Melons at heart of seed innovation - The Packer

Melons at heart of seed innovation

04/19/2010 03:00:39 PM
Ashley Bentley

In an attempt to make melons more user-friendly, seed companies continue to innovate the category to produce more consistent, cleaner fruit.

Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta has a new watermelon that it has bred to have a thin rind, be high in lycopene, have a high sugar content and a deeper red color, said Dan Burdett, president of vegetable seeds for North America.

St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. also is working in the melon category, with an orange-flesh honeydew melon and a watermelon that’s supposed to retain more of its juice in the pipeline.

In the case of the orange-flesh honeydew, a trait that helps the grower ends up helping the consumer.

“We don’t have to have melons that are flavorless,” said David Stark, vice president of commercial traits. “Part of the challenge is when to harvest.”

This honeydew develops its orange color when it is ripe in the field, making it easier for the grower to harvest at the right time. The melon also has smooth skin, but orange flesh, making it look cantaloupe-like.

What Monsanto is calling its “extended quality watermelon” is meant to leak less of its juice when sliced, making it attractive for fresh-cut processors, as well as consumers who want to store half of a watermelon in their refrigerators.

The product is being tested, and is probably still a couple years away from commercial availability, Stark said.

Feasterville, Pa.-based Abbott & Cobb’s SuperSeedless and Summer Flavor branded watermelon have already made great strides in the industry, said Art Abbott, president and chief executive officer. SuperSeedless was developed to have deeper color, superior quality and denser flesh than other watermelon varieties.



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