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Citrullus lanatus germplasm of southern Africa

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Citrullus lanatus germplasm from southern Africa is a rich source of diversity for cultivated watermelon. Wild, feral, and landrace populations of the species are found throughout the arid regions of southern Africa, where they serve as sources of water and food for humans and wildlife alike. Genetic resources from the region proved to be important sources of disease resistance for cultivated watermelon, contributing to the development of both Fusarium wilt- and anthracnose-resistant cultivars. Basic research, such as genomic mapping and the elucidation of drought tolerance, have also benefitted from the abundant genetic diversity. Currently, several ex situ collections in the region and the rest of the world house accessions originating from southern Africa. The USDA germplasm collection has been screened extensively for traits of interest in watermelon breeding, but full advantage has not been taken of some of the other collections. The C. lanatus germplasm from southern Africa is currently a largely underutilized source of diversity for watermelon improvement. Conservation of and access to ex situ collections should be given priority to ensure that this rich source of genetic variation is utilized to its full potential in both basic and applied research.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia


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