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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover Ancient Melon Key in Breeding Disease-Resistant Watermelons

May 26, 2021
Photo Source: University of Sheffield

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered an ancient Egyptian melon as the closest relative and potential ancestor of watermelon that could possess the key in breeding disease-resistant watermelons and reduce the use of pesticides.

The scientists used DNA sequencing technologies, collection-based systematics, and Ancient Egyptian iconography to find the potential ancestor of the domesticated watermelon. They found that Sudanese Kordofan melon has the closest genetic data to the watermelon. The analysis also showed that the Kordofan melon has more disease resistance genes and already tasted sweet during its early cultivation.

The findings provide substantial information that could help improve watermelon varieties. The disease resistance genes could help breeders produce better-yielding watermelons and reduce the use of insecticides and fungicides.

To learn more about the study, read the news article from the University of Sheffield and the journal article in PNAS.

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