Vegetable grafting, an effective approach to control soilborne diseases and improve abiotic stress tolerance, has been the subject of increased research in the United States (Kubota et al., 2008). Improved crop yield is often reported in grafted plants of solanaceous and cucurbitaceous crops, particularly with presence of targeted diseases or abiotic stresses (Louws et al., 2010; Schwarz et al., 2010). Grafting may also alter plant growth and development characteristics such as numbers of nodes and lateral branches (Davis and Perkins-Veazie, 2005) and flowering and harvest time (Davis et al., 2008). With the increasing use of grafted vegetable plants, effects of grafting on fruit quality remain an intriguing topic owing to the growing consumer demand for high-quality produce (Rouphael et al., 2010). In addition to TSS and flesh firmness, the most commonly evaluated fruit quality attributes for cucurbits, investigations of fruit quality of grafted plants have been expanded to fruit sensory properties (Guan et al., 2015; Verzera et al., 2014), volatile profile (Condurso et al., 2012), and health-related compounds (Condurso et al., 2012; Proietti et al., 2008; Zhou et al., 2014). As a result, our understanding of the grafting and rootstock impacts on fruit quality is increasing. The body of literature has shown that in general fruit quality is determined by the scion cultivar and rootstock–scion combination, subject to changes with environmental conditions (Rouphael et al., 2010). Accordingly, rootstock–scion–environment interactions may exhibit a pronounced impact on fruit quality. In the case of specialty melons (Cucumis melo) of diverse genotypes (Guan et al., 2013), grafting different types of melons may be of particular importance in elucidating rootstock–scion–environment interactions.
Interspecific hybrid squash rootstocks (C. maxima × C. moschata), with characteristic vigorous root systems, tolerance to cold and saline conditions, and resistance to fusarium wilt (caused by Fusarium oxysporum), are among the most common cucurbit rootstocks for production of watermelons (Citrullus lanatus), melons, and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), whereas their adverse effects on fruit quality have been identified as a major concern (Davis et al., 2008). In our recent studies under different production systems over two production seasons, galia melon ‘Arava’ (C. melo var. reticulatus) grafted onto interspecific hybrid squash rootstock ‘Strong Tosa’ (C. maxima × C. moschata) led to reduced fruit TSS and sensory properties, whereas the honeydew melon ‘Honey Yellow’ (C. melo var. inodorus) showed no overt changes in fruit quality in response to grafting with ‘Strong Tosa’ (Guan et al., 2015). To further elucidate the quality modification of fruit from galia melon ‘Arava’ grafted with the interspecific hybrid squash rootstock, we conducted follow-up experiments examining the rootstock influence on plant growth and fruit development as related to fruit quality properties.
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