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Open access

Pinki Devi, Scott Lukas, and Carol A. Miles

Splice grafting with both cotyledons removed from the rootstock may significantly increase watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. and Nakai] grafting efficiency, eliminate rootstock regrowth, and reduce costs of watermelon transplant production. We evaluated the efficacy of antitranspirant and sucrose treatments on the survival of splice-grafted transplants and assessed the effects of grafting method and rootstocks on fruit yield and quality. First, in a greenhouse experiment, four commercial antitranspirants, applied to rootstock seedlings before splice grafting, increased transplant survival 21 days after grafting (DAG) from 7% to 35% to 68% (P < 0.0001). In a second greenhouse experiment, survival of splice-grafted seedlings was 91% for plants that received 2% sucrose solution + antitranspirant, compared with 67% for plants receiving 2% sucrose alone and 25% for plants that received only water (P < 0.0001). Finally, in a field experiment we compared splice- vs. one-cotyledon grafting with two rootstocks (‘Shintosa Camelforce’ and ‘Tetsukabuto’) vs. nongrafted plants. At 54 days after transplanting (DAT), survival of all grafted transplants averaged 96% with a plant vigor rating of 7.7/10 (10 = most vigorous), compared with 84% survival (5.8/10 vigor rating) for nongrafted transplants. Flowering was delayed by an average of 2 days for splice-grafted watermelon (37 DAT) vs. one-cotyledon grafted and nongrafted plants (P < 0.0001), but harvest date was the same for all treatments (70 DAT). Fruit were harvested 0, 7, and 14 days after fruit reached physiological maturity, and there was no difference in total yield or fruit quality between grafted and nongrafted treatments, with two exceptions. Fruit with splice-grafted ‘Shintosa Camelforce’ rootstock had the firmest flesh (8.2 N) compared with nongrafted transplants (5.3 N), and lycopene increased from 16.7 µg·g−1 at physiological maturity to as high as 31.4 µg·g−1 when harvested 7 days after physiological maturity (P = 0.0002). These results indicate that application of sucrose with antitranspirant to rootstock seedlings before grafting can increase the survival of splice-grafted watermelon, and splice-grafted watermelon perform similarly to one-cotyledon grafted and nongrafted watermelon plants in field production.

Full access

Fairuz A. Buajaila, Pinki Devi, and Carol A. Miles

Many small-scale vegetable growers in the United States who graft their own vegetable transplants use healing chambers inside a greenhouse to heal their grafted plants. Under these conditions, light and relative humidity (RH) can fluctuate during the healing process, and growers need more research-based information regarding the impact of these factors on the survival of grafted transplants. To address this need, this study investigated the effect of different targeted levels of light (0%, 25%, and 50%) and RH (50% and 100%) (six combinations) in a small-scale healing chamber within a greenhouse, where the healing chamber was opened for increasing periods of time for 8 days, at which time plants were fully exposed to greenhouse conditions. The survival and growth of self-grafted eggplant (Solanum melongena), pepper (Capsicum annuum), and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) were measured up to 25 days post grafting. Percent light in the closed healing chambers was similar for the 50% and 100% RH levels of each light treatment. When the healing chambers were closed, compared with the greenhouse, there was 0.1% light in the 0% light treatments, 25% light on average in the 25% light treatments, and 43% light on average in the 50% light treatments. On days 2 to 5 after grafting, when chambers were opened up to 1 hour, average RH in the healing chambers was 96% to 98% for the 100% RH treatments, and was 42% to 49% for the 50% RH treatments. On days 6 and 7, when chambers were opened for 3 to 8 hours, RH was 79% to 82% for the 100% RH treatments, and was 39% to 46% for the 50% RH treatments. Survival of grafted plants following healing was greatest when the healing chamber treatment was 100% RH and 50% or 25% light (95% and 90% survival, respectively), and plant survival with these two treatments did not significantly decline from 11 to 21 days after grafting, indicating plants were fully healed and acclimated when they were removed from the healing chambers on day 8. At 22 to 25 days following grafting, plants healed with 100% RH and 50% or 25% light had greater plant height, number of leaves per plant, and stem diameter than plants healed in the other light and RH combinations. SPAD reading and nitrate-nitrogen of fresh petiole sap were unaffected by any of the healing treatments tested in this experiment, or by crop type. Tomato and pepper had 14% greater survival rates on average than eggplant at all measurement dates, while tomato tended to have greater plant growth, followed by eggplant and pepper. Additional research is needed to improve survival of grafted eggplant.

Open access

Pinki Devi, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, and Carol A. Miles

Separately, grafting and the use of plastic mulch can increase yield, quality, and early harvest of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), especially when plants are under biotic and/or abiotic stress. A 2-year field study was conducted to evaluate the combination of four different rootstocks and two types of plastic mulch (black and clear) on date of watermelon first flowering, fruit ripening, yield, and fruit quality when plants were exposed to Verticillium dahliae. Seedless watermelon cv. Secretariat was grafted onto rootstocks Lagenaria siceraria cv. Pelop, Benincasa hispida cv. Round, and two interspecific hybrid squash rootstocks Cucurbita maxima × C. moschata cvs. Super Shintosa and Tetsukabuto, with nongrafted ‘Secretariat’ as the control. Fruit were harvested 0, 7, and 14 days after both the leaflet and tendril attached to the fruit pedicel were completely dry (fruit considered to be physiologically mature). The area under the disease progress curve (AUDPC) values for verticillium wilt were not different for mulch type in either year, although the overall AUDPC value was greatly reduced in the four grafted treatments (227) compared with nongrafted (743). There was no difference in days to male or female flowering due to mulch type or year, and rootstock did not affect first flowering of male flowers. Female flowering was 14 and 11 days later in 2018 and 2019, respectively, for ‘Secretariat’ grafted onto bottle gourd ‘Round’ compared with ‘Secretariat’ grafted onto ‘Tetsukabuto’. Female flowering of ‘Secretariat’ on ‘Round’ was also 7 days later compared with nongrafted ‘Secretariat’ both years. However, days to first harvest was not different with mulch or rootstock and was 92 days after transplanting (DAT) in 2018 and 114 DAT in 2019. There was no difference in yield (fruit number and weight) due to year, harvest date, or mulch, but there was a difference due to grafting. ‘Secretariat’ grafted onto ‘Super Shintosa’ had the greatest total number and weight of fruit per plant (3.7 and 14.8 kg, respectively), and nongrafted ‘Secretariat’ had the lowest (0.7 and 3.2 kg, respectively). Fruit quality attributes hollow heart formation (rating 3.2/5 on average), hard seed count (6 on average), total soluble solids (11% on average), and lycopene content were not different among mulch type, rootstock treatment, or harvest date; however, lycopene content did differ due to year (52.44 and 32.51 µg·g−1 in 2018 and 2019, respectively). Flesh firmness was highest for watermelon grafted onto ‘Super Shintosa’ rootstock (6.7 N) and lowest for nongrafted watermelon (4.3 N). Overall, rootstocks reduced verticillium wilt severity and increased fruit yield whereas mulch had no effects, and 5 V. dahliae colony forming units (cfu)/g of soil may be the minimum level for impact on watermelon fruit yield.