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Development and Marketing of Watermelon Cultivars With New Flesh Colors-2002 Report

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This is a 2002 report from a NC Specialty Crops Program Project. It is posted for historical reference purposes.

Reviewed by Jeanine Davis, NC Alternative Crops & Organics Program, Department of Horticultural Science, NC State University on 9/26/2022.

LOCATION: Cunningham Research Station – Kinston, NC
Horticultural Crops Research Station – Clinton, NC


Watermelon cultivars with new flesh colors have promise in the growing market for unique and specialty produce. Breeding lines are being tested at NC State University in order to develop high quality cultivars exhibiting various colors that are desirable to consumers. Preliminary results of this research are reported; additional trials are needed to identify cultigens that are consistently superior in quality, yield, disease resistance, sugar content, and flavor.


Watermelon breeding lines have been developed at NC State that have Canary yellow or bright orange flesh. The lines have vigorous vines, disease resistance, high fruit quality, and few defects. These lines were evaluated for yield, earliness, quality, and defects. Elite red flesh hybrids and the original Canary yellow and bright orange parents were used as checks.

Tests were run at with 2 types (orange, yellow), 20 cultigens (6 hybrids, 9-10 inbreds, 4-5 checks), 2 locations (Clinton, Kinston), 4 replications, and 2 harvests. Plots were 12′ long, separated by 8′ alleys on each end, and in rows 10′ apart. Fruit were harvested when ready, weighed, and evaluated for sugar content and defects. Taste tests were run on 4 orange and 4 canary yellow hybrids.


There was a wide range in performance of the inbreds and hybrids of the orange and yellow types. Compared to the orange and yellow checks, the new cultigens are better for most traits. However, compared to the red checks, the new cultigens are not as good for sugar content or flavor. Also, the orange cultigens still have some hollow heart, although not as bad as the original orange parent.

Market tests with consumers indicated lower ratings for the flavor of the orange and yellow cultigens (compared with the red check cultivars) evaluated here. More work is needed to improve the quality in the area of sugar content and flavor.


The best cultigens were NC-504×506 orange hybrid and NC-515×516 yellow hybrids. They will be tested in 2003 and released for use by the North Carolina watermelon industry in 2004.

This project completes the work of Warren Henderson on new flesh color mutants of watermelon. We are now beginning a second cycle of improvement to provide better orange and yellow types.