If there’s one plant I’m really looking forward to growing in the vegetable garden this year it’s Partenon hybrid summer squash. I found this new zucchini in the Park Seed catalog. The two things about this squash that caught my eye are that it is cucumber beetle resistance and parthenocarpic.
One of the constant struggles I have with zucchini is dealing with cucumber beetles. While these beetles cause leaf damage to the plants, the real problem is that they’re vectors for bacterial wilt. Bacterial wilt is caused by the bacterium Erwinia tracheiphila. When a cucumber beetle chew on a leaf, if it carries this bacterium in its intestinal tract, it’ll transmit Erwinia tracheiphila to the squash plant through the tissue damaged by its feeding on it. The bacteria multiplies in the xylem (the vascular tissue of a plant that transports water from the roots to the rest of the plant). In time, the xylem clogs and the plant wilts and dies.
While I haven’t had as much of a problem with bacterial wilt as I have in the past, it’s still a problem. Sprays, traps, row covers and silver plastic mulch are all ways to limit the problem of cucumber beetles but none of them are fool-proof. The idea of a squash that resists the beetle sounds like a good idea to me.
The other cool thing about this squash is that it’s parthenocarpic. Parthenocarpic comes from two Greek words: parthenos meaning virgin and karpos meaning fruit. Parthenocarpy is the formation of fruit without fertilization and a parthenocarpic plant produces fruit without fertilization.
Squash plants produce male and female flowers. In order for a squash to form, a pollinator (usually a bee) has to take pollen from the male flower and transfer it to the female flower. This usually isn’t a problem but if the weather is cool and/or rainy or if the pollinator population is low, the fruit set might be diminished due to lack of pollination/fertilization.
A parthenocarpic plant solves these problem. The fruit will form and mature without pollination so any variables to pollination that would affect fruit set in a normal squash are gone. Also, if you’ve ever let a zucchini get a little large, you know how the center of the squash is full of seeds. In the case of parthenocarpic squash there are no seeds because it wasn’t fertilized. It’s a “virgin fruit!”
It should be interesting to see how this cucumber beetle resistant parthenocarpic zucchini does in the garden. I’ll still plant some other varieties of zucchini but this is the one I’ll be watching closely.