The effect of delaying pollination on cantaloupe production
Frank A Eischen; Benjamin A Underwood; Anita M Collins
During the growing seasons of 1992 and 1993, in Weslaco, Texas, USA, pollination of cantaloupes (Cucumis melo) was delayed by either 0, 6 or 12 days. Pollination was prevented by covering plants with floating row covers at the time of first female flowering. Plants were left covered for either 6 or 12 days and then exposed to honey bee visitation. Cultivars used in the 1992 season were Cruiser, Explorer and Primo. Cruiser, Mission and Primo were used in 1993. Twelve colonies of honey bees were placed on the border of the test plots in 1992 and two in 1993. In 1992, Primo plants which had pollination delayed for six days produced heavier fruits and a greater total fruit weight per plant than those not delayed or delayed 12 days. Cruiser and Explorer produced smaller fruits when pollination was delayed 12 days but were unaffected by a 6-day delay. In 1993, Mission delayed for 12 days produced more fruits per plant. No differences in fruit quality (percentage culls, soluble solid content and size) or number were observed in other cultivars when pollination was delayed. In both trials, the median harvest time was about the same as controls when pollination was delayed for six days. These results suggest that the time honey bee colonies need to be in the field for cantaloupe pollination could be reduced. Pollination could be delayed by about one week without negatively affecting productivity or harvest time. This would provide growers additional time in which to apply insecticides should they be needed, and reduce honey bee exposure to insecticides.