Watermelons could use 30% less water and fertilisers. Convincing watermelon farmers of this fact is the biggest challenge for Israel- based Origene Seeds. This company has now, after 3 years of semi-commercial trials across the world, commercialised watermelon seeds that are proven to use about 30% less irrigation as well as 30% less fertiliser with comparable yield and quality.
Watermelon seedless variety “Essence” adapted to semi dryland farming
This bodes well for many countries where drought, which is a major abiotic stress, has become common at alarming levels worldwide including USA, South America, the Middle East, the Far East and Africa.
According to Dr Eyal Vardi, CEO and founder of Origene Seeds: "These revolutionary watermelon seeds have already been planted by growers across North and South America. In Europe our seeds have mainly been planted in the Southern parts around the Mediterranean, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. North African countries and South Africa as well as Australia all have big issues with water, not forgetting the Middle Eastern countries."
He says their seeds are planted almost everywhere in the world. "We had semi-commercial trials in the last 3 years in these countries. Not only did growers have savings of at least 25-30% less water, these watermelons also use between 20-30% less fertilizers. These are significant savings for growers given the costs of fertilisers that have more than doubled over the last two years. You can divide the costs in two different parts. Firstly, the price is very high and secondly, the environmental cost are now lower due to friendlier growing conditions and less application of fertilisers. If you find high level of fertilisers you will find nitrous traces in the underground water in the aquifers. This eventually damages the quality of the world’s underground water,” explained Dr Vardi.
Integration of novel, drought tolerant varieties with precision agriculture technologies (such as continuous soil water content monitoring, advanced irrigation features, drones with field pictures and heat remote sensors) will increase irrigation water use efficiency, reduce the cost associated with irrigation management, increase the yield of high quality fruits, and lead to educated farm decisions.
In the last decade, Origene Seeds watermelon-breeding program has focused on drought tolerance aspects, together with the introgression of traits from wild watermelon genotypes to cultivated ones. As a result of this pioneering research work, a series of novel and unique watermelon varieties have been made commercially available, with more than 30% water utilization compared to standard commercial varieties. In other words, one can irrigate with 30% less water during the growth cycle and still maintain the yield and the quality achieved under regular full irrigation rule. Farmers growing Origene Seeds unique varieties save about 30% on irrigation and fertilization (quantity and cost) and still yield fruit of the same quality and quantity.
Dr Eyal Vardi, CEO and founder of Origene Seeds
“We are focusing mainly on seedless watermelons because the main consumption around the world is seedless. Our watermelon seeds are distributed to nurseries and seed dealers in all the aforementioned countries via local distributors. Without surcharges, the seeds are available for all growers, by our distributors” says Dr Vardi.
Origene Seeds is an innovative international seed company, active in research, plant breeding, seed production and processing, sales & marketing of hybrid vegetable varieties. The company's strategy is to develop new hybrids with novel traits of quality, taste, flavor, uniformity, high nutrition values, shelf life, all combined with high yield and environmentally friendly. The hybrid varieties are suitable for the commercial outdoor crops or greenhouse growers as well as for plant raisers and for the professional sectors.
“We are finishing the trial a period and have now becoming fully commercialized. The feedback from growers who participated in the semi-commercial trials is great, they are very happy. It is not easy to convince growers to reduce water use, it is something completely opposite to what they are used to. Watermelons usually consume a lot of water. When we tell growers our watermelon seeds need much less water it is not easy to convince them. Growers will see the big advantage of these new seeds for themselves,” concluded Dr Vardi.