Home What's New Message Board
BigPumpkins.com
Select Destination Site Search

Message Board

 
Watermelon Growing Forum

Subject:  Watermelon weights in the past decade. Progress?

Watermelon Growing Forum      Return to Board List

From

Location

Message

Date Posted

big moon

Bethlehem CT

After looking at Joze's chart of the Atlantic Giant's progression in weight over the past decade or so, I can't help but wonder what is going on with the giant watermelons. I have heard some thoughts as to what could be going on. I would love to hear some more opinions as to what is going on. Chris grew the 350 back in 2013, one of the first years that grafting was done with the CC's. I expected to see 400 by now as we became more familiar with grafting rootstocks and giant watermelons. Sometimes I wonder if we should go back to growing watermelons on there own roots. At least then breeding would be something that we could understand.

10/29/2023 3:31:43 PM

Andy W

Western NY

I have a LOT of thoughts about this one.

I crunched numbers last winter when I was bored, comparing pumpkins vs. watermelons since 2005. There were two main takeaways:

- There are fewer watermelon growers. While this is obvious looking at the results, it's also noteworthy that compared to pumpkins, there are fewer "top watermelon growers" calculated by the number of different growers in the top 20 for each.

- While the watermelons are gaining overall, it's statistically a very slow crawl. Had the melons gained at the same rate as pumpkins just since 2005, we would easily be over 400# on the top watermelon.

And now, to what I think is the main problem - there are a lot of seeds in a giant watermelon. A way higher ratio of seeds per growers than there are for pumpkins. This allows for a situation where a top seed can be grown for a lot longer than for pumpkins.

I know I've pestered a few of the watermelon growers about this the last few years, but you have to stop growing old seeds if you want the genetics to progress. The #2 watermelon this year was was grown from a 2007 seed. A ton of seeds in a melon means you can keep growing a good seed over and over. Imagine if we were still growing the 1161 Rodonis 07 all these years later. Growing an 1800#er from it all these years later might be kind of neat, but it's not selective breeding at its speediest.

There may be some unintended side effects from grafting, but I do not believe that grafting has a significant influence one way or another on this particular situation.

10/29/2023 8:09:41 PM

lbright

South Arkansas

The main factor that causes watermelons and pumpkins to reach large sizes is contests. The last major watermelon world record contest was in 2004. Another factor is grower support groups. One of the best at the present is the GPC. Former GPC representatives Don Young and Andy Wolfe have greatly benefited giant watermelon growers. Both made great efforts to get the correct watermelon data listed on BigPumpkins. Don played a big part in getting weigh-off sites to list the genetics for all watermelons weighed in at GPC sites. A dozen or so years ago, watermelon genetics was usually left blank by many sites. Andy compiled an accurate watermelon estimation chart. Prior to his work, the light or heavy percentage listed on BP was based on the pumpkin estimation chart. A new factor helping watermelon growers is having a watermelon grower (Nick McCaslin) serving on the GPC as a region representative. The number of different growers weighing in really large watermelons has increased significantly. That increase is likely due to the number of growers who are willing to give correct advice to new growers. Most of the grower advice I see online is correct. I like the direction I am seeing as far as watermelon growers improving in growing skills. Also keep in mind the weather is also a key in watermelon success. The Giant Watermelon Growers Club on Facebook is a good group for giant watermelon growers to follow. The new membership year opens soon.

10/29/2023 11:38:43 PM

big moon

Bethlehem CT

It's true, There are far fewer growers of giant melons than there are for Atlantic Giants. I am sure that does make a big difference. If we had more growers it is more likely someone, somewhere in the country would hit the perfect season with perfect weather. It is also true that there are many more contests that are geared towards the pumpkins than watermelons. It is interesting what you mention about the old seeds. If a grower could purchase a 239 Leonard for sale at an auction this winter, I am sure you would see growers paying lots of money for a shot at that seed again. The same would not be true for a 1161 Rodonis, it would go for very little and it it did sell for a lot it would be purely for sentimental reasons, and not expected to do much for competition purposes. It seems There are no "new" melon seeds that have that special growing power that stands out. Or maybe there have been some good ones that we just didn't try because there aren't enough of us.
I still can't help but wonder what the grafting has done to the seeds.. if anything. I would think the genetics should have gotten better? Becuase of the increased possibility of good epigenitic genes being expressed and also any extra genetic infomation passed through the rootstocks. (via graft induced hybridization). It seems that breeders of peppers and also some fruit crops are now using grafting to improve their breeding programs.
https://arccarticles.s3.amazonaws.com/webArticle/articles/ar304002.pdf

10/30/2023 9:01:40 AM

Holloway

Bowdon, GA

I think one is a stagnant gene pool practically everything we are growing is the same 2 seeds from nearly 20 years ago. They have been selfed and bred back to each other over and over. Look last year Patrick grew an almost 300 pound melon off a burpee seed that was ungrafted.
The other is grafting. The most aggressive plants blow up, so we are selecting for graftability and not aggressive growth. It’s pretty evident also that the rootstock affects the genetics as well. There are at least 4 different types of rootstock that work differently in different conditions and climates. All this makes it hard to know which seeds are the best.
Really the only way out to me is to go back to traditionals and introduce some fresh blood. That’s hard to do when you know your at a 30-60 pound handicap if you don’t graft.

10/30/2023 5:42:10 PM

Smoky Mtn Pumpkin (Team GWG)

sevierville, Tn

The biggest problem with grafting IMHO is that so many stumps blow that we can't truely tell how good a new seed is since so many never reach their potential. Without knowing which offspring is best, we keep planting the parents

10/31/2023 9:46:38 PM

jsterry

East Tennessee

I think you might be right Andy about the old seeds. For the most part pumpkin growers grow the latest and greatest every year and weights are going up every year. We definitely need more people growing melons. You are gonna grow 4-6 watermelons in 2024, what’s your lineup?

11/1/2023 7:54:35 AM

big moon

Bethlehem CT

Right so many stumps blow and many of the ones that don't completely fail still get majorly compromised by the end of the season and limp to the finish doing very little through august and september.

11/1/2023 8:39:30 AM

big moon

Bethlehem CT

If those stumps (oops i mean crowns) had stayed completely healthy who knows what could have been with so many of them.

11/1/2023 8:40:54 AM

Holloway

Bowdon, GA

Here’s something else. Most growers grow the seeds of the same 3-4 growers. By this I mean no offense to those growers I greatly appreciate their willingness to share seeds( Chris being one of them) But there are dozens of good seeds out there that never see dirt. I’ve started trying to make sure to include a few of my own seeds and a few not many people are going to grow in the line up.

11/1/2023 3:00:32 PM

lbright

South Arkansas

I do agree with Andy, Jake and Chris but don't have a solution to offer. Watermelon genetics is complicated because many of watermelon hereditary characteristics are determined by three or more pairs of genes rather than just one pair. Also, the gene pool is very small. Most likely the genetics currently used trace back to the gene pool used by a single "watermelon king" in the 50's and 60's. The current gene pool is likely to be even smaller than that grower's gene pool contents because the best growers select from their best and over time leave out some genes. New growers tend to plant seeds from those best growers. Our family used the same gene pool from 1974 through 2005 using a 135 pound watermelon grown in 1973. The 135 was our first good sized watermelon. Our 135 gene pool changed a little when we pick up Cobb Gem genes through insect cross pollination but most of the Cobb Gem traits were weeded out by the mid 70's. The 135 gene pool produced six world records for us and three other growers through scrambling and rearranging genes over the years but no other Carolina Cross genes were added to our pool until after 2005. If a 326 pound watermelon can be grown from the stagnant gene pool from a 135 pound watermelon, there is great future potential for huge watermelons to be grown from an improved gene pool. Enhancing the current big watermelon gene pool will likely be one of the many challenges facing the new leadership of the Giant Watermelon Growers Club. I hope all giant watermelon growers will become members of the club and help Nick McCaslin, Garrin Bratcher and Bill Meeh as they take on the club leadership tasks. With good grower support they will be fantastic!

11/28/2023 1:10:41 PM

andrew943 GWG

Liberty nc

There have been melons with the potential to beat 350 by quit a lot. But something always goes wrong. Biggest problem with melons traditional or grafting is a melon can’t with stand daily gains over 8 lbs per day. Most can’t stand 7 lbs per day without stump failure on either one. Weather seems to be the biggest factor in what I see. Jake is right we are all pretty much growing the same 2 or 3 seeds. An I would gladly buy a 255 mitchell any day of the week! That seed has been good to NC. But I also like some of my newer ones .

12/18/2023 10:20:25 PM

Team Wexler

Lexington, Ky

How do we know the Burpee seed wasn't from the current genetics? We don't.

How do we introduce new genetics? Do we start from scratch?

I'm willing to start a pilot program for new genes however, I have no idea where to start.

What seed(s) should I begin with?

Definitely not interested in grafting. Although a fan of grafting, it's not a good measure of clean genetics.

1/4/2024 9:15:27 PM

Holloway

Bowdon, GA

The burpee seeds essentially come from Bill Carson, so they are very similar to what we are growing. This is a thought maybe Llyod can weigh in on. Now days most of us grow a handful of plants, which allows us to focus on plant care and growing techniques. I believe this was responsible for most of our improvement in weight 2005-2013. We control pollinate which is good but we don’t know the out come of our seeds sometimes we we make the cross. I think before that genetic improvement was the biggest factor. Growers like Lloyd and Henry pleasant grew lots of plants so they could really find who the outliers are. One of these days I want to run a side project where I plant as many different seeds as I can get my hands on (maybe a few hundred plants. Very little care. Pick out the plants that grew the biggest melons. At the end of the season cross the two best plants just early enough to get a30-40 pound seed melon. Chris’s 35 Kent was similar just done in a smaller pool. It was a hot seed for the ones that didn’t overlook the 35 pounds part.

1/5/2024 12:15:30 AM

Holloway

Bowdon, GA

Something else to consider. The cobb gem traits may have been selected out but it improved the melon weights from there forward, even though it was not necessarily a bigger melon. Side project #2: I’m not saying go cross jbd in to all your melons but I believe it is a worth wild side project. With less than a half dozen growers that have actually tried one the results are impressive. They are not far behind ccs grown in the same patch. The growth curve is different. If we picked some with longer growth curves like HC’s 232 and planted more of them Carolina’s maybe in trouble.

1/5/2024 12:32:20 AM

lbright

South Arkansas

Team Wexler, if you are interested in starting with two different gene pools and making a cross to plant out all offspring, I have a suggestion. I have a Bright cross (245 Bartoli X 157 Bright) that is out of a gene pool that was started in 1973 and which has changed very little since. The 245 produced seven 300 pounders so the gene pool should be sound. Cross that with a different gene pool like from a sibbed 239 Leonard or a 255 Conrad 1983. It is obvious that the 239 is from a good gene pool and the Conrad melon produced good melons also. I plan to go with the Conrad seeds. Send me a bubble sometime if that looks workable or you can wait for the GWG auction on the 27th and make bids there.

1/7/2024 2:26:47 PM

brotherdave

Corryton, TN

Br Bright, if I could get a 1965 Tom Watson White Seed to germinate, do you think it would have ANY genetic merit. I have never seen one and I have no idea if they have any genetic potential. I surely wouldn't expect them to compete by todays standards but I don't know if some other gene(s) could be hiding that would be of benefit.

1/8/2024 12:58:16 PM

lbright

South Arkansas

To me that seed has value especially if it is from the Willhite White Seed Tom Watson. They are close to being a lost seed. Willhite doesn't have any left in their seed reserve vault. It would be great if you can get one to germinate. A self pollinated one would be great just for the rind color alone. It is an old seed line that likely would have some genes that are not in current seed lines. I hope you can germinate a few.

1/8/2024 2:55:02 PM

big moon

Bethlehem CT

Dave that would be something if you could get something like that to germinate! I wish I had kept all my old seed from back in the 80's. I had no idea a lot of the varieties would be lost within a few decades.

1/9/2024 8:09:51 AM

JMiller

Tompkinsville, KY

We grew the Willhite white seeded Watson back in the 80’s and they were long dark melons that grew big 80 or 90 pound field grown with just a couple handful of fertilizer. Sure wish I had kept some of those seeds.

1/9/2024 2:19:07 PM

Holloway

Bowdon, GA

I have tried to locate reliable Tom Watson, Cobb gem, mountain Hoosier, and nc giant(Viverette). I’ve had all four at some point but never thought about them being lost. I was skeptical of the baker creek Cobb gem but Mrs. Stansbury’s melon proved they were legit. They are out now of coarse.

1/9/2024 8:42:06 PM

big moon

Bethlehem CT

I agree Jake, I am skeptical of a lot of the old heirloom seeds that are being sold today. I think in many cases they are quite different than the historic original variety. I think this happens because very little critical selection occurs when seed harvesting to make sure they are true to type. It is more obvious with some cultivars than others. Here is an article about the sugar snap pea. https://marysveggiegarden.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/sugar-snap-peas-rest-in-peace/
Some of the better seed companies have started the very time consuming process to clean up the sugar snaps genetics and get them back to their original type. With melons Willhite has always been a good "keeper" of watermelon varieties and maintaining them well. Once they eliminate a variety it doesn't take long for that variety to degrade or become absent completely.

1/10/2024 9:26:54 AM

TruckTech1471

South Bloomfield, Ohio

Not entirely off-topic, here's the video link to Chris' world record:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsNSsDQTrWU

1/11/2024 6:35:49 AM

lbright

South Arkansas

Part of it is how seeds to grow are chosen. Usually the choice is made by grower name or by the size of the first offspring of a cross. The first offspring is not a good predictor of future size. The size of the first offspring is determined by the seed planted. Size influenced by the pollinator shows up only when the seeds of the cross get planted. That leads to growers failing to ever see the potential of pollinators because they don't take a chance and plant the seeds of offspring that are smaller than the parents. Two actual growers made a cross of the same two well known watermelons. One grower made the cross and produced a melon which weighed 11 pounds less than the mother seed. Because of the smaller size only one grower planted from the resulting seed and only one grower used the resulting seed as a pollinator. Grower two making the same cross produced a fruit which weighed 52 pounds more than the seed melon's weight. Thirty-nine melons were grown from the resulting seeds and entered in GPC contests and and as the pollinator, 28 melons were entered in GPC contests. One simple thing growers should consider is making sure the result of each cross is planted in order to see the effect of the pollinator. The more the better. Lots of really good seeds never get chosen for planting.

1/18/2024 11:56:27 PM

andrew943 GWG

Liberty nc

Which melons were they Mr bright?

1/19/2024 7:24:20 PM

Holloway

Bowdon, GA

My guess is 291 Kent and 228 Clementz

1/19/2024 8:22:50 PM

lbright

South Arkansas

To me, this cross done by two different growers is fascinating. A lot about watermelons genetics is on display. Dozens of things can be learned about watermelon genetics by studying this set of crosses. These growers started with the proven 239 Leonard seed. If they had chosen a moon and stars seed for the pollinator, they would have gotten the same initial results. One grower would have grown a world record and the other would have grown a very respectable 200+ pound watermelon. The pollinator genes in the two melons are just found in the seeds of the newly produced watermelon so the moon and stars pollinator genes would be covered up visually. In the actual cross, that new world record watermelon's genes had no genes throughout the watermelon from the pollinator even though the pollinator became the father of the current world record and was from a gene pool that has produced five world records. The father of the second largest ever melon came from that same pollinator seed group. All of that remains covered up until the record melon gets planted.........A good lesson here is if you want to grow a watermelon in 2024 that reaches 300 pounds the first year, plant a seed that is proven capable of reaching that range. Those proven seeds will be capable of producing 300 pound melons regardless of the pollinator used. Some of the best known proven seeds for that range are the 302 Kent, 199.5 Mudd, 305 Mudd and others. They may be hard to find though. Watch for them at the GWG Auction on the 27th.

1/20/2024 1:22:35 PM

Holloway

Bowdon, GA

But if you want to do it again next year you better pick the right pollinator lol. This discussion really threw me down a deep rabbit hole. After looking at the daddys not pollinator of the top melons it’s clear the 157 bright is the best pollinator ever. It’s grown world records and is the father to the top 2 melons by two different mothers. However, to Andy’s point it’s 20 years old and we keep circling back. I looked at todays top pumpkins most have fathers no more than 3 years old. Thanks to John for bringing this up, it’s been a good talk.

1/21/2024 1:20:57 AM

big moon

Bethlehem CT

Lots of wisdom on this thread. I bet if we could go into the future ten years a lot of the information and ideas mentioned here will be proven correct.
In Andy's response at the top of this thread he mentioned how we just don't have the large number of growers that the giant pumpkins have. He is very right about that! Last year there were over 1600 gpc entries in the giant pumpkin category and there were only around 300 for the giant watermelons! So after looking that up I scrolled back further (We only have ten years or so that the melon has been a GPC category) Since 2013 the number of melon and AG entries have stayed at about that same number. So it got me thinking..... which GPC category is most similar to the giant watermelon in terms of entries? I was surprised to find that for the past ten years it has had nearly the same entry levels as the giant field pumpkins!

1/21/2024 9:19:25 AM

Smoky Mtn Pumpkin (Team GWG)

sevierville, Tn

GPC records go back to 2005 from the GPC

1/21/2024 8:45:09 PM

lbright

South Arkansas

Getting back to the theme of John's strand, a review of the "top ten" giant watermelons could help getting on track for larger watermelons. These top ten melons were grown by four really good growers, one of which is deceased. Each of the three living growers have grown multiple top tens. They are that good. These three growers' top ten melon's genetics wheel around two "rainmaker" watermelons, either the 239 Leonard or the 168 Johnson. For father seeds of the top ten melons, they used the 251 Kent three times, the 199.5 Mudd twice, The 157 Bright twice, the 302 Kent once and the 341.5 Vial once. The 341.5 Vial is the newest genetics to father a top ten watermelon. The oldest genetics to father a top ten is the 157 Bright 2004. The oldest mother of a top ten is the 291 Kent 2010. The most recent mother of a top ten is the 218.5 Vial 2020. The 326 Bartoli had a 2011 mother. The father is not listed but it was from the Bright gene pool. The mother-father part gets confusing sometimes because the pollinator is not the father. The oldest mother and the oldest father are parents of the most recent record watermelon. Those are seeds from 2004 and 2010. We can do better.
If you are considering going for a new world record, the top ten family trees are a good starting place. Watch for what is new, hints of hybrid vigor, stacked genetics and the importance of the last pollinator used in the cross. Also, remember there are potentially many world record seeds that go unplanted. Figure a way to get your good seeds test planted. You may have a rainmaker seed.

1/23/2024 7:15:10 PM

BReeb

Orient, Ohio

https://sogpgclub.wixsite.com/sogpg/news-events

For those curious we do have 239 Leonard in our auction coming up. Link to lots above.

1/24/2024 4:48:20 PM

Ken D.

Connecticut, USA

You can view past GPC results by changing the year value at the end of the URL below. Here are the 2005 watermelon results: BP Link

1/25/2024 6:03:51 AM

lbright

South Arkansas

Thanks Ken. You can learn a lot about how things have changed for the better for watermelon growers over the years by following through on Ken's post. For one, to get your watermelon listed by the GPC you need to go to a GPC weighoff to get a GPC weight. For your watermelon's statistics to get listed on BP, the GPC weighoff site needs to send BP those statistics. In 2005 most sites sent only watermelon weights so the genetic information is missing for lots of good melons from that era. Thanks to people like Don Young the GPC sites started sending the watermelon genetic information to to Ken's BP. Once that was done, Kirk Webb of Texas was able to identify a glitch in the percentage difference chart and that was corrected. Once complete genetic information for watermelons was sent in for a few years Andy Wolfe used it to put together an accurate estimation chart based on the statistics. If you are wondering about the genetics of the top three of 2005, David Miller got his parent seed from Gerald Bunn. Gerald would have been using his own seed or an Estep seed. Both the 1st and 2nd place melons for 2005 were out of the Conrad seed line. My 3rd place melon was out of the Bright seed line. If you have the time, you can follow Ken's instructions here and call up the annual GPC watermelon info from 2005 through 20012 and see how much the watermelon information has evolved and improved. Again, thank you Ken and the GPC officers that make all of this function well.

1/25/2024 12:37:36 PM

lbright

South Arkansas

As a follow-up to "brotherdave's" post above, the 59 year old seeds were viable. The goal now is to get a few to survive and reproduce more seeds. If that holds true, some of the flowers will also be pollinated with the best of the current Carolina Cross seeds. The project will not be a fast one. It will require growing three generations before seeds can be distributed to other growers. It seems like David Cantrell's idea for adding diversity to the Carolina Cross seedline is a good one.

4/25/2024 12:13:20 PM

Team Wexler

Lexington, Ky

Happy to report that I have successful germination of 2009 and 2013 Bright crosses. I understand that post germination vigor is not a sign of future success however, if you've seen that old movie "Alien" and saw that thing bust out of that woman's stomach, you know what I mean!

Don't fear these older seeds, they will germinate.

5/6/2024 11:20:02 PM

Total Posts: 36 Current Server Time: 6/19/2024 12:48:04 PM
 
Watermelon Growing Forum      Return to Board List
  Note: Sign In is required to reply or post messages.
 
Top of Page

Questions or comments? Send mail to Ken AT bigpumpkins.com.
Copyright © 1999-2024 BigPumpkins.com. All rights reserved.