Although it is widely believed that a little water stress helps give melons the best flavor, research out of Australia suggests the opposite – that late season water stress not only reduces melon yields but it may also impair fruit quality. The extend of the yield and quality loss appear to be proportional to the duration and severity of the moisture stress event. Stress at 7 days prior to harvest was more harmful than stress closer to harvest time. The researchers cautions that; while adequate moisture is clearly beneficial; excess moisture late in the season can lead to problems with fruit splitting and decay. Drip irrigation systems may be particularly useful in situations where it is important to keep the plants well supplied with moisture – but where contact between the fruit and moist soil needs to be avoided.
Source : Long, Walsh and Midmore (2006). HortScience 41:367-369.