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KAU develops a seedless thirst-quencher

Special Correspondent
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The bright yellow orange flesh of the seedless watermelon developed by scientists of Kerala Agricultural University.— Photo: By Special Arrangement
The bright yellow orange flesh of the seedless watermelon developed by scientists of Kerala Agricultural University.— Photo: By Special Arrangement

: Scientists with Kerala Agricultural University's College of Horticulture have developed a type of seedless watermelon.

The seedless hybrid has been produced under a research project funded by the Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment.

According to T. Pradeepkumar, Associate Professor (Horticulture) and Principal Investigator of the project, this is the first time that a

public-sector college in the country has developed seedless watermelons.

About 90 per cent of watermelons sold in the U.S. are seedless. “Development of seedless watermelon has been difficult in India as locally adoptable stable tetraploids (cell having four sets of chromosomes) are not available. Triploid hybrid seeds are being imported and marketed in India at a very high cost by private seed companies,” said Dr. Pradeepkumar.

He and his team isolated a stable tetraploid and developed India's first indigenous yellow-fleshed seedless watermelon hybrid. He said that two approaches were tried in making watermelons seedless. One method involved development of triploid hybrids. Application of irradiated pollen was the other method. For producing triploids, stable tertraploid was developed in the popular watermelon cultivar, Sugar baby. Normal watermelon cultivars are diploid with 2n=2x=22 chromosome. In tetraploids, there are four sets of the chromosome with 2n=4x=44 chromosome. This tetraploid was crossed with a diploid cultivar having desirable horticultural characters to produce triploid hybrids. Here the chromosome number is 2n =3x=33.

“The triploid plant was successfully tested at the Department of Olericulture. Seedless fruits were produced in these plants. They had bright yellow flesh, medium size (2 kg) and high TSS (11o Brix), an indication of sweetness. Triploid plants are male sterile. For pollination, some diploid plants were planted in fields. Fruits were ready for harvest in 90-95 days. Bright yellow orange flesh was devoid of seeds,” he said.

Watermelons are a rich source of vital amino acids. They contain citrulline, and this reacts with the body's enzymes and gets changed to arginine, an amino acid that benefits the heart and the circulatory and immune systems. Watermelon is an important source of bio-available arginine and is highly recommended by nutritionists the world over.

Citrulline is found in all colours of watermelon. Its highest content is found in the yellow-fleshed types.

A team of scientists isolate a stable terpaloid and develop an indigenous yellow-fleshed seedless watermelon hybrid.


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