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Alcorn grows 103 varieties of melons to fight obesity and conserve soil

ASU Center for Conservation Research receives $498,561 grant from USDA

Alcorn State, Miss. (September 20, 2013) - “It is common knowledge that obesity is one of the biggest health challenges facing America now with almost 13 million children and 78 million adults in the U.S. being obese,” stated Dr. Girish Panicker, director of the Center for Conservation Research at Alcorn State University’s School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences. “Consumption of fruits and vegetables according to the 'food pyramid' can help solve this problem, and we are currently working on development of resistant high quality melon varieties together with researches from West Virginia State University. Our project ‘Mining the Melon Gene Pool to Breed Novel Morphotypes for Dissemination into Small Farms through a Participatory Selection Approach’ received a $498,561 grant from USDA.”

The project that began summer 2013 is now in the collection evaluation stage. One hundred and three varieties of melons from around the globe are grown at Alcorn.

“The main goal of the project is to create a genetic map for important traits of the melon,” explained Dr. Yan Tomason, research scientist and adjunct professor from West Virginia State University, who spent a week at Alcorn educating the staff on taking field data and analyzing the fruit in the lab for sugar content and transportability. “Once this is done, 25 of the best varieties will be selected, from which the seeds will be collected and distributed in the state of Mississippi and across the nation.”

Dr. Panicker added, “This will have a positive economic impact on Mississippi by providing seeds to small and regular farmers, and allowing families to grow melons for consumption and maintain a healthy diet. It will also greatly help all of the U.S. melon growers that are seeking to diversify the varieties and rotate every season to sustain melon production and protect the fruit from devastating diseases. Also, the data from this project will be used for conservation research – it will show how much the crop can help in conserving soil and managing the nutrients. We anticipate completing the project by 2015.”