Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The US Department of Agriculture Ag Research Service just announced on June 26 a very exciting breakthrough for watermelon growers. Pat Wechter, a USDA researcher at the joint USDA Clemson Coastal Research and Education Center outside of Charleston, and Clemson professor Richard Hassell, have developed a new watermelon rootstock that not only provides protection from fusarium wilt but also saves melons from the damage done by root knot nematodes. Fusarium is a soil borne fungus that can live in the soil for thirty years and wipes out susceptible crops. Root knot nematodes are round worms that cause devastating damage to roots of certain plants. With the end of soil fumigation, some growers had fields they could no longer use. Fortunately, Wechter and Hassell developed this new rootstock, called Carolina Strongback, from wild type watermelons, citrons, and it offers protection from these two organisms.