Variability in watermelon flower attractiveness to insect pollinators

Joshua H. Freeman, Stephen M. Olson

Abstract


In the Spring and Fall of 2006, pollinator preference of diploid watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & nakai.] pollenizers was recorded at Quincy, Fl. Triploid watermelon plants do not produce sufficient viable pollen to pollenize themselves and a diploid cultivar must be planted in the field as a pollen source. Recent studies have illustrated differences in triploid watermelon yields as a result of the pollenizer cultivar selection. Pollinator preference of watermelon pollenizers may greatly affect the amount of viable pollen that is being moved throughout a field and thus the amount of triploid fruit that will be set. Pollinator visitations were recorded for the pollenizer cultivars Companion, Mickylee, and SP-1, and the triploid cultivar Intruder. Visitation to the 'Mickylee' and 'SP-1' was greater than that of 'Companion'. Visitaion of the diploid cultivars was also greater than that of the triploid cultivar. 'Companion' may be a contributing factor. 'Companion' has a nearly entire leaf and staminate flowers that are produced on short peduncles. In many cases this may obstruct the view of the staminate flowers, which may reduce the pollinator visitation as visual cues are used in long-range foraging decsisions. It is important that a pollenizer cultivar be more attractive to pollinators than the triploid because foraging of triploid staminate flowers can reduce the percentage of viable pollen being moved throughout a field. This study suggests that pollenizer attractiveness to pollinators may be an important factor that determines a pollenizer's performance.

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283