Desmond Layne

Dr. Layne in fruit market, Shanghai China, August 2009 holding traditional white-fleshed peach.

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Peaches from greenhouses?

Clemson professor’s trip to China will benefit peach growers

CLEMSON — Dr. Desmond R. Layne, State Peach Specialist and Associate Professor of Pomology at Clemson, will be the invited guest of Dr. Zhiqiang Wang, Professor and Deputy Director, Zhengzhou Fruit Research Institute in China from April 18–May 1, 2010.

When it comes to peaches, South Carolina and China have a lot to talk about. South Carolina is the second leading peach producer in the United States. China produces 45 percent of the world’s peaches and has a 3,000-year old relationship with the fruit—China is the native homeland of the peach tree.

While most peaches in China are grown outdoors in orchards as they are in the United States, approximately 30,000 acres in China are cultivated in protected cultivation (i.e., inside energy-conserving greenhouses). This fact is of direct relevance to peach growers in the Southeast where the combined peach crop acreage of South Carolina and Georgia is about 32,000 acres, all grown outdoors.

Desmond Layne

Nectarines under cultivation in a hoop house/high tunnel production system in China. In this photo you can see the fruit on the trees and the side partially rolled up for ventilation.

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“The energy-efficient greenhouse production methods for growing peaches in China, if applied in the Southeast, could allow growers to bring high-quality fruit to market four to eight weeks early. This would be a tremendous advantage, especially for small-to-medium size farms that could serve local and regional markets,” said Layne.

Protected cultivation in China may be done with passive solar technologies that use a south-facing concrete, cinder block or mud brick wall to absorb heat during the day and slowly release it into the greenhouse during the night.  Protected cultivation can also be done using “high tunnels,” also known as “hoop houses”.  Both systems reduce pest and disease pressure because the crop is not exposed to rain and insects are largely excluded. High tunnel systems are already being used in the U.S. for some vegetables and fruit crops.

“Protected cultivation of organic, tree-ripened fruits for the local market has the potential to establish a profitable, early-season niche for South Carolina growers when the only competition is 20-day old fruit shipped by boat from Chile,” said Layne.

energy conserving greenhouses

At the top of these energy efficient greenhouses, energy conserving mats are rolled up during the day and rolled down during the night to retain heat inside the greenhouse.

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While in China, Layne will collaborate with colleagues at several research institutes and universities in six provinces and tour commercial production operations. Layne will also give presentations about his peach research and the land-grant extension programs at Clemson University.

While on his trip, he will update a daily blog with comments and photos that can be found at:

http://www.growingproduce.com/news/gp/?storyid=3650