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Research Article
Effect of Grafting on Watermelon Plant Growth, Yield and Quality

Ozlem Alan, Nilay Ozdemir and Yasemin Gunen
 
ABSTRACT
In this study, the effect of different rootstocks on watermelon plant growth, fruit yield and quality were studied by comparing grafted plants with non-grafted ones under low tunnels for early production and later open field growing conditions. The watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum and Nakai) cultivar Crispy was grafted onto TZ-148 and RS-841, commercial hybrids of C. maxima x C. moschata and an experimental rootstock (Lagenaria siceraria) cv. 64-18. Non-grafted plants were used as control. Grafting significantly affected plant growth. Control plants had short main stem, less number of lateral vine and low root dry weight. Fruit yield was positively influenced by grafting when compered with the control under two growing conditions. There was a difference among grafted plants, 64-18 was significantly poor for yield characteristics than the other rootstocks. Detrimental effects were not determinated in fruit quality such as fruit index, rind thickness and soluble solid contents on grafted plants. These results showed that the use of grafting can be an advantageous alternative in watermelon production. Grafted plants improved plant growth and yield without any harmful effects on fruit quality. The positive effects of grafting can change according to the rootstock being used.
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  How to cite this article:

Ozlem Alan, Nilay Ozdemir and Yasemin Gunen, 2007. Effect of Grafting on Watermelon Plant Growth, Yield and Quality. Journal of Agronomy, 6: 362-365.

DOI: 10.3923/ja.2007.362.365

URL: http://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=ja.2007.362.365

INTRODUCTION

Watermelon is an important vegetable and it’s being cultivated in wide areas thorough the world. Soil-borne diseases may cause a decrease in cultivated area of this important crop. Yield and quality may heavily affected in infested soils either early cultivation under low plastic tunnel or later field production conditions. There are different ways to prevent soil-borne diseases such as crop rotation, breeding programs, soil fumigant (methyl bromide) (Yetişir and Sarı, 2004; Rivero et al., 2003). These management practices have some disadvantages. Thus, the selection of resistant rootstocks to soil pathogens seems to be an effective solution.

According to Lee (2003), grafting is an important technique for vegetable production and has become a common practice in many parts of the world, especially Korea, Japan, and some other Asian and European countries where sustainable production is performed. In Turkey, vegetable grafting has recently increased, primarily for tomatoes and watermelons. The use of grafted watermelon has increased about 3, 8 times in the last three years (Atasayar, 2006).

Except controlling soil-borne diseases, grafted plants which have stronger root systems can be used to increase low temperature tolerance and yield and reduce fertilizer and agrochemical application (Yetişir et al., 2003; Rivero et al., 2003). For these purposes, watermelons are grafted on C. maxima, C. moschata, Benincasa hispida and Lagenaria siceraria species as rootstocks. The rootstocks can influence plant growth, yield and fruit quality. The effects of rootstocks can show great differences with different scion cultivars. Graft incompatibility and decrease in the fruit quality may appear depending on the combination of scion and rootstock (Lee, 1994; Edelstein, 1999; Lee and Oda, 2003).

In the present study, the influence of grafting on different rootstocks of watermelon plants growth, fruit yield and quality under low plastic tunnel for early production and later open field conditions.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

The experiments were conducted in the plastic greenhouse (Experiment 1) and in the field (Experiment 2) during 2006 at the Ege University, Ödemiş Vocational Training School in Turkey. The watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum and Nakai) cultivar Crispy was grafted onto TZ-148 and RS-841, commercial hybrids of C. maxima x C. moschata and an experimental rootstock (Lagenaria siceraria) cv. 64-18. Non-grafted plants were used as control in both experiments. The soil was sandy loam (69% sand; 24% loam with 1.6% organic matter and pH 7.3.


Table 1: Plant growth characteristic of grafted and non-grafted watermelon plants (Experiment 1, C: Crispy)
Within each column, same letter indicates the absence of significant differences at p = 0.05

Table 2: Yield characteristic of grafted and non-grafted watermelon plants (Experiment 2, C: Crispy)
Within each column, same letter indicates the absence of significant differences at p = 0.05; NS: Non significant

In experiment 1, the grafted and non-grafted seedlings were planted to the 8 L plastic bags under plastic greenhouse on 5 April. These plants were used for plant growth measurements. A randomized complete block design was followed by three replicates, each consisting of 5 plants. Three plants representing each replicate were rooted for 30 days after planting as recommended by Yetişir and Sarı (2004). Root length (cm), main stem length (cm), number of lateral vine and root dry weight (g) were determined. Roots were weighed for fresh weight and placed in drying oven with circulating air at 65°C for 48 h than weighed for dry weight.

In experiment 2, the grafted and non-grafted seedlings were planted to the soil on 5 April under low plastic tunnel and on 16 June open field conditions. Plants were spaced at 2 m between plants and 2 m between rows, with a density of 2500 plants/ha. The tunnels were removed when the temperature was suitable (20-25°C) for watermelon. Plants were fertilized with equivalent to 150 kg N, 120 kg P2O5, 200 kg K2O and 150 kg Ca (NO3)2 per hectare during growing season. The furrow irrigation was applied as needed and other cultivation practices were conducted. The average maximum and minimum temperatures during the whole growing season were 40 and 16°C. The experimental design was a randomized complete blocks. Each treatment was replicated four times, with 10 plants in each replicate. Ten fruits from each replicate were chosen to determine the yield and quality measurements. Harvests were performed 3 times in both conditions and from middle of June to mid-July under low plastic tunnel production and from the end of the August to mid-October under open field conditions. Marketable fruits were collected at ripening and the following measurements were recorded: fruit yield (kg/plant), fruit weight (kg/fruit), number of fruits per plant, fruit index (fruit length/fruit diameter), thickness of rind (mm) and total soluble solids concentration (°Brix). The soluble solids content of the juice obtained from the central endocarp was determinated with the use of a refractometer.

Analysis of variance was performed using SAS statistical program (SAS, 1996) and mean differences were determinated by LSD test.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The growth performance of grafted plants were compered to non-grafted control plants. The results showed that root length, main stem length, number of lateral vine and root dry weight were significantly influenced by grafting (Table 1). Root length of C/RS-148 at 76.33 cm was significantly higher than other grafted and control plants. The main stem length was also affected by grafting. Control plants had the shortest main stem with 112 cm when compared to the grafted plants. Number of lateral vine gave similar results as main stem length. Grafted plants produced more lateral vine (9 lateral vine/plant) than non-grafted control plants (4 lateral vine/plant). Root dry weight was significantly affected and C/RS-841 and C/TZ-148 produced the highest root dry weight while C/64-18 and control had the lowest dry weight. The effect of the grafting on watermelon growth characteristics indicated that grafting affected root and vegetative development of watermelon plants but there is difference between rootstocks in root dry weight. TZ-148 and RS-841 commercial rootstocks produced stronger root systems than an experimental rootstock 64-18.

Yield characteristics of grafted and non-grafted watermelon plants are presented in Table 2. Under both growing conditions, fruit yield affected by grafting. C/TZ-148 and C/RS-841 produced higher yields than the control and C/64-18.


Table 3: Quality characteristic of grafted and non-grafted watermelon fruits (Experiment 2, C: Crispy)
Within each column, same letter indicates the absence of significant differences at p = 0.05; NS: Non significant

Control plants with 7.25 kg under low tunnels and 8.98 kg open field conditions had the lowest fruit yield. Significant differences were found in the fruit number per plant between controls and grafted plants under low tunnel and open field conditions (Table 2). Grafted plants produced the highest number of fruits per plant except C/64-18 which was significantly lower than the other rootstocks. The mean fruit weight was also significantly affected by grafting under low plastic tunnel conditions but growing in open field conditions, non-significant differences in fruit weight were found (Table 2). The highest fruit weight was obtained from the C/RS-841 with a weight of 5.43 kg, whereas fruit from the control plants weighed 4.08 kg under low plastic tunnel growing conditions.

The results of the effect of grafting on watermelon plants represented that this technique enhanced vigorous root system resulting in growth promotion and yield increases in both growing conditions. Many authors stated that grafting affected growth and yield (Chouka and Jebari, 1999; Salam et al., 2002; Yetişir et al., 2003; Yetişir and Sarı, 2004; Miguel et al., 2004). These increases can be explained advantages of grafting plants; tolerance of low temperature, tolerance of salinity, enhanced water and inorganic nutritient uptake (Rivero et al., 2003). On the other hand, these positive effects of grafting influenced by different rootstocks. TZ-148 and RS-841 commercial hyrid rootstocks provided vigorous plant and an increase in the yield but an experimental rootstock 64-18 caused weaker plant growth and lower yield. As its known plant vigour was closely related to root systems which supply enough water and plant nutrients to the scion. Root dry weight is one of the indexes that measures root vigour. Present results supported that 64-18 had poorer root system (Table 1). Although other yield characteristics were not affected by growing conditions, fruit weight affected. Under low plastic tunnel conditions where low temperature monitored, grafting affected fruit weight but in open field conditions where temperature is suitable for watermelon cropping, there was no difference between control and grafted plants. Watermelon crop is highly sensitive to low temperatures that is one of the major factor reducing vegetative development and reproduction. Some rootstocks are more resistant to low temperatures (Rivero et al., 2003).

Fruit quality characteristics of grafted and non-grafted plants are presented in Table 3. Fruit index and rind thickness were not significantly affected by grafting under both growing conditions. The effect of grafting on the soluble solids of fruits was different according to growing conditions. There were significant differences between control and grafted plants in open field conditions while no differences were found under low plastic tunnels growing conditions. Non-grafted control plants (11.13%) and grafted C/RS-841 plants (10.20%) had similar soluble solids, C/TZ-148 and C/64-18 had lower solid contents than the others.

It has been reported that grafting may have adverse effects on fruit quality, especially depend on rootstocks (Lee, 1994; Nissini et al., 2002; Traka-Mavrona et al., 2000) but in our experiments, we could not determinate any detrimental effect of grafting on fruit quality. Similar results were also reported by Yetişir et al. (2003) and Miguel et al. (2004). The soluble solid contents were changed through the growing conditions. The environmental conditions or harvest time may cause variation in soluble solid contents.

CONCLUSIONS

It can be concluded that grafting, in watermelon plants positively affected plant growth and yield without quality losses. These effects were changed by the rootstocks being used.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This research was supported by Ege University Science and Technology Center, Izmir, Turkey (Project No 2006/ÖMYO/001).

REFERENCES
Atasayar, A., 2006. The usage of grafted watermelon seedling in Turkey. Hasad Hortic. Mag., 252: 87-91.

Chouka, A.S. and H. Jebari, 1999. Effect of grafting on watermelon on vegetative and root development, production and fruit quality. Acta Hortic., 492: 85-93.

Edelstein, M., R. Chen, Y. Burger, S. Shriber and D. Shtienberg, 1999. Integrated management of sudden wilt in melons, caused by Monosporascus cannonballus, using grafting and reduced rates of methyl bromide. Plant Dis., 83: 1142-1145.

Lee, J.M. and M. Oda, 2003. Grafting of Herbaceous Vegetable and Ornamental Crops. In: Horticultural Reviews, Janick, J. (Ed.). Vol. 28, John Wiley and Sons Inc., Oxford, UK., pp: 61-124.

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Lee, J.M., 2003. Advances in vegetable grafting. Chronica Hortic., 43: 13-19.

Miguel, A., J.V. Maroto, A. San Bautista, C. Baixauli and V. Cebolla et al., 2004. The grafting of triploid watermelon is an advantageous alternative to soil fumigation by methyl bromide for control of Fusarium wilt. Sci. Hortic., 103: 9-17.
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SAS, 1996. Statical Analysis System Version. 6.12. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.

Salam, M.A., A.S.M.H. Masum, S.S. Chowdhury, M. Dhar, M.A. Saddeque and M.R. Islam, 2002. Growth and yield of watermelon as influenced by grafting. J. Biological Sci., 2: 298-299.
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Traka-Mavrona, E., M. Koutsika-Sotiriou and T. Piritsa, 2000. Response of squash (Cucurbitasp.) as rootstock for melon (Cucumis melo L.). Scientia Hortic., 83: 353-362.

Trionfetti, N.P.N., G. Colla and F. Saccardom, 2002. Rootstock resistance to fusarium wilt and effect on fruit yield and quality of two muskmelon cultivars. Sci. Hortic., 93: 281-288.
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