Avoiding Watermelon Pollenizer Mix-Ups

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist; gcjohn@udel.edu

Each year we get questions about how to reduce the chance of errors with pollenizers when planting seedless watermelon fields. If pollinizer trays are mixed in with seedless plant trays or if pollinizers are left unplanted this will lead to yield losses or delayed fruiting if pollenizers need to be planted later.

Syngenta seeds has approached this issue with their “Full Count Deuces” program where pollenizers are planted in the same trays in rows with the seedless plants. Transplanting crews then will just pull plants in order from the vertical rows.

One concern with such a system is that if the pollenizers go in every fourth hole, the number of seedless plants per acre will be lower than if pollenizers are planted between every third and fourth plant and there may be a small decrease in yield.

Another option is to mark the pollenizer plants so that they are easy to tell from the seedless. We did a demonstration where pollenizers were sprayed with one of the clay particle film materials (such as Surround or Screen Duo) which coats them white temporarily. Coated and uncoated plants were transplanted and performance evaluated (days to flower, initial flower production). There was no difference between particle film coated and uncoated plants.

This demonstration showed that using a white particle film coating on pollenizers as a marker is a viable way to reduce confusion during planting.