Syngenta Seeds has released two new varieties under its Rogers Brand: the Fascination seedless watermelon and the accompanying Super Pollinizer SP-5.
Both have an improved disease package due to their unique genetic backgrounds, says Dean Liere, Gilroy, Calif.-based product business manager for watermelons.
Fascination has intermediate resistance to Fusarium wilt race 1 and Anthracnose race 1 whereas SP-5 has intermediate resistance to Fusarium wilt race 1, and 2, Anthracnose race 1 and powdery mildew.
In the past, most new watermelon varieties came from a small genetic pool and were closely related.
But Syngenta breeders have gone outside that pool to bring in different genetic materials with an entirely new set of traits, Liere says.
Fascination is just one of the results. It has good size, with individual fruit averaging 16-19 pounds. But what growers, brokers and consumers will really notice is the attractive exterior and dark red flesh color, he says.
“When you cut into the fruit, it’s a very beautiful deep color with wonderful watermelon flavor,” Liere says.
With the darker red also comes higher levels of lycopene, a plant-based phytonutrient that has positive health attributes.
Syngenta Seed breeders also reduced the size of the pips—the small white remnants of the seeds.
“They’re now much less obvious to the consumer,” Liere says.
Paired with Fascination is SP-5, one of a line of Syngenta Seed Super Pollinizers.
The concept behind super pollinizers is they take up minimal space in the field while producing more pollen than a conventional seeded variety. In addition, they expend energy producing that pollen rather than fruit.
Syngenta breeders have developed the Super Pollinzer line to have lacy leaves that won’t compete with seedless varieties in the field.
They also bloom continuously throughout much of the season whereas the conventional seeded varieties used as pollen sources stop blooming once they set fruit.
In addition, SP-5 has twice the male flowers than standard plants.
In the past, growers would have crews transplant the seedless varieties into the field, then return and place a pollinizer between every so many plants.
“You had two operations: one to plant the seedless and then other people coming in behind planting the pollinzers,” Liere says.
But with the Duece system, offered through Syngenta’s Full Count program, growers only need make one transplant pass.
That’s because the SP-5 is planted in the same tray cell as the seedless variety. Not every cell has a plant pair, however, he says.
Each tray contains a specific ratio and distribution pattern.
This is possible because SP-5 is non-competitive and grows at about the same rate as Fascination, Liere says.
When growers receive the trays, they transplant them as if they it were just the seedless variety.
“It eliminates those extra people who are just planting the pollinizers,” Liere says.
A limited amount of Fascination seed was available for the 2010 season, but Liere says this year more than 10 percent of the watermelons planted in the East will be to that seedless variety.