Magazine article USA TODAY

No More Seeds in Watermelons?

Magazine article USA TODAY

No More Seeds in Watermelons?

Article excerpt

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences developmental biologist Dennis J. Gray and horticulturist Gary W. Elmstrom have devised a tissue culture process that will cut seven to 10 years off the time it takes to develop a new variety of seedless watermelon. The patented process is expected to remove one of the major obstacles toward development of seedless varieties - producing enough seed.

"In the future, seedless watermelons will overtake seeded watermelons in the marketplace," Gray claims. "The only reason why seedless watermelons aren't common right now are some of the inherent problems in production and this patent removes one of the biggest ones."

Although seedless watermelons are of better quality, command a higher price, and have a longer shelf life than seeded varieties, technical difficulties in producing seed have kept the availability of planting stock low and the cost of seed prohibitively high. Elmstrom believes the process could make seed more readily available, reducing the price of seed from $1,000 a pound to somewhere between $10 and $100. These dramatically lower prices could persuade growers to plant seedless varieties on significantly more than the five percent of the nation's 200,000 acres now dedicated to seedless varieties.

Elmstrom, who is a watermelon breeder, and Gray, a tissue culture expert, collaborated on the tissue culture process that clones thousands of watermelon plants in months from breeding lines that normally produce so few seeds, it takes 10 to 15 years to develop a new seedless strain. …

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