Harvest Indicator Removes Guesswork from Melon Production

Innovation Impact
Harvest Indicator Melon
Harvest Indicator Melon

Human error is one of the costliest elements of growing cantaloupe. Whether it’s planting on the wrong day, or harvesting at the wrong time, human error can easily steal from your bottom line. 

We cannot stop all human error, but what if we could give you a tool that mitigates it at harvest? Instead of looking at less-than-reliable signs such as the cantaloupe’s stem or other ripeness clues, we have created varieties that change color when ready to harvest. 

“We know that with previous long-shelf-life melons, there were challenges that impacted not only growers, but consumer’s perceptions of the fruit,” said Bernie Hamel, Value Added Chain Lead. “With Syngenta Vegetable Seeds new IDEAL Melon varieties that feature the Harvest Indicator trait, we’re addressing those challenges to create a melon that growers and consumers will love.” 

Bernie Hamel IDEAL Melons

It’s easy to see in the field, speeding up harvest and reducing time (and money!) spent on labor to pick the melons. Not only do you save time and money, but your customers can also shop with confidence because the cantaloupe they buy at the store is at the peak of ripeness and has good flavor all the way to the rind. 

IDEAL Melons with the Harvest Indicator trait are your ticket to an easier harvest and more satisfied customers throughout the value chain. 

“Long-shelf-life cantaloupe melons are green when they first fruit, green when they’re growing, and green when they mature,” said Rakesh Kumar, Breeding Team Lead for Melon Breeding. “Alternately IDEAL Melons with the Harvest Indicator trait start changing color two or three days before maturity, to a straw color. They’re still long-shelf-life melons, the color change ensures they’re at peak ripeness without being immature.” 

Understand the Harvest Indicator Difference 

Growers who plant IDEAL Melons with the harvest indicator trait don’t need to adjust their production practices. In every way but appearance at harvest, these innovative new varieties grow identical to their long-shelf-life (LSL) melon predecessors while maintaining storage, transportation, and availability attributes LSL melons require. 

There are some key differences between them, however. 

“Unlike traditional long-shelf-life melons, these are a straw color when ready to harvest, showcase pleasant aromatics when ripe, and don't slip,” Hamel said. “For growers and consumers alike, these are recognizable differences.” 

Harvest Indicator Comparison
IDEAL Melons with the harvest indicator trait (left) showcase visible changes when the fruit is ripe and show less green in the rind than traditional Harper Melons (right).

These additional benefits come with no unpleasant surprises, either. 

“Syngenta, along with grower partners, have performed post-harvest shelf life and transportation studies to make sure they’re meeting needs throughout the value chain,” Kumar said. “IDEAL Melons with the Harvest Indicator trait are the same or better than other LSLs. In shipping and in storage, the melons maintained flesh firmness, sugar level, and overall performed well.” 

In partnership with the University of California, Davis, Syngenta is learning how the melons taste after transport and cold storage. The study includes three phases: Feb.-March 2022 with melons shipped from Central America (Guatemala); June-July 2022 with melons from Arizona; and August with melons from California. Each phase evaluates fruit quality attributes and consumer palatability after cold storage. 

“We’re really excited about the preliminary results from this study,” Hamel said. “Once we get the full report later this year, we’ll be excited to learn and share what they discovered.” 

With its deep orange flesh color, excellent post-harvest shelf life, and visible ripeness color change for consumers with pleasant aromatics, we won’t be the only ones excited about this innovation for long. 

Learn more about IDEAL Melons!