Organic melon growers can choose from a wide range of watermelons and melons at Rijk Zwaan. Resistances against powdery mildew and aphids in most of the varieties are very valuable. The small sizes for export and the innovative concepts like Ready to Eat are also attractive to growers. Specialists from Rijk Zwaan explain which varieties they recommend for organic production.
Rijk Zwaan recently launched a new concept called Defense for a wide range of crops, including melons. Defense varieties have natural resistances against viruses, vectors, fungal diseases and so on. These varieties are very beneficial for all growers, and for organic growers in particular.
All the melon varieties presented here are Ag Defense varieties, meaning that they offer natural protection against the cotton aphid (Aphis Gossiphy). The cotton aphid is a vector for a couple of harmful viruses, such as potyviruses. Varieties with natural resistance to this aphid – and therefore indirectly to the viruses it transmits – play a significant role in enabling growers to produce melons more sustainably. Equally importantly, they contribute to a better and more stable fruit quality, leading to greater customer satisfaction and more repeat purchases.
Powdery mildew is another major headache for melon growers. All the varieties presented here have a broad package of resistances to this disease and therefore – just as with Ag Defense – support a more natural approach to melon production.
In watermelons, Rijk Zwaan’s Sandissima concept is perfectly aligned with the organic market, explains Crop Co-ordinator Bernardo Cuenca Bono from Rijk Zwaan Iberica: “Sandissima includes a range of watermelon varieties with great flavour and small micro-seeds. They can be grown both as pollinators and monocrops. The varieties are small or medium in size, making them ideal for organic export markets all over the world.”
Gatinho RZ is the highly recommended Sandissima variety for organic production. Spanish Crop Specialist Melon Javier Climent Morales explains why it is the most important variety in this line: “This variety is a very early variety with a high sugar content as well as excellent fruit setting and productivity. Other advantages are the uniform, small-sized fruits with an average weight of 2.5 kg.”
Tigrinho RZ is another Sandissima variety with a nice round shape and an attractive pattern. Climent explains: “This early variety has uniform fruit setting, even in cold conditions, and the plant has good leaf cover. The average fruit weight is 3.5 kg.”
Coralzinho RZ is a fairly new Sandissima variety. “This is an early variety with a high sugar content, which is a great advantage, as is the internal quality. The fruit weight is around 3.5 kg. These watermelons have bright red flesh with a great flavour,” Climent adds.
Besides these three Sandissima watermelons, Rijk Zwaan is testing new hybrids with powdery mildew resistance. “Growers can contact us if they are interested in trialling these new varieties,” states Cuenca.
Cantaloupe Ready to Eat melons
The Cantaloupe Ready to Eat melons are also a good choice for organic growers for two reasons, according to Cuenca: “Firstly, indicators ensure that growers know when it is the ideal moment to harvest the melons; the melon changes colour and the stem becomes slightly detached from the fruit without breaking. This innovation ensures consistent quality and a great taste. These melons are in high demand in Europe. Secondly, these Cantaloupes have resistances to powdery mildew (Px (ex Sf) – Podosphaera xanthii ex. Sphaerotheca fuliginea) and aphids (Aphis gossypii), which are both very helpful for organic growers.”
Zinasol RZ is one of the main varieties within this concept, says Juan Francisco Martínez, Crop Specialist Melon in Spain. “This melon variety is ideal for the early cycle. The plant has strong vigour, even in cold conditions. The fruits are of a good size and have an early high sugar content. Moreover, the resistances to powdery mildew and aphids are very important.”
Paniol RZ is another variety within this concept, and it has the same broad resistance package. “Other advantages include the good internal quality and high Brix. Plus this variety achieves high production and the melon has a unique round shape,” explains Francisco.
Frivol RZ is the third Ready to Eat Cantaloupe that he recommends for organic production, likewise with an extensive resistance package: “Frivol RZ is suitable for the late season. The setting is more gradual than in the case of the other two varieties. It produces a well-balanced plant for open-field production.”
Cantaloupe aromatic melons (Charentais)
Rijk Zwaan has a comprehensive range of Cantaloupe aromatic melons (also known as Charentais melons in France) which are cultivated and consumed in the summer. Rijk Zwaan continues to invest in providing growers with new varieties which not only have basic resistances, but also have new traits which offer even better tolerance against the different diseases that occur in the various production areas.
Djazzeo RZ is a Cantaloupe aromatic melon for summer production in the south of France, according to Romain Davière, Crop Specialist at Rijk Zwaan France. “This Charentais variety is especially recommended for organic production thanks to its resistance package which combines the Px 3-5 and aphid resistances. Moreover, the fruits have an attractive external appearance, a high internal quality, excellent flavour and high Brix level.”
Tilouka and Lelika RZ are two Cantaloupe aromatic melons for summer production in the west of France. “These Charentais varieties meet the needs of growers who are looking for varieties with a high tolerance against many commonly occurring diseases in the west of France (e.g. downy mildew, powdery mildew, fusarium, bacterial diseases, etc.),” states Davière. “With their dark leaves and their strong plants, both varieties are a good option to improve harvest reliability, whether in organic or conventional crops.”
Yellow Amarillo melons
Rijk Zwaan has also invested in a new generation of yellow melons. “The unique resistances make these two varieties particularly attractive for organic cultivation,” says Crop Specialist Francisco.
Yacal RZ is an early and mid-season variety with resistances to powdery mildew and aphids. “The plant has strong vigour and good setting. The fruits have an appealing taste and a high sugar content. The fruit weight is around 1.5 kg and the productivity is high,” comments Francisco.
Hasdrubal RZ is the late-season variety with the same resistances to powdery mildew and aphids. Francisco: “Hasdrubal RZ is very uniform, has a high sugar content, is productive and continues to produce the ideal size for export – 1.5 kg – even on warmer days.”
Mellissimo Piel de Sapo melons
Mellissimo is the unique range of smaller-format Piel de Sapo melons developed by Rijk Zwaan. “The Mellissimo types are very relevant for organic growers because of the opportunities for export all over the world and their resistances against the main diseases. Without the need for pesticides, the range enables a year-round supply of compact melons that are uniform and reliable in terms of their rich flavour, shelf life, appearance, convenient size and production stability,” Crop Co-ordinator Cuenca explains.
Bravura RZ is a melon with an appealing flavour and a comprehensive package of resistances. Crop Specialist Francisco: “Two other important advantages for the organic market are the dependable post-harvest quality and the size of 1.7-2.2 kg. The fruits have a good shelf life so they can be shipped over long distances. The variety is suitable for greenhouse production in the wintertime.”
Dolsura RZ is the mid-season Mellissimo variety with a complete range of resistances against powdery mildew and aphids. “The strong plant vigour and internal quality are two other characteristics of Dolsura RZ. The fruits have a good shelf life, a satisfying bite and an average weight of around 2 kg,” continues Francisco.
Minithor RZ is the third recommended Mellissimo variety for organic growers. This variety is suitable for the late season. Francisco: “It has strong plant vigour and produces uniform fruits with a high sugar content. For organic growers, the resistances against powdery mildew and aphids offer the security of good production.”