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    Cucurbits

Below is an extract from a pollination research paper prepared by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).  To download the document, simply click on the image on the left of this screen.

Most cucurbits are monoecious and contain separate male and female flowers on the same plant.  Therefore for pollination to occur, pollen must be transferred from the male flowers to the female flowers via a transport vector (usually honey bees) (Ordway et al. 1987).  Efficient pollination (and ultimately fruit set) will be dependent on both male and female flowers being present on a vine and sufficient numbers of pollinating insects foraging during bloom.  Fruit set and seed number have been shown to increase as the number of bee visits to flowers to flowers increases.  This is due to the fact that seed formation increases as the number of pollen grains deposited on a stigma increases.  Thus large bee populations help ensure maximum flower visitation, pollen deposition and crop yield.  An indication of poor pollination is small, deformed fruits with a small number of seeds, or fruits that turn yellow and do not develop.

There are a number of factors that can influence this pollination process.  Rapid growth promotes earlier flowering (Tepedino 1981), however high temperatures, long days, and high rates of nitrogen can result in large amounts of vegetative growth and not many flowers and/or a higher proportion of male to female flowers (only female flowers produce fruit) (Gingras et al. 1999).

Only male flowers produce pollen; however, both male and female flowers produce nectar.  Nectaries between the two flowers do however differ (Gingras et al. 1999).  The male flower nectary is located at the base of the filaments, and the bees can access the nectar through three pores.  In the female flower the nectary is opened, forming a ring around the base of the style (Gingras et al. 1999).  Tepedino (1981) and Lord (1985) reported pumpkin production to be dependent on honey bee pollination with a positive correlation measured between increases in pumpkin production with increases in bee activity.  Langridge (1960) also showed that by increasing the numbers of honey bees in relation to numbers of flowers, fruit set could be significantly increased in field pumpkins.

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