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HORT410 - Vegetable Crops

Muskmelons (Cantaloupes) - Notes

  • Common name: muskmelon also called cantaloup(e) or melon.
  • Latin name: Cucumis melo L.
  • Family name: Cucurbitaceae [Cucurbitaceae Images].
  • Diploid (2n = 24).
  • Dicotyledon.
  • Annual.
  • Harvested organ: fruits.
  • Origin: Persia.
  • Probably introduced into North America during the 16th century.
  • Muskmelon history (TAMU).
  • The two most horticulturally important melon groups in the U.S. are:
      1. C. melo cantalupensis (cantaloupe or muskmelon) - medium sized fruits; netted, warty or scaly surfaces; flesh usually orange but sometimes green; flavor aromatic or musky; fruit dehiscent at maturity; usually andromonoecious.
      2. C. melo inodorus (the winter melon) - smooth or wrinkled surface; flesh usually white or green and lacking in musky odor; usually longer-keeping than cantalupensis; not dehiscent at maturity; usually andromonoecious; includes the smooth-skinned, green-fleshed honeydew; the dark green, orange-fleshed Persian; the yellow-skinned, green- or white-fleshed casaba; and the Crenshaw, which has a dark green, wrinkled rind and pink flesh.
  • Some (e.g. Nonnecke, 1989) distinguish between C. melo var. cantaloupensis (the true cantaloupe; medium sized, rough warty, scaly but not netted surface; grown mostly in Europe) and C. melo var. reticulous (netted or nutmeg muskmelons with medium-sized fruit, netted surface, flesh green to deep salmon-orange in color; includes the cultivars commercially grown in N. America).
  • Immature melons used fresh in salads, cooked (soup, stew, curry, stir-fry) or pickled.
  • Mature fruit eaten fresh as a dessert fruit, canned or used for syrup or jam; dehydrated slices (lightly processed) for short-term or moderate storage can be reconstituted; and the pressed juice can be canned.
  • Melon seeds are a dietary source of unsaturated vegetable oil and protein, and may be lightly roasted and eaten like nuts.
  • Melons may be andromonoecious (perfect and staminate flowers), gynoecious (pistillate flowers), gynomonoecious (perfect and pistillate flowers), hermaphrodite (perfect flowers), or monoecious (pistillate and staminate flowers).
  • Monoecious and andromonoecious are the most common.
  • Hybrid gynoecious melons (with multiple disease resistances, earliness, uniformity of harvest and fruit quality) becoming increasingly popular.
  • Two major genes control sex expression in melon (A and G):
      A-G- = monoecious
      A-gg = gynomonoecious
      aaG- = andromonoecious
      aagg = hermaphroditic
  • gy interacts with A and G to produce a stable gynoecious phenotype.
  • Pollinated by honey bees; 1 to 2 bee colonies per acre recommended.
  • Cold-sensitive, warm season.
  • Optimum soil pH: 6.3 to 6.8.
  • Direct seeded or transplanted.
  • Plastic mulch recommended.
  • Winter melons such as honeydew, Crenshaw, Persian and casaba do not form an abscission layer; therefore the stem should be cut at maturity.
  • When mature muskmelons dehisce the fruit slips free from the stem attachment.
  • Harvested manually when fruits are in the half or full slip stage
  • Fruit harvested prior to the half slip stage may be too green and fail to ripen properly.
  • After harvest, the internal temperature of muskmelons should be brought to 10 to 15 C as rapidly as possible to avoid sugar losses with forced-air cooling.
  • Muskmelons best stored at 3 to 5 C and a high relative humidity (95%).
  • Major diseases of muskmelons in the Midwest:
  • Disease resistance genes in melon include:
      Ac (resistance to Alternaria leaf blight)
      Pc-1 & -2 (resistance to downy mildew)
      Fom-1, -2 & -3 (resistance to Fusarium wilt)
      O, Pm-1, -2, -3, -4 & 5 (resistance to powdery mildew)
      Prv (resistance to watermelon mosaic virus 1, and papaya ringspot virus, strain W)
      Zym (resistance to zucchini yellow mosaic virus)
  • Major insect pests of muskmelons in the Midwest include:
  • The striped and spotted cucumber beetles carry the bacterium Erwinia tracheiphila responsible for bacterial wilt disease.
  • Control of bacterial wilt entails effective cucumber beetle population management.
  • Some muskmelon varieties are more susceptible to striped cucumber beetle feeding, but all are vulnerable to the bacterial wilt disease
  • Care should be taken in applying pesticides that are toxic to honey bees during flowering, as this will decrease pollination and fruit set.

    (see: ID-56: Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2003 - Cucumber, Muskmelon, and Watermelon (PURDUE) [pdf] for information on muskmelon varieties, spacing, fertilizing, irrigation, harvesting and specific muskmelon disease, weed and insect control recommendations for the Midwest)

    Sources of information:

  • Foster, R., Brust, G., Barrett, B. Watermelons, muskmelons, and cucumbers. In "Vegetable Insect Management With Emphasis on the Midwest", (ed. R. Foster, B. Flood), Meister Publishing Co., Willoughby, Ohio, pp. 157 - 168 (1995).
  • Nonnecke, I.L. "Vegetable Production", Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY (1989).
  • Phillips, R., Rix, M. "The Random House Book of Vegetables", Random House, NY (1993).
  • Hall, C.V. Melon. In "The Software Toolworks Multimedia Encyclopedia", Version 1.5, Grolier, Inc. (1992).
  • Nonnecke, I.L. "Vegetable Production" Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY (1989).
  • McCreight, J.D., Nerson, H., Grumet, R. Melon, Cucumis melo L. In "Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops" (ed. G. Kalloo, B.O. Bergh), Pergamon Press, Oxford, U.K., pp. 267-294 (1993).
  • Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers, ID-56, eds. R. Foster, D. Egel, E. Maynard, R. Weinzierl, H. Taber, L.W. Jett, B. Hutchinson, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, 2003.
  • Musmade, A.M., Desai, U.T. Cucumber and melon. In "Handbook of Vegetable Science and Technology: Production, Composition, Storage, and Processing", (ed. D.K. Salunkhe, S.S. Kadam), Marcel Dekker, Inc., NY, pp. 245-272 (1998).

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  • David Rhodes
    Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
    Horticulture Building
    625 Agriculture Mall Drive
    Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010
    Last Update: 01/07/08