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  • FWA

The Fruitful Partnership Between the Florida Watermelon Association and University of Florida IFAS

By: Robert Hochmuth, Regional Extension Agent- Vegetable Crops

University of Florida IFAS

North Florida REC- 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 few years as evidenced by the increase in active watermelon research projects and the increase in educational opportunities at the FWA Annual Conference and other meetings throughout the state such as the Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute held in Gainesville and the Tri-county Cucurbit Meeting held in the Panhandle area. 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 conducted by faculty at RECs in Homestead, Immokalee, Balm, Live Oak, and Quincy as well as the UF/IFAS Plant Sciences Center at Citra. In most cases, as research projects are being developed, letters of support from FWA are submitted and strengthen the proposals knowing the industry is involved in the planning of the research and Extension activities. FWA has also directly funded research trials in recent years on topics such as vine decline, controlled release fertilizers, petiole sap testing, and developing in-field virus testing procedures and tools. FWA also offers a UF Research tab on the FWA website so members can easily find research trial results and the complete library of UF/IFAS electronic publications on watermelon.

The 17 research projects listed below and conducted over the past four years and upcoming years represent slightly more than $2.3 million in total funding from about 10 primary sources of funding.

Below is a summary of primary watermelon research projects conducted by University of Florida IFAS faculty over the past four years and updated January 2020 for the Florida Watermelon Association

  1. Project Title: Managing emerging threat by three whitefly-transmitted viruses in commercial vegetable production. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)- Specialty Crops Block Grant- $270,220.00

  2. Project Title: Characterization of a new bacterial pathogen on watermelon, squash and other cucurbits, understanding the key environmental factors favoring the disease, and development of an IPM strategy. Florida Watermelon Association – $6,000. National Watermelon Association – $9,500; USDA-Southern IPM Center – $29,966; Louis Taylor Farms, In-kind, Syngenta Seeds Student Internship.

  3. Project Title: Characterization of the 2018 disease outbreak on watermelon associated with a diverse group of Xanthomonas spp. UF/IFAS funded, No external funds.

  4. Project Title: Development of an improved scouting technique incorporating UAV-Multispectral imaging into conventional practices on Florida cucurbits. FDACS – Specialty Crops Block Grant Program – $229,004.

  5. Project Title: Improving watermelon production in Florida by developing a field-based recombinase polymerase amplification assay for critical viruses and field management of the insect vectors using Kaolin Clay. Florida, Georgia, National, and Gulf Coast Watermelon Associations - $22,000.

  6. Project Title: Identification and management of Fusarium wilt races in Florida and the Southeast. USDA SCRI Grant Subaward $300,256), FDACS Specialty Crop Block Grant ($159,594), National Watermelon Association ($13,494), Georgia Watermelon Association ($5,500).

  7. Project Title: Determining the efficacy of pre-plant fumigation and fungicide application for Fusarium wilt management in seedless watermelon. Gulf Coast Watermelon Association - $6,149; National Watermelon Association - $14,170.

  8. Project Title: Watermelon Variety Trials (Florida location, coordinated with Georgia and Clemson). Sources of funds: Watermelon seed industry.

  9. Project Title: Field-Deployable Recombinase Polymerase Amplification for Early Detection of Destructive Viruses in Florida Cucurbits and Whiteflies. FDACS – Specialty Crops Block Grant Program – $222,341.

  10. Project Title: Improving cucurbit foliar disease management through improved scheduling and application of efficacious fungicides. Amount and source of funds: FDACS – Specialty Crops Block Grant Program – $285,680.

  11. Project Title: The Potential Role of Controlled Release Nitrogen Fertilizers in Reducing Leaching Losses in Florida Watermelon Production. FDACS- Office of Ag Water Policy ($11,172); Florida Watermelon Association ($11,172).

  12. Project Title: Evaluation of Velpar herbicide in rotation with watermelon. Amount and source of funding: Bayer Crop Science, $2,000.

  13. Project Title: Documenting Impacts of BMP Adoption by Suwannee Valley Watermelon Growers. FDACS- Office of Ag Water Policy $3,158.

  14. Project Title: Integrated use of grafting to improve sustainability of Florida watermelon industry. FDACS – Specialty Crops Block Grant Program – $146,528.

  15. Design and evaluation of compact bed geometry for drip-irrigated watermelon with regards to yield, cost, and water and nutrient efficiencies. FDACS, $143,942.

  16. Integrated Management of Emerging Seedborne Bacterial Diseases of Cucurbits and Chenopods. USDA-Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), $398,675.

  17. Use of kaolin clay and essential oils to control whiteflies in watermelon production. Sources of funds, Maroon and Bedoukian research. $20,000.

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