Most farmers are beginning to understand that grafting crops especially at the rootstock brings extra qualities that the plant do not possess. This technique is now applied to a wide range varieties of watermelon to help in avoiding the risks of contracting root diseases like Fusarium thus increase yields.
Starke Ayres Company which deals in horticulture crops seeds and products has a range of watermelon hybrids that can be grafted and are all suitable for growth in most regions in Kenya. The varieties have potential to produce high quality watermelon fruit of different types to suit different markets and customers. This is according to Samuel Gacheru Starke Ayres Company’s Sales Agronomist-Nairobi.
“Grafting watermelon at rootstocks has now become a practice in many of the major watermelon production regions of the world. The primary reason for grafting of vine crops like watermelon is to provide protection against soil-borne diseases,” said Gacheru during this year’s Nairobi International Trade Fair.
“Furthermore some rootstock grafting have the added advantage of being resistant to nematodes, especially the root-knot nematode and additional benefits of potential for increased yield, increased fruit quality especially in flesh firmness, more vigorous plant growth and lower plant populations,” he added.
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When grafting rootstock seedlings should have at least one true leaf and with a simple cut one is required to remove one cotyledon with the growing point attached. It is also vital to remove the growing point and the cotyledon together so that the rootstock seedling is not able to grow a new shoot of its own after being grafted. The grafted seedlings are supposed to remain in a high humidity chamber.
Starke Ayres offers grafted seedlings of AUDRY type of watermelon well known as Crimson Sweet which matures within 80 days after planting. Another is BOXY, which resist Fusarium wilt disease and also produce edible micro-seeds. STAR 9906 also known as All Sweet watermelon produces large elongated fruit of 10-13kg. TIGER is the new Jubilee hybrid maturing in 75-80 days after planting producing fruits of 9-12kg. All these watermelon hybrid can be grafted at rootstock.