Clemson researcher explains seedless watermelon production

August 4, 2019

 

BLACKVILLE – Most watermelons produced in South Carolina are seedless, but how are they produced if they don’t make any seed?

 

By seed, of course.

 

The process of growing seedless watermelons was explained to about 300 people who attended the 2019 Clemson Watermelon Field Day at the Clemson Edisto Research and Education Center (REC) by Clemson University horticulture professor Jeff Adelberg.

 

About 300 people learned how seedless watermelons are produced before they harvested

watermelons from fields at Clemson’s Edisto REC during the 2019 Watermelon Field Day.
Image Credit: Clemson Public Service and Agriculture

 

 

“Seedless watermelons are grown from seeds that are produced by crossing watermelon lines to produce plants that have an odd number of chromosomes,” Adelberg said. “Because of the odd number of chromosomes, these plants are sterile and do not produce mature seed.”

 

Most seedless watermelon production starts with transplants, or seedlings grown from seed in a greenhouse. Precise control of temperature and moisture are critical for the plants to emerge. Clemson and North Carolina State University have created a step-by-step guide to seedless transplant production for growers and home gardeners.

 

People growing seedless watermelons in home gardens can plant one seeded watermelon per two seedless watermelons to ensure pollination.

 

Commercial growers and seed companies use hand-pollination, resulting in higher costs for seedless watermelon seed, which can run $150 per 1-pound pack compared with $25 per 1-pound pack for standard watermelon varieties.

 

“People sometimes find white ‘seed’ in seedless watermelons,” Adelberg said. “These are coats of seed that did not fully mature and are safe to swallow.”

 

About 80 percent of watermelons produced in South Carolina are seedless.

 

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