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Battling Watermelon Virus With Genes From Bottlegourds

October 6, 2007
United States Department of Agriculture
New help may be on the way for beleaguered growers of popular crops like cucumbers and watermelons. Many varieties of the widely grown bottlegourd appear to have resistance to Zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV), a problem for commercial growers of pumpkins, squashes and other kinds of melons, including watermelons. Scientists are screening bottlegourds for genetic resistance to ZYMV and then will plan hybrid crosses aimed at strengthening commercial crops against this virus.

Bottlegourds have been used around the world for food, bottles, bowls, spoons, musical instruments and even bird houses. Now a "genetic" genie in the versatile bottlegourd may be used to reduce virus infestation in watermelons.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist Kai-Shu Ling and geneticist Amnon Levi conduct research on plant diseases at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C. They are looking for tools to fight zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV), which infects cucurbit crops: cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash, bottlegourds and watermelons.

Throughout North America, several viruses transmitted by insects, including ZYMV, are especially troublesome to watermelons and other cucurbit crops. Producers are anxious to find new ways of suppressing these viruses. Previous research by other scientists suggested that bottlegourd (Lagenaria siceraria) had some genetic resistance to ZYMV, but this research needed followup.

Ling and Levi obtained seeds for 190 bottlegourd accessions that were collected from different parts of the world and kept at the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit in Griffin, Ga. They raised the seeds in their Charleston greenhouses, and then inoculated the bottlegourd plants with ZYMV and evaluated how well they resisted the virus.

To their surprise, 36 accessions of the 190 screened—33 from India alone—were completely resistant to ZYMV infection, and another 64 accessions were partially resistant. They also found that ZYMV resistance is heritable in crosses between different bottlegourd accessions, enabling the development of bottlegourd varieties with enhanced virus resistance.

Popular watermelon cultivars could be grafted onto bottlegourd rootstocks with enhanced resistance to bolster the watermelons’ ability to resist ZYMV. Some watermelon growers have already been experimenting with grafting watermelon on bottlegourd rootstocks to control soilborne diseases and to enhance fruit production and quality.

Ling and Levi’s success in identifying disease-resistant bottlegourd accessions will further efforts to find environmentally friendly ways of controlling watermelon pathogens and pests. For producers of a U.S. commodity worth $435 million in 2006, that would be a wish come true.

This research is published in the August 2007 issue of HortScience.

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Materials provided by United States Department of Agriculture. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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United States Department of Agriculture. "Battling Watermelon Virus With Genes From Bottlegourds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2007. <>.
United States Department of Agriculture. (2007, October 6). Battling Watermelon Virus With Genes From Bottlegourds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 16, 2024 from
United States Department of Agriculture. "Battling Watermelon Virus With Genes From Bottlegourds." ScienceDaily. (accessed June 16, 2024).

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