Texas melon growers may soon have more than just cantaloupe and honeydews to grow in their fields thanks to ongoing research and trials being conducted across the state, and these new melon varieties could make drought conditions more tolerable for producers struggling with water issues.

“Melon production in Texas is largely limited to watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew varieties, but water issues and current drought concerns are leading us to look at other types of melons that would do well in our environment, and some of the specialty melons we are working with address these issues and provide the added benefit of appealing to a consumer market that is moving beyond traditional melon varieties,” says Dr. Daniel Laskovar, professor of horticulture science and interim director for the Texas AgriLife Extension and Research Center in Uvalde.

Not so long ago, all across the Trans-Pecos region and as far south as Uvalde and the Rio Grande Valley, Laskovar says melon fields spotted the landscape and provided a profitable crop for Texas growers. But water issues and a stagnant market price for traditional melons have forced many growers to trim production levels and acreage or, in many instances, to completely eliminate melons as a profitable crop.

But Dr. Kevin Crosby, associate professor at Texas AgriLife Extension in College Station and a plant breeder currently working with Laskovar on developing and testing specialty melons, says consumer interest in new melon varieties in California, Arizona and Florida is an encouraging indication that specialty varieties may provide welcome relief to distressed melon operations in Texas.

“Many specialty melons like Canary, Crenshaw and Galia are doing well as consumers adjust to new melon varieties, and some of the specialty melons we are working with provide a longer shelf life, which has sparked the interest of large retailers.” Crosby says.

Laskovar and Crosby are working with such specialty melons as Tuscan varieties from Italy, especially the Da Vinci melon, and ribbed Spanish melons.