Cucurbitacins are feeding stimulants for corn rootworm used in baits to control the adults of this insect pest. Corn rootworm larvae also feed compulsively on cucurbitacins. Cucurbitacins are reported to be gibberellin antagonists that may preclude their use as seed treatments for these soil-dwelling insects. The crude extract of a bitter Hawkesbury watermelon containing cucurbitacin E-glycoside significantly inhibited germination of watermelon, squash, and tomato seeds. Although the germination of corn seed was not significantly inhibited, root elongation was inhibited by crude extracts, but not by high-performance liquid chromatography-purified cucurbitacin E-glycoside. Therefore, the effects of the major components in the bitter watermelon extract (e.g., sugars) on seed germination and root elongation were determined. Pure sugars (glucose and fructose), at concentrations found in watermelon extract, mimicked the inhibition of seed germination and root elongation seen with the crude bitter Hawkesbury watermelon extract. Removal of these sugars may be necessary to use this extract as a bait for corn rootworm larvae as a seed or root treatment.
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Vol. 96 • No. 2