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Continuing Fruitful Partnership Between the Florida Watermelon Association and University of Florida

Summary By: Robert Hochmuth, Regional Extension Agent- Vegetable Crops,

UF/IFAS

North Florida Research and Education Center- Suwannee Valley, Live Oak, FL


The University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is one of the land-grant universities in Florida, the other being Florida A&M University. The land-grant universities throughout the country have the mission to conduct teaching, research, and Extension functions. The partnership between UF/IFAS and Florida Watermelon Association (FWA) has been strengthened in the past several years as evidenced by the increase in active watermelon research projects and the increase in Extension educational opportunities at the FWA Annual Conference and other meetings such as the Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute.

Several of the UF/IFAS Research and Education Centers (RECs) throughout the state are hosting research trials for a wide range of topics important to the watermelon industry in Florida. Major watermelon research projects are being or have recently been conducted at RECs in Homestead, Immokalee, Balm, Live Oak, and Quincy as well as the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research and Education Unit at Citra. In most cases, as research projects are being developed by UF/IFAS faculty, letters of support from FWA are submitted and strengthen the proposals knowing the industry is involved in the planning of the research.


Current UF/IFAS Research Projects Supporting the Florida Watermelon Industry


The 18 research projects listed below represent just over $1.8 million in funding from several public and private sources of funding. Due to space limitations, the lead researcher is listed, but in all cases, several UF/IFAS state and county faculty members form strong and diverse programmatic teams to conduct the research.


1. Project Title: Evaluating the level of control of Fusarium wilt, nutsedge, and plant-parasitic nematodes in watermelons by using biofumigation with isothiocyanates released from a Brassica cover crop.

UF/IFAS PIs: Bob Hochmuth, Nick Dufault, and Zane Grabau

Amount and Source of Funding: $22,502. Florida Watermelon Association High-Performance Seeds, and Gowan Seeds


2. Project Title: Effectiveness of fungicides to manage powdery mildew on watermelon.

Principal Investigator: Pamela Roberts, Professor of Plant Pathology. University of Florida, SWFREC, Immokalee, FL.

Amount and source of funds: $10, 300. Florida Watermelon Association


3. Project Title: Investigation into two new viruses, Watermelon crinkle leaf-associated virus-1 (WCLaV-1) and Watermelon crinkle leaf-associated virus-2 (WCLaV-2) detected in watermelon in Florida in 2021: incidence, mode of spread, and impact on fruit quality and yield

Principal Investigator: Pamela Roberts, SWFREC, Immokalee, FL.

Amount and source of funds: $15,000. Florida Watermelon Association


4. Project Title: Recombinase Polymerase Amplification Toolbox for Field Detection of Diverse Virus Genera and Species Affecting Cucurbits

Principal Investigator: Mathews L. Paret, North Florida Research and Education Center Quincy, FL

Amount and source of funds: $295,000, USDA-AFRI-CPPM program, 2022-2025

5. Project Title: New fungicide options against gummy stem blight of watermelon

Principal Investigator: Mathews L. Paret, North Florida Research and Education Center Quincy, FL

Amount and source of funds: $9,500, Corteva, 2022

6. Project Title: Integrated Management of Emerging Seedborne Bacterial Diseases of Cucurbits and Chenopods

Principal Investigator: Mathews L. Paret, North Florida Research and Education Center Quincy, FL

Amount and source of funds: $398,675, USDA-SCRI, 2020-2023

7. Project title: Developing a push-pull system to manage whiteflies in vegetables (2020-2022)

Principal Investigator: Xavier Martini, North Florida Research and Education Center, Quincy, FL

Amount and source of funding: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services- Specialty Crops Block Grant- $192,149


8. Project Title: The Emerging Viruses in Cucurbits Working Group (EVCWG): a new working group to reduce virus spread in cucurbit crops.

Research team: A collaborative group of 25 members representing various crops, disciplines, and sectors of the cucurbit industry. Florida team member: Dr. Gary Vallad, GCREC.

Funded by Southern Region IPM Center, Southern IPM Grants 2022 program, no funds come directly to UF/IFAS


9. Title: Integrated use of grafting to improve sustainability of Florida watermelon industry

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Dr. Xin Zhao (Horticultural Sciences Department)

Amount and source of funding: $134,687 (Phase I), $146,528 (Phase II). FDACS Specialty Crop Block Grant


10. Project Title: Precision irrigation and fertigation to create nutrient and water savings in Suwannee Valley watermelon production

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Dr. Tyler Pittman, Gilchrist County Extension, Trenton, FL

Amount and source of funding: $29,520 (2022). Florida Department of Agriculture BMP Mini-grant Program.


11. Project Title: Providing petiole sap testing and water flow testing kits for watermelon and other vegetable growers in Lafayette County.

UF/IFAS PI: Emily Beach, Lafayette County Extension Agent.

Amount and source of funding: $2,782. Florida Department of Agriculture BMP Mini-grant Program.


12. Project Title: Evaluating Syngenta Cultivars for Fusarium wilt resistance (2021 to 2022)

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Dr. Nicholas Dufault, Plant Pathology Dept

Amount and source of funding: $15,000 total ($7,500 per year). Syngenta


13. Project Title: A Collaborative Partnership To Select Research And Extension Priorities Related To The Integrated Management Of Watermelon Fusarium Wilt.

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Dr. Nicholas Dufault, Plant Pathology Dept.

Amount and source of funding: $49,233. USDA-NIFA-Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) (2022-2023)


14. Project Title: A multi-state effort to contain and manage the invasive guava root-knot nematode (GRKN) in vegetable crops. (Research grant that supports (at least in part) Florida watermelon production)

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Zane Grabau (Extension Nematologist)

Amount and source of funding: $3,418,579 (multi-state total). $301,279 to North Florida. USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative


15. Project Title: Nematicide testing in watermelon (2021-2022)

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Zane Grabau (Extension Nematologist).

Amount and source of funding: $8,000 (estimated, watermelon trial funding subset of multiple trials sponsored by companies). Bayer CropScience and AMVAC


16. Project Title: Evaluation of a Coated Paper Mulch Provided by WestRock Company in Comparison to a Standard Low-Density Polyethylene Film for Watermelon Yield, Rate of Degradation, and Resistance to Nutsedge Penetration.

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Robert Hochmuth, NFREC-Suwannee Valley

Amount and source of funding: $7,038. WestRock Company, Richmond, VA.


17. Project Title: Development of BMP Guidance for Using Controlled Release Fertilizers in: Carrot, Corn, and Watermelon.

UF/IFAS PIs: Dr. Vivek Sharma, Ag and Biological Engineering Dept, Robert Hochmuth, NFREC-Suwannee Valley, Mark Warren, Levy County Extension.

Amount and source of funding: $410,864 (Total 2020-2023, and $137,000 for watermelon portion). Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Ag Water Policy.


18. Project Title: Genome-editing for Rapid Development of Powdery and Downy Mildew Resistant Cucurbits.

UF/IFAS Corresponding PI: Geoffrey Meru Tropical REC, Homestead.

Amount and Source of Funding: $197,217. FDACS Specialty Crop Block Grant

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