|Authors: ||E. Jovicich, H. Wiggenhauser|
|Keywords: ||Cucumis melo, rockmelon, muskmelon, greenhouse, tunnel, off-season, soilless, alternative crops|
Protective cropping could be an effective system for growing specialty melons in the dry tropics of North Queensland.
The growing system could reduce outdoor risks for production loss, improve fruit quality, increase yield per m2, allow production off-season, and used for supplying niche markets in a segment of the larger melon market in Australia.
First evaluations in Giru, Queensland, included seven cultivars of fruit types 'Galia', 'Hami', 'Charentais', small 'Canary', and 'Rockmelon', transplanted July 25, 2013 under a high polyethylene-covered tunnel.
Plants were grown at a density of 2.8 plants m-2 in containers filled with volcanic rock and irrigated with a complete nutrient solution.
Pruning and trellising was done to a single vertical stem, keeping lateral shoots on the main stem after the 7th leaf node.
After bearing small fruit, lateral shoots were cut off after their second or third leaf node.
To facilitate insect pollination, a screen window in the tunnel was left partially opened.
On November 20 the cultivars had combined marketable yields that ranged from 2.8 to 8.2 fruits m-2 and 3.1 to 7.8 kg m-2. Total soluble solids levels in fruit ranged from 6 to 13 °Brix.
Cultivars 'Tempo' ('Galia'), 'Tikal' ('Canary') and 'Sultan' ('Charentais') had fruit yields that were up to 2.6 times greater than yields commonly achieved with field-grown rockmelon crops.
Sugar levels in fruits and marketable yields may be increased with changes in fertigation management.
Promising results in this first evaluation justify examination of a greater number of genetic materials, in addition to the development of economic feasibility studies and further adaptive research to refine crop recommendations for growing melons in protective cropping systems.
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