There’s nothing like a cold slice of watermelon on a hot summerday — if it weren’t for all those seeds.Watermelon lovers must agree. Consumer reports have shown thatshoppers are willing to pay more to get their melonsseedless. And farmers are hearing them loud and clear.More and more growers are adding acres of seedless watermelonsto their crops each year. In fact, of the 35,000 acres of watermelongrown in Georgia this season, 25 percent were seedless melons.Introduced in the 50’sAn estimated 20 percent of the watermelons grown in the UnitedStates are seedless. But seedless melons aren’t new. The firstwere bred in 1951 by Dr. H. Kihara of Kyoto University in Japan.”Seedless watermelons are actually called triploid watermelonsby seed companies and growers,” said John Duval, a horticulture graduate student with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”The name was developed,” he said, “after consumerscomplained because every now and then, a seedless watermelon willhave a seed inside.”A Little Smaller Than Traditional MelonsSeedless watermelons are normally red-fleshed and smaller thantraditional melons. “One of the most popular varieties grownin Georgia is Genesis,” Duval said. “You can tell ifa melon is seedless by looking down it from the stem end. It willhave a slightly triangular shape.”With the popularity of seedless melons on the rise, the acreageof Georgia-grown seedless watermelons is expected to rise to 50percent over the next 20 years.”Most of the seedless watermelons in the United Statesare grown in Georgia, Florida, Texas and California,” Duvalsaid.Duval has spent the past three years researching seedless watermelons.Working at the UGA Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin, Ga.,he developed techniques that could encourage more farmers to growseedless melons.Pricey Seeds, Stubborn SeedsOne reason they shy away from growing them now is the costof seed. The other reason is that the seeds often don’t grow well.”Seeds for seedless melons cost from 15 cents to 25 centseach,” Duval said. “And then, there’s only a 60 percentto 80 percent chance the seeds will produce.”Duval says the high seed price is a direct result of the difficultybreeders have in producing the seeds.”It’s like crossing a horse and a donkey,” said Duval.”You get a mule, but it can’t reproduce. Producing seedlesswatermelon seed is a long, tedious process. One successful crossproduces just a few seeds.”Working on his research thesis, Duval found two methods thatmay help farmers’ success rates with seedless melons.”Seedless watermelon seeds don’t germinate well. But I’vehad success by clipping the seeds before planting,” he said.”You just clip a hole in the round end of the seed. ManyAsian seed companies actually recommend doing this.”The other method Duval has found effective involves presoakingthe seeds in a 1-percent hydrogen peroxide solution. “Thishelps pregerminate the seeds,” he said.Try Growing Your OwnDuval said backyard gardeners can try these techniques at homenext season. “You can grow seedless watermelons at home,”said Duval. “Just remember you need to start them as transplantsbefore you put them in your garden spot.”He also warns backyard gardeners not to over water their seedlessmelon transplants. “They should be lightly watered to improvethe air movement around the seeds until they emerge,” hesaid. “If you water them too much, the seeds can’t breathe.”Duval said seedless watermelon seeds should be available insmall packets at lawn and garden centers. “If you can’t findthem there, you’ll find lots of choices in seed catalogs,”he said.