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Cultivation and Uses of Cucurbits

  • James D. McCreightEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models book series (PGG, volume 20)

Abstract

Cultivated cucurbits have spread through trade and exploration from their respective Old and New World centers of origin to the six arable continents and are important in local, regional and world trade. Cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash and gourd, and watermelon comprise the major cucurbits. Bitter gourd, bottle gourd, wax gourd, sponge and ridge gourd, and snake gourd are minor cucurbits from a global perspective that are of import to small shareholder farmers, mostly in Asia. Global production of the major cucurbits increased from 1992 through 2013 in terms of area harvested and yield per hectare, and consequently total production. Production per capita, and presumably consumption, increased in parallel with gains in total production. Cucurbits can play an important role in dietary health. They are low in nutritional value, but can be significant dietary sources of vitamins and minerals. Some cucurbits, such as bitter gourd, have medicinal properties. Cucurbits are generally prized for their delicious fruits, which can be sweet, bitter or aromatic, and may be highly perishable or stored for months with little change in quality. The seeds are good sources of vegetable oil and protein. Gourd shells may be used for storage containers, or as musical instruments. The cultivated cucurbits have been greatly improved by plant breeders using conventional plant breeding techniques for more than 100 years; rapidly advancing molecular technologies are being applied to cucurbits to ensure sustainable production, improve fruit quality and shelf life, and develop novel fruit types.

Keywords

Cucumber Melon Pumpkin Squash Gourd Cucurbit production Nutritional value Genetic resources Disease resistance Grafting Plant breeding 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research ServiceU.S. Agricultural Research StationSalinasUSA

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