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New Crops News, Spring 1991, Vol. 1 No. 1

New Vegetables and Specialty Crops

The ability to grow and bring new types of vegetables and specialty produce into the marketplace could open many exciting opportunities for commercial vegetable farmers. One of the projects sponsored by the New Crops Center is to introduce new produce into Indiana and other Midwestern markets. The project headed by Dr. James E. Simon and Dr. Jules Janick, members of the Department of Horticulture at Purdue University has focused primarily on introducing new forms of traditional vegetables as well as new exotic produce. Seedless watermelons and exotic melons are the prime focus of their study. Indiana is already famous for the production of the Indiana melon, a large very sweet muskmelon with deep ridges and heavy netting and for the production of watermelons. As such, the grower expertise to produce and the industrial infrastructure to pack and ship new types of melons is already in place. Working with both commercial growers and by conducting extensive field studies, significant progress was made this past year in examining the production potential and commercial feasibility of introducing seedless watermelons, green-fleshed muskmelons and other specialty vegetables into Indiana.

Extensive cultivar trials in southwestern Indiana at the Purdue University Agricultural Research Center, identified several seedless watermelon cultivars which appear commerically promising. Yields of seedless watermelons were very high and matched the yields of the normal seeded types. Seedless watermelons are somewhat more difficult to produce than the seeded lines but have the advantage of longer shelf-life, command higher market prices and are marketed separately from regular watermelons. Most importantly, the quality of some of the newer cultivars are excellent although require further evaluation. Growers found commercial production practical and compatible with regular watermelon production. Consumer and market demand appears to be increasing and acreage in Indiana is now at more than 200 acres with more predicted for 1991. Prospects for future commercial production in Indiana appear excellent and 1991 studies will focus on cultivar selection, market evaluation and post-harvest handling.

In another series of studies, more than 50 cultivars and experimental lines of muskmelons and specialty melons were field evaluated in 1990 at the Southwestern Purdue University Agricultural Center, Vincennes, to identify lines that are adaptable to Indiana and that have specialty market potential. Special focus was given to a new type of melon, one whose outside is similiar in shape to the traditional muskmelon but whose interior green flesh is like a honeydew. Fifteen green-fleshed muskmelons were evaluated and several cultivars including 'Makdimmon' and 'Rocky Sweet' appear promising for Indiana. The fruit are highly aromatic and flavorful and some have a firm texture as found in muskmelons while others have a delicate creamy texture. The fruit are very sweet, and the concentration of soluble solids from the most promising equals or surpasses that of the traditional muskmelon. These specialty melons could be introduced and developed in Indiana. Already there is limited commercial acreage, with the fruit being sold as a specialty item at farmer markets. Consumer acceptance has been very good. Significant variation in growth, time of maturity, disease resistance and quality has been observed in these specialty melons indicating the need for further cultivar selection trials, post-harvest handling and marketing studies.

Studies indicate that the introduction of seedless watermelons and green-fleshed muskmelons can compliment the crops already produced by our states’ melon growers and that these new crops can fill a new market niche. While more developmental work is needed on the production, scheduling and marketing of these new vegetables, commercial acreage is still expected to expand next year.


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