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S. Jenni and K.A. Stewart

As part of a program to develop a model for growth and development of muskmelon produced under various mulch and row cover combinations, all perfect flowers of five plants were tagged and measured on a daily basis. The polar and equatorial lengths of the inferior ovary were recorded from anthesis to fruit maturity. Mature fruits were harvested at full slip. The location of each flower on the plant was coded. Flowers and subsequent fruits were classified according to the following phenological stages: immature, close to mature, close to full bloom, full bloom, wilted, past full bloom, close to fruit, fruit. The netting was visually evaluated and rated on a scale of 0 to 5, the highest value representing maximum netting. At fruit maturity, the weight, polar and equatorial length of each fruit were measured and mature and immature seeds counted. The number of fruits that reached maturity was directly proportional to the total number of perfect flowers produced on a plant. Fruit weight during growth could be predicted from the polar and equatorial lengths.

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S. Jenni, D.C. Cloutier, G. Bourgeois, and K.A. Stewart

Plant dry weight of muskmelon transplants to anthesis could be predicted from a multiple linear regression based on air and soil temperatures prevailing under 11 mulch and rowcover combinations. The two dependent variables of the regression model consisted of a heat unit formula for air temperatures with a base temperature of 14C and a maximum-reduced threshold at 40C, and a standard growing-degree-day formula for soil temperatures with a base temperature of 12C. Based on 2 years of data, 86.5% of the variation in the dry weight (on a log scale) could be predicted with this model. The base temperature for predicting time to anthesis of muskmelon transplants was established at 6.8C and the thermal time ranged between 335 and 391 degree-days during the 2 years of the experiment.

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Yael Edan and James E. Simon

The spatial distribution patterns of five melon cultivars (Cucumis melo L. var. reticulatus) were evaluated by measuring XY coordinates of ripe fruit locations in the field. Fruit ripeness distribution over time was also evaluated for three cultivars by measuring the number of ripe fruit, fruit mass, and location over time. Spatial distribution curves for distances between fruit clusters and individual fruit from cluster centroids varied between clusters and were derived for each cultivar from the best fit curves based on chi-square analysis from the two-dimensional spatial fruit distribution. These equations can be used for predicting actual fruit locations in the field. Ripeness distribution patterns indicated that, while the exact duration of the effective harvesting period is cultivar-dependent, the ripeness trend for each of the cultivars was similar. Spatial distribution patterns vary among melon cultivars and must be recognized in the design of automated harvesting systems.

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Jiwon Jeong*, Jeffrey Brecht, Donald Huber, and Steve Sargent

A study was conducted to determine the influence of the ethylene action inhibitor, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) on the shelf life and deterioration of fresh-cut cantaloupe (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus) during storage at 5 °C. Intact cantaloupe fruit, cv. Durango (3/4 to full-slip stage) were treated with 1-MCP (1 μL·L-1) for 24 h at 20 °C. Following cooling to 5 °C, the fruit were processed into ≈2.5-cm cubes and subsequently dipped in 1.34 mm sodium hypochlorite solution for 20 s. Fresh-cut cubes were stored in 1.7-L vented plastic containers for 12 d at 5 °C (85% RH). Intact fruit treated and stored under identical conditions were also examined. While 1-MCP-treated cantaloupe cubes were about 35% firmer than control cubes after the 24-h at 20 °C 1-MCP treatment, little softening occurred in either treatment during the subsequent 12-d at 5 °C storage period. In contrast, control and 1-MCP-treated intact fruit softened nearly 40% and 15%, respectively. 1-MCP did not significantly influence flesh color and soluble solid contents of either intact cantaloupe or fresh-cut cubes during storage at 5 °C. Increased decay incidence was observed in 1-MCP-treated fresh-cut cantaloupe cubes.

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Krista C. Shellie and David Wolf

“Netted” (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus Naud.) cantaloupes typically abscise when mature, and have a shorter postharvest life than “Honeydew” (Cucumis melo var. inodoris Naud.) -type melons. The amount of ethylene and carbon dioxide produced by two cantaloupe genotypes (slipping), one Honeydew genotype (non-slipping), and the F1 hybrids derived from the slipping x non-slipping genotypes were measured during ripening to understand the genetic control of ethylene and fruit abscission. Sterile, nondestructive gas sampling ports inserted into 20-day-old fruit were used to extract samples from the central cavity of the melons and monitor ethylene and carbon dioxide from day 30 until the fruit was horticulturally mature. Honeydew melons had a lower rate of respiration during maturation and ripening than Netted melons, and Netted melons produced 10-fold more ethylene during ripening than Honeydew types. F1 fruit produced ethylene at levels similar to the Netted parent, abscissed 2 to 4 days later than the Netted parent, yet respired during maturation and ripening like the Honeydew-type parent. Ethylene production, respiration, and abscission appear to be controlled by dominant gene action.

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Frank J. Dainello, Larry Stein, Guy Fipps, and Kenneth White

Competition for limited water supplies is increasing world wide. Especially hard hit are the irrigated crop production regions, such as the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Winter Garden areas of south Texas. To develop production techniques for reducing supplemental water needs of vegetable crops, an ancient water harvesting technique called rainfall capture was adapted to contemporary, large scale irrigated muskmelon (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus L.) production systems. The rainfall capture system developed consisted of plastic mulched miniature water catchments located on raised seed beds. This system was compared with conventional dry land and irrigated melon production. Rainfall capture resulted in 108% average yield increase over the conventional dry land technique. When compared with conventional furrow irrigation, rainfall capture increased marketable muskmelon yield as much as 5355 lb/acre (6000 kg·ha-1). As anticipated,the drip irrigation/plastic mulch system exceeded rainfall capture in total and marketable fruit yield. The results of this study suggest that rainfall capture can reduce total supplemental water use in muskmelon production. The major benefit of the rainfall capture system is believed to be in its ability to eliminate or decrease irrigation water needed to fill the soil profile before planting.

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Ernest R. Terry Jr., William M. Stall, Donn G. Shilling, Thomas A. Bewick, and Steven R. Kostewicz

Studies were conducted to determine the critical period of smooth amaranth interference in watermelon (Citrullus lunatus L.) and muskmelon (Cucumis melo L. var. reticulatus). Best-fit linear or exponential regression models were used to predict the maximum period of competition and the minimum weed-free period for 10% yield loss. The maximum period of competition and minimum weed-free period was 0.50 and 2.97 weeks after watermelon emergence, respectively, and 1.0 and 3.9 weeks after muskmelon emergence, respectively. The critical periods of smooth amaranth interference for the crops were between those intervals. In both crops, late emerging smooth amaranth had little effect on total yield. Smooth amaranth introduced at crop emergence reduced total yield. The effect of competition on yield components, i.e., fruit number per hectare and fruit mass, varied by crop. Muskmelon fruit count was more sensitive to smooth amaranth competition than was watermelon fruit count. Conversely, mass per fruit of muskmelon was less sensitive to this competition than was mass per fruit of watermelon.

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John Beaulieu and Jeanne Lea

Cantaloupe (Cucumis melo Var. reticulatus, Naudin) were evaluated during development and then fresh-cuts were stored after preparation from various maturities to track quality changes during storage. Flowers were anthesis tagged one morning and developing fruit were harvested weekly at 13, 20, 27–28, and 34–35 days after anthesis (DAA). Mature fruit were harvested at 37–38 DAA with five distinct maturities: 1/4-, 1/2-, 3/4-slip, full-slip and over-ripe. Hunter L* and a* color values indicated change from pale green to light orange that occurred after 28 DAA. There were significant decreases in L*, a* and b* by day 9 in storage as fresh-cuts. After 28 DAA, sucrose dramatically increased, and this was positively correlated with increases in both total sugars (r = 0.882, P = 0.084) and °Brix (r = 0.939, P = 0.041). Gradual subjective deterioration occurred during storage, which was independent of maturity. There was a negative linear trend over the length of storage in hand-held firmness for each maturity level and the slopes decreased significantly with increasing maturity; indicating the effect of storage duration decreased as maturity increased. Vitamin C had a significant increasing trend (P-value = 0.042) during development from 12 through 35 DAA, then losses were greater in fresh-cuts prepared from full-slip fruit (65%) than in less mature fruits, quarter-slip 40%, half-slip 48%, and three quarter-slip 50%. The pH of mesocarp tissue dropped to the lowest value (5.25) just prior to physiological maturity, then peaked after harvest (6.51–6.79), and generally declined by the end of freshcut storage. In sum, considering other publications on this study, and herein, fruit should be harvested at greater than or equal to 1/2-slip to attain optimum quality and storability.

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Muharrem Ergun, Jiwon Jeong, Donald J. Huber, and Daniel J. Cantliffe

`Galia' (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus L. Naud. `Galia') melons exhibit relatively short postharvest longevity, limited in large part by the rapid softening of this high quality melon. The present study was performed to characterize the physiological responses of `Galia' fruit harvested at green (preripe) and yellow (advanced ripening) stages and treated with 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) before storage at 20 °C. Treatment with 1.5 μL·L-1 1-MCP before storage delayed the climacteric peaks of respiration and ethylene production of green fruit by 11 and 6 d, respectively, and also significantly suppressed respiration and ethylene production maxima. Softening of both green and yellow fruit was significantly delayed by 1-MCP. During the first 5 d at 20 °C, the firmness of green control fruit declined 66% while 1-MCP-treated fruit declined 46%. By day 11, firmness of control and 1-MCP-treated green fruit had declined about 90% and 75%, respectively. The firmness of control yellow fruit stored at 20 °C declined 70% within 5 d while 1-MCP-treated fruit declined 30%. The 1-MCP-induced firmness retention was accompanied by significant suppression of electrolyte leakage of mesocarp tissue, providing evidence that membrane dysfunction might contribute to softening of `Galia' melons. The mesocarp of fruit harvested green and treated with 1-MCP eventually ripened to acceptable quality; however, under the treatment conditions (1.5 μL·L-1 1-MCP, 24 h) used in this study, irreversible suppression of surface color development was noted. The disparity in ripening recovery between mesocarp versus epidermal tissue was considerably less evident for fruit harvested and treated with 1-MCP at an advanced stage of development. The commercial use of 1-MCP with `Galia'-type melons should prove of immense benefit in long-term storage and/or export situations, and allow for retention of quality and handling tolerance for fruit harvested at more advanced stages of ripening.

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Elsa S. Sánchez, Ermita Hernández, Mark L. Gleason, Jean C. Batzer, Mark A. Williams, Timothy Coolong, and Ricardo Bessin

The goal of this study was to develop a systems-based strategy for organic muskmelon (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus) in Pennsylvania (PA), Iowa (IA), and Kentucky (KY) to manage bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila) and nutrients while safeguarding yield and enhancing early harvest. Spunbond polypropylene rowcovers deployed for different timings during the growing season were evaluated for suppressing bacterial wilt and locally available compost was applied based on two different estimated rates of mineralization of organic nitrogen (N) to manage nutrients. In KY only, the use of rowcovers suppressed bacterial wilt incidence compared with not using rowcovers. However, the timing of rowcover removal did not impact wilt incidence. Under lower cucumber beetle [striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum) and spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi)] pressure in PA and IA, rowcovers did not consistently suppress season-long incidence of bacterial wilt. In four of five site-years in PA and IA, more marketable fruit were produced when rowcovers were removed 10 days after an action threshold (the date the first flower opened in PA; the date when ≥50% of plants in a subplot had developed perfect flowers in IA and KY) than when no 10-day delay was made or when no rowcovers were used. In addition, the no-rowcover treatment consistently had lower weight per marketable fruit. In KY, the same action threshold without the 10-day delay, followed by insecticide applications, resulted in the largest number of marketable fruit, but did not affect marketable fruit weight. In PA, marketable yield was higher using compost compared with the organic fertilizer in 1 year. No yield differences were observed by nutrient treatments in 2 years. In IA, marketable yield was lower with the low amount of compost compared with the organic fertilizer and yields with the high amount of compost were not different from the low amount or the organic fertilizer in the year it was evaluated. In KY, marketable yield was unaffected by the nutrient treatments in the year it was evaluated. Given these results, muskmelon growers in PA, IA, and KY who use compost may choose the lower compost rate to minimize production costs. Overall, these findings suggest that rowcover-based strategies for organic management of bacterial wilt need to be optimized on a regional basis, and that fertilization with compost is compatible with these strategies.