Quantification of Watermelon Lycopene Content and Correlation with Colorimetric Measurements

in HortScience

The red flesh of watermelon contains lycopene, a pigment with antioxidant properties that help prevent certain types of cancers. This experiment was done to determine cultivar variation in lycopene content, and the effectiveness of colorimetric measurements for predicting lycopene content. Ten ripe melons per cultivar of hybrid, open-pollinated, and triploid types were selected from field plantings at Lane, Okla. Melons were cut transversely and color measured with a colorimeter at three heart and three locule sites, in a counterclockwise rotation starting at the ground spot. For lycopene content, a 100-g sample of heart tissue was removed, extracted with a hexane-acetone-ethanol mixture, and lycopene concentration measured spectrophotometrically at 503 nm. Lycopene content varied among cultivars, from 33.96 μg·g–1 in `Crimson Sweet' to 66.15 μg·g–1 in `Crimson Trio'. Chroma and “a” colorimeter values were highly correlated with lycopene content (P < 0.001). Linear and quadratic regression of lycopene against colorimeter values yielded an R2 of 0.55. Results indicate that, like tomatoes, watermelon cultivars vary widely in lycopene content. Colorimeter readings did not adequately predict lycopene values.

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