Evaluating vegetable varieties for organic systems

Farmers in Washington are looking to diversify crops to meet demand for organic, local and direct market production. Two crops that can meet these needs are icebox watermelons and winter-grown greens. Icebox watermelons tend to be earlier maturing than picnic watermelon varieties, and thus offer farmers throughout Washington a means of producing high quality watermelons locally. At WSU Vancouver REU we evaluated 44 varieties of icebox watermelon in 2004, 101 varieties in 2005 and 117 varieties in 2006. In 2006 we also evaluated 5 varieties in Pullman and 10 varieties in Mount Vernon. Results from our large variety trial at WSU VREU indicate that 70 varieties matured relatively early enough (<90 days), making them productive in our region, while at Pullman and Mount Vernon more testing is needed to determine which varieties are best suited for those areas. In our previous studies we showed that more than 30 lettuce varieties could be grown in the winter at WSU VREU in a field hoophouse. In 2005-06 we initiated a study at WSU VREU and in Pullman to evaluate the productivity and quality of 25 varieties of winter-grown lettuce and Asian greens in an unheated, unlit field hoophouse. Preliminary results indicate that all varieties can be grown successfully at both locations, though time to harvest and head size differs for each. Varieties also differed in nitrate content, which has an impact on human health and food quality.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 014
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Miles, C.


  • Principal Investigator(s): Miles, C.


  • Principal Investigator(s): Miles, C.
  • Investigator(s): Inglis, D., Jaeckel, B., Koenig, R.
  • Grant Amount: $39,097
  • 2006 Progress Report (PDF)


  • Principal Investigator(s): Miles, C.
  • Grant Amount: $36,003


Miles, C., K. Kolker, T. Smith, J. Reed, G. Becker, and C. Adams. 2006. Icebox watermelon variety trial in Western Washington. Hortscience 41(4):1014.

Miles, C., G. Becker, K. Kolker and M. Nicholson. 2004. Icebox watermelon variety trial. Proc. Getting the bugs to work for you: Biological Control in Organic Agriculture Symposium, November 12, 2004, Portland Oregon, p. 49.

Watermelon variety description web page http://vegetables.wsu.edu/WatermelonPhotos2006.html.

Watermelon variety performance web page http://vegetables.wsu.edu/WatermelonTable.pdf.


Icebox-sized watermelon are being grown for commercial sales throughout Washington.

Approximately 400 people state wide purchased a diversity of locally grown, organic watermelons, and demand in Pullman exceeded supply.

Preferred watermelon fruit size for farmers markets and CSA farms is 10 lbs or less.

Butternut squash were shown to be productive in SW Washington. Two breeding lines showed promise for variety release and fill a new market niche for ‘mini’ butternut squash. Data was shared with the breeder, Molly Jahn, one line was released ‘Honey Nut’ and is for sale by High Mowing Seeds.

A WSU Emerging Issues grant was obtained to further investigate season extension and disease management for watermelon in NW Washington.


Potential for baby corn and baby butternut squash – new crops for new markets. Presentation at Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association, November 13, 2007, Kennewick, WA.

Winter vegetable crop curing and storage. Presentation at Tilth Producers of Washington, November 11, 2007, Yakima, WA.