Wild watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is an indigenous crop whose agronomic potential has not been well investigated in South Africa. However, the country has a significant amount of the crop’s germplasm in the form of landraces. Three local landraces of watermelon were compared for seedling establishment and production under controlled and dry land field conditions. The objective of the study was to determine watermelon landrace seedling establishment, plant growth and fruit production under controlled environment using different growth media (pine bark, sand and a mixture of pine bark and sand (1: 1 (v/v) and dry land field conditions in response to planting dates from September, 2008 to January, 2009. Results showed that seedling establishment was significantly affected by growth medium. Pine bark produced significantly at (P < 0.05) larger seedlings than the mixture or sand alone due to its capacity to hold water better than the other two media. Seedling production of wild watermelon did not improve significantly when the field capacity of the growing medium was increased above 50% suggesting potential drought tolerance for the crop. Early field planting was found to be associated with larger fruit size in spite of low soil water availability early in the season, another evidence for potential drought tolerance.
Key words: Field capacity, planting date, seedling establishment, water use.
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