Harvesting seeds for evaluation and/or sale....
Watermelon plants are either grown in an isolation field where bees can pollinate the flowers or grown in a carefully controlled environment where flowers are hand pollinated. In either case, the rows of plants (and sometimes individual plants) are tagged with tracking information recorded on a master site map. When only a few acres are devoted to growing a variety of different hybrids, the watermelon fruits are manually rolled to one side, minimizing the risk of confusing different varieties of fruits developing along adjacent rows.
Watermelon fruit can be evaluted for ripeness by checking the date of fertilization, looking at the curl or other factors learned through experience. If a watermelon is overly ripe, an enzyme is produced that begins the breakdown of the fleshy material around the seeds. Seeds may actually begin germinating in the melon's flesh.
After ripening, the fruit is cut open and inspected for consistency in the expression of various traits. Some breeders use a grading scale to indicate conformity to already established performance standards. In addition to rating the watermelons for desired characteristics, the expression of undesirable ones is also noted. For instance, a watermelon that demonstrated an improved deep red color and also expressed large cracks in the flesh may not have its seeds harvested even though the color was desirable. These judgment calls are made by experienced plant breeders who are conscious of consumer and grower demands for particular watermelon characteristics.
Once the fruit has passed inspection, it is tagged with a tracking number and placed with other watermelons of the same cross. Then workers began the process of scooping out the seeds and placing them in plastic containers. The tracking numbers remain with the plastic containers so that pooled seeds are collected from the same identified hybrid.
The containers of seeds are carried back to a processing area where the flesh is washed off the seeds using high pressure water. After the seeds have dried, they are stored for germination in the following year.