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Seedless variety hits the target time after time

Syngenta watermelon variety Javelin as grown by Ken Duncan.

A challenging year has given watermelon producer Ken Duncan cause to reflect on his switch to seedless watermelon over 20 years ago but he doesn’t miss the old seeded varieties.

From his farm at Ayr, North Queensland, Ken said there had been many changes since he switched to seedless varieties, and fine-tuned his farming methods.

“When seedless watermelons first became available, there was a lot of trial and error in learning to grow them,” he said.

“Nutrition and irrigation had to be managed differently as they can be very sensitive to environmental changes such as overcast rainy weather, too much or too little fertiliser, as well as poor pollination.”

Ken along with his wife Sonia now plant most of their program using Syngenta seedless varieties, as well as using their Super Pollinizer variety SP-6, planting in February to supply produce in May, and then start planting again in July and August to supply produce from September to early November.

Their business, Kenrose, supplies produce markets in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne during autumn and spring, with some of their produce going to export. They are also suppliers of Jap, Butternut and grey pumpkins.

Ken said growing watermelons in The Burdekin was sometimes a challenge, with each season different to the next.

“Early in the year we had a lot of rain on our Autumn crops, but still managed to pick good quality due to planting on some of my lighter soil blocks,” he said.

“The water was able to drain off the paddocks preventing any major water logging and disease.

“We planted our Spring crops during July and although conditions were good, we experienced a cooler winter than past seasons. The cooler weather slowed down the growth and size of some of our early blocks so we had to work extra hard to look after the vine and set the crop.”

Ken and Sonia recently hosted the AMA field day where growers and industry people inspected the latest watermelon varieties. The trial site was set amongst Ken’s commercial planting, which consisted of all Javelin and SP-6, supplied from local Ayr nursery Pedigree Speedlings, and was a standout on the day.

“Over the years I have trialed and grown various varieties but have now changed my entire program over to Javelin and SP-6, Syngenta varieties. Other varieties can be slow to mature or can be more susceptible to hollow heart which the markets do not like,” Ken said.

'Javelin produces good quality fruit all season. It has excellent internal color, small pip size and has always stood up well to hollow heart and cracking.'

Ken said this season really tested the variety with rain in Autumn and in Spring, along with cooler weather.

“Our first pick in September was slightly down on size but during October we are picking large, quality fruit with excellent yield,” he said.

“Javelin matures ahead of some of the older varieties so we can pick early and send to the markets straight away. You also don’t throw out much fruit as the variety is consistent with marketable yield.”

Overall, Ken said he was happy with Syngenta’s seedless varieties.

“I think pollination has been pretty good this year with SP-6 and am keen to trial SP-7 next year as these pollinators are bred for Syngenta’s seedless watermelon genetics,” he said.