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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0327.

Muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) seed crops sometimes contain seeds with split coats that expand to twice their normal water content. These expanded seeds are often referred to as “fishmouth” seeds, because the split seed coat resembles an open fish's mouth when viewed longitudinally. “Fishmouth” seeds are dead seeds. However, little is known about why death occurs inside the fruit before harvest. Hermaphroditic flowers were tagged at anthesis and fruits were harvested at various intervals during the later stages of development and decay. Seeds were removed from the fruits and incubated in water on germination blotter paper for 14 days. The percentage of germinable, dead and “fishmouth” seeds were averaged for each Harvest date. Fruit pericarp samples were analyzed for pH, ethanol, and acetic acid content. At 50 days after anthesis (DAA), just past edible maturity, 100% of the seeds germinated. However, at 60 and 78 DAA germination dropped to 60 and 17%, respectively, while the occurrence of “fishmouth” seeds increased from 2 to 54% over the same period. The ethanol content of the tissue increased from 0.11 to 0.28%, the pH dropped from 6.2 to 5.1, and acetic acid concentration increased from 3.0 to 3.7 mM from 50 to 60 DAA, respectively. However, when dried seeds were incubated in the laboratory under conditions similar to those within the fruit, the formation of “fishmouth” seeds was related to the ageing effects of long term hydration and was not correlated with any chemical product within the fruit.

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