University of Maryland Extension

Pollination Problems - Vegetables

Back to Vegetable Crops

poorly pollinated cucumbers

Pollination Problems - Deformed Cucumbers

Crops in the plant family Cucurbitaceae such as cucumber (see above photo), muskmelon, squash, pumpkin, and watermelon require cross-pollination to produce fruits. Separate male and female flowers are produced on the same plant. Pollinator insects move pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers where the pollen can fertilize the ovules (tiny seeds) inside the ovary (the very small fruits that appear below the female flowers). When the seeds are fertilized the fruit enlarges. Twisted or deformed squash are the result of insufficient pollination.

Blooms on plants in this family typically are only open for one day. Blooms will simply drop off the plant if they are not pollinated. This can be caused by low bee activity due to cool, wet temperatures or from pesticide sprays. Undeveloped fruits will drop off with blooms or may drop several days afterward due to the same lack of pollination and fertilization. Do not apply insecticides (other than insecticidal soap or horticultural oil) in the vegetable garden during the bloom period.

Corn is also susceptible to pollination problems. Corn is pollinated by wind and should be planted in blocks for adequate cross-pollinations to occur. Poor pollination results in "skips" or missing kernels and poorly filled ears. Drought stress can also affect the ability of the corn plants to pollinate properly.

stunted watermelon
Poor pollination of watermelon

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