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  • 1 North Carolina State University, Department of Horticultural Science, Campus Box 7609, Raleigh, NC 27695-7609

Most seedless watermelons are grown on black polyethylene mulch to aid crop establishment, growth, yield, and quality and weed control. However, nutsedge is a persistent problem in this production system, as it can easily penetrate the mulch. Halosulfuron-methyl is registered in some crops and provides excellent yellow nutsedge control. The objective of this research was to determine the effects of reduced halosulfuron-methyl contract to the watermelon plant on fruit yield and quality. The seedless watermelon cultivars, Tri-X-313 and Precious Petite, were transplanted into black polyethylene mulch and sprayed 16 days later. Halosulfuron-methyl at 35 g a.i./ha plus 0.25% (v/v) nonionic surfactant was applied at 187 L·ha–1 with a TeeJet 8002 even tip nozzle. Treatments were no spray, 25% of the vine tips, 25% of the crown, and over the top (entire plant). Plants in each treatment were rated (0% = no damage, 100% = fatality) for herbicide injury and the longest vine was measured on four plants. The no-spray treatment had the longest vines (156 cm). The topical halosulfuron treatment resulted in the shortest vines (94 cm) and the highest visual damage rating (63%). The herbicide caused foliage to yellow, internodes to shorten, and stems to crack. Treatments receiving halosulfuron-methyl applied to 25% of the vine (tip end) or 25% of the vine (crown end) resulted in reduced injury compared to the topical application. Generally, the 25% vine tip application was the safest halosulfuron treatment. The total yield (kg·ha–1) and number of watermelons/ha were similar among treatments. The no-spray treatment produced 4450 kg·ha–1 and 8300 watermelons/ha. The over-top treatment produced 3500 kg·ha–1 and 7300 watermelons/ha. Watermelon in the no-spray treatment weighed 4.4 kg, while watermelons weighed 3.9 kg with the over the top treatment. Halosulfuron-methyl is registered to apply to middles between watermelon rows; however, topical applications are prevented due to the possibility of crop injury. This research suggests that reduction of topical application to only 25% contact of the crop may improve crop tolerance. Thus application to nutsedge patches where limited contact to watermelon occurs may be a possibility in the future.

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