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Advances in Watermelon Breeding

The watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) has undergone several facelifts as well as some authentic changes during the past 20 years. The first change came when the open pollinated (OP) varieties gave way to hybrid varieties. Even though OP varieties were inbred varieties maintained by isolation, some vari­ ability in fruit size and shape did appear from time to time. As cultural prac­ tices such as plastic mulch, closer spacing, drip irrigation and more precise fertilization maximized the environment for watermelon production, it be­ came clear that the hybrids were yielding more than the inbreds. The grower could afford to pay more for seed, and seed companies could afford to increase research efforts. However, many of the first modifications to the crop were largely cosmetic.