2019-02-06, 02:48:26 PM by Carol Deppe »

Andrew Barney

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #6 on: 2019-02-07, 10:34:06 PM »
Hard to say. I guess it comes down to personal preference. If it were me, I'd just risk it and use the most recent seeds. But then again,  watermelon are very promiscuous. So older seed might be better. Depends on how pure you want them.

The "go" gene Is supposedly recessive,  so it could stay in that population for a long time, only showing up occasionally for many generations.

Carol has a good point,  maybe this can be a happy accident and the start of a new breeding project. Perhaps you can send that seed to someone who is more interested than you if it is of low priority.

P.s. this year I saw seed in a commercial catalog for a yellow fleshed watermelon in yellow rind. So your not the only one with that idea. "Gold in gold".
« Last Edit: 2019-02-07, 10:38:29 PM by Andrew Barney »

gmuller

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #7 on: 2019-02-08, 04:20:50 AM »
I know nothing about watermelons. But how many plants do you grow? do you have enough to cull the ones that were near the unruly plant? Are there 'distant' plants from you project that are less likely to be crossed? Is it too late in the season to hand pollinate the crosses you want, to get uncrossed fruit this season? Do you have sufficient room to grow out last years seed and this years seed next year, with the idea that the crosses, if they did occur will show up, and be rejected, and you will have only lost this years selections, because you will have last years stock coming on anyway?
Are there any good reasons to repeat a growout of last year so it doesn't feel like a lost year? could you have done with a few extra plants last year, but you didn't have the resources, so  another lot of that batch would be good insurance anyway?

Or just go with the flow, and accept Nature's little trick as an opportunity for another project, started early.
:)
GM

Ferdzy

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #8 on: 2019-02-09, 07:50:47 AM »
Did you save seed from the stray orange-flesh melon that was in the orange skin project bed? If so, I think I would be inclined to think that the orange flesh project would also be improved by having yellow skin, and the seed from the unruly stray represents the first year of incorporating orange skin into your orange flesh project.

And I'd remember to thank the plant. "Thanks, unruly little plant. I realised it would be better to have yellow skin in all my watermelon protects. But I just hadn't quite faced up to the extra work and complexity. Thanks for the gentle nudge and encouragement to aim high."

I don't know whether all yellow skinned watermelon plants would have yellow tinted leaves, but based on how the B gene acts in Goldini Zucchini and other pepos, I would guess no. The B Gene can confer a golden tint to leaves in seedlings and young plants. But only in the presence of at least one modifying gene, maybe more. So in a planting of the gold-fruited Goldini Zucchini, some seedlings and young plants have yellow tinted leaves and some don't. And, as a matter of principle, I left both phenotypes in the variety. The yellowish appearance of young leaves can be mistaken for disease, so the issue is making sure they don't get culled aÁcidentally. If they grew slower than the others I would have selected against them. But they don't. By the time the Goldini plants are a foot or two across, the gold in younger leaves has largely vanished.

To comment on the last point first, you are right. There is (I gather) a gene (or set thereof) for watermelons with a yellow skin, and a different gene (or ditto) for skin-turns-yellow-when-ripe. I have no material with the first trait which I would expect to behave more like your zucchini, and have been working with the second. It is almost like a "killer" gene in the sense that it isn't just the actual fruit which turns yellow. The whole plant turns a greeny-yellow and stops producing as the first melon/s (usually just one, but maybe 2) start to ripen. Very determinate plants, in other words. It's fine because they are also quite compact and the weight of melons produced per bed is as good as my other project; they just get planted quite densely to achieve it.

I did save some seed. Not very much, though. I would need to grow out only that seed next summer, then the odds of the golden rind gene showing up on both sides in the next generation is, I've calculated, 1 in 64. I'd have to plant a lot of melons... when I was starting the Golden Rind project, I planted enough to bring the odds down to 1 in 4, and got lucky the first season. Possibly I could repeat that. Possibly not. The odds are - 1 in 4. And that's assuming I have no immediate plans to backcross anything the the existing Orange Flesh melons, which show a lot of progress that I would hate to lose, and also that I have enough space to plant enough melons to bring my odds down to 1 in 4 which given that Mr. Ferdzy is getting a bit cranky about how much space I'm taking up with watermelons doesn't look good.

I'm trying to remember if I could tell which plants carried the gene in the f2 and f3. My memory says I couldn't, but I don't know if that is because it didn't show until late in the season of the f3s, or if it's because I didn't have enough experience at that point to recognize it. Possibly I could sprout a whole bunch of seeds and determine which ones look promising and improve my odds a lot that way, but I'd still have to get from the f1 to the f3 to do that.

Hmm, hmm, hmm...




Ferdzy

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #9 on: 2019-02-09, 07:59:35 AM »
Hard to say. I guess it comes down to personal preference. If it were me, I'd just risk it and use the most recent seeds. But then again,  watermelon are very promiscuous. So older seed might be better. Depends on how pure you want them.

The "go" gene Is supposedly recessive,  so it could stay in that population for a long time, only showing up occasionally for many generations.

Carol has a good point,  maybe this can be a happy accident and the start of a new breeding project. Perhaps you can send that seed to someone who is more interested than you if it is of low priority.

P.s. this year I saw seed in a commercial catalog for a yellow fleshed watermelon in yellow rind. So your not the only one with that idea. "Gold in gold".


The "go" gene is indeed recessive. I've seen it in action in my garden, it is a text-book example I would say.

The good news is that the "go" gene did not get into the orange melons, the orange melons got into the "go" melons. It would take a couple of years, no doubt, but it could be weeded out without too much difficulty. I guess I am just sulking because I thought next year was the year I would send some seeds to a friend with a seed company for her to try out... Rats! Foiled again!

Ferdzy

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #10 on: 2019-02-09, 08:03:56 AM »
I know nothing about watermelons. But how many plants do you grow? do you have enough to cull the ones that were near the unruly plant? Are there 'distant' plants from you project that are less likely to be crossed? Is it too late in the season to hand pollinate the crosses you want, to get uncrossed fruit this season? Do you have sufficient room to grow out last years seed and this years seed next year, with the idea that the crosses, if they did occur will show up, and be rejected, and you will have only lost this years selections, because you will have last years stock coming on anyway?
Are there any good reasons to repeat a growout of last year so it doesn't feel like a lost year? could you have done with a few extra plants last year, but you didn't have the resources, so  another lot of that batch would be good insurance anyway?

Or just go with the flow, and accept Nature's little trick as an opportunity for another project, started early.
:)
GM

Yeah... it's mid winter here. All this happened last summer, and the orange melon was one of the last to be picked so no, I could not have said at that point which other ones had been close to it.

I think I am leaning towards replanting seeds from the year before last. It sounds like the shortest path to finishing this project, which I would like to do. The seeds from the orange melon in the gold-rind patch will not be lost; once we move on from this watermelon project Mr. Ferdzy wants to go back to growing a wide range of random watermelons like the group from which we sent seeds to Reed. They can go into that project and if they turn out to be special, we can take it from there.


Carol Deppe

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #11 on: 2019-02-09, 01:04:52 PM »
It sounds as if your gold-skinned melon was finished or near finished, except for the interloper. In that case, I think it makes sense to go back to the prior years seed to finish the project.

For growouts of my pure varieties, we usually plant in two semi-isolated blocks. So in the squash patch, for example, the Candystick delicata will be in two blocks, not one, with other squash species between. (And no other pepos on farm.) And the blocks are harvested and fruits laid out at edge of field near their block. All fruits are harvested and examined for off types before fruits from the blocks are moved from field. That way, if there was an off type plant, we would discover it. And it would only screw up the seed production in one block, not the whole crop. I suggest you use that approach with your redo growout.

Its also useful to plant in identifiable rows. That way if a critter plants something, it will be more obvious, and the stray can be culled as a seedling.

Ferdzy

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #12 on: 2019-02-09, 05:51:46 PM »
It sounds as if your gold-skinned melon was finished or near finished, except for the interloper. In that case, I think it makes sense to go back to the prior years seed to finish the project.

For growouts of my pure varieties, we usually plant in two semi-isolated blocks. So in the squash patch, for example, the Candystick delicata will be in two blocks, not one, with other squash species between. (And no other pepos on farm.) And the blocks are harvested and fruits laid out at edge of field near their block. All fruits are harvested and examined for off types before fruits from the blocks are moved from field. That way, if there was an off type plant, we would discover it. And it would only screw up the seed production in one block, not the whole crop. I suggest you use that approach with your redo growout.

Its also useful to plant in identifiable rows. That way if a critter plants something, it will be more obvious, and the stray can be culled as a seedling.

Interesting idea. We would have to re-jig the whole garden though; I've managed to carve out 2 spots for watermelon projects but I'm pretty sure trying to carve out 2 more (even if total space stayed the same) would cause a rebellion.

I have been trying to plant in sibling blocks, although we had so many failures-to-appear last year before things got going that it all ended up a little muddled. One of the things that has been happening in this project is we get melons with small seeds but thick tough seed coats fairly regularly. Needless to say they select themselves out, but it can be quite frustrating while it happens.

****

Thanks to everybody who chimed in on this. Lots of good questions were asked and I think it has really helped clarify my thinking... back to the 2017 seed it is. Also I hope I may be able to focus more precisely onto the parents of the best of last years melons, by using my records, so I may not be as far set back as I think.

gmuller

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Re: Need advice re: watermelons
« Reply #13 on: 2019-02-10, 04:47:27 AM »
For growouts of my pure varieties, we usually plant in two semi-isolated blocks. So in the squash patch, for example, the Candystick delicata will be in two blocks, not one, with other squash species between. (And no other pepos on farm.) And the blocks are harvested and fruits laid out at edge of field near their block. All fruits are harvested and examined for off types before fruits from the blocks are moved from field. That way, if there was an off type plant, we would discover it. And it would only screw up the seed production in one block, not the whole crop. I suggest you use that approach with your redo growout.
Thanks for the tip - Makes sense.

And Ferdzy, after posting I realised that you were in the depths of winter - Doh! Good luck with the project.
GM