A TISSUE CULTURE APPROACH FOR DEVELOPING TETRAPLOID WATERMELONS

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634

Tetraploids are needed to synthesize triploid watermelons, which produce “seedless” fruit with improved quality. Traditionally, the tetraploids are induced by applying colchicine to the growing apex of seedlings or soaking the seeds with colchicine solution. This method often produces low frequency of tetraploids and high frequency of chimeras. Breeding tetraploids takes much longer time than breeding diploids because of the low female fertility. We developed a tissue culture approach that allows breeders to develop desirable tetraploids with commercially acceptable volume of seed in 2 years. This tissue culture approach includes: 1) regenerate plants via shoot organogenesis from cotyledon tissue; 2) screen tetraploids based on leaf morphology (more serrated leaf margin and wider leaf shape) before transplanting, and confirm tetraploids based on pollen morphology (larger pollen with four copi) and/or seed characteristics; 3) self-pollinate tetraploids or cross the tetraploids with diploids to accurately estimate the female fertility; 4) micropropagate the best tetraploid(s) using axillary buds during the off-season; and 5) produce tetraploid seed from the cloned tetraploids in an isolation plot and evaluate the triploids derived from the tetraploid(s) in the following season. This approach has been practiced on more than 20 genotypes over the past 4 years.

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