Sometimes growers and consumers get frustrated with fruit breeders for the amount of time it takes from an initial hybridization (cross) until the release of a new cultivar. From their perspective, 10 or more years may seem like a long time — and it is! However, any responsible plant breeder (public or private) feels an obligation to only release material into the trade that has been adequately tested. Different geographic locations, as well as climatic variation from year to year (chill hours, spring freeze events, rainfall, etc.), can affect the environment a peach is grown in, which will affect its performance. Critical factors such as consistency of cropping, quality, yield, susceptibility to pests, etc., must be observed in diverse environments over many seasons. Just because a selection looks fantastic one year at one location is hardly sufficient rationale to plant a 20-acre block of it somewhere else!
In 2000, in collaboration with Dr. Dick Okie, peach breeder with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Byron, GA, I planted advanced selections from his breeding program at three diverse locations in South Carolina (Monetta, Cowpens, and Seneca) for further testing. At each trial site, numerous named cultivars were planted as industry standards for comparison. Over the past five fruiting seasons, we have carefully evaluated 30-plus selections in comparison with 20 or more standards that ripen throughout the May-September harvest window. Considerable evaluation data was collected each year and this data has been posted on my Web site (see the address in my footnote at the end of this article).
Based on our data in South Carolina and many years of testing in Georgia, four of these advanced selections emerged as superior to existing varieties for the July-August season. The first two, Scarletprince and Julyprince, were officially released in 2004. The second two, Early Augustprince and Augustprince, have just this month been released for use by nurserymen and growers. Please note that all photos were taken at Clemson University's Musser Fruit Research Farm in Seneca, SC, during the 2006 season.
Scarletprince ripens near Redglobe in early July. It is very attractive, round, firm, and of very good eating quality. When properly thinned, fruits can easily attain a 2.75-inch diameter. The fruit is firmer than Redglobe and it softens slowly on the tree. This melting, yellow-flesh freestone will be nearly 90% bright red at maturity with a nice yellow background color and minimal pubescence. It is moderately resistant to bacterial spot disease. It has showy blossoms, is self-fertile, and requires 850 chill hours to overcome dormancy.Julyprince ripens three to 10 days after Redglobe in early to mid-July. It is very attractive, round, very firm, and of very good eating quality. When properly thinned, fruit can easily attain a 3-inch diameter. Because fruit softens slowly on the tree, it can be picked over a longer period than most varieties. This melting, yellowflesh freestone will be nearly 70% to 80% bright red at maturity with a nice yellow background color and little pubescence. In comparison with Scarletprince, Julyprince is slightly larger, later, and less red. It is moderately resistant to bacterial leaf spot. Blossoms are showy and self-fertile, and trees require 850 chill hours to overcome dormancy.
Early Augustprince (BY96P2634) ripens in mid- to late July, similar to Cresthaven and Sunprince. Most years, it ripens three to seven days before its sibling, Augustprince. Early Augustprince is an attractive, very firm peach with excellent texture and very good flavor. When properly thinned, fruit can easily attain 3 inches in diameter. Fruit is larger than Cresthaven and has more red color than either Sunprince or Cresthaven. This melting, yellow-flesh freestone will have 70% to 80% bright-red blush at maturity with nice yellow background color and little pubescence. It is moderately resistant to bacterial leaf spot. Blossoms are showy and self fertile, and trees require 800 to 850 chill hours to overcome dormancy.
Augustprince (BY96P2631) ripens with or just before Jefferson in late July to early August. Most years, it ripens three to seven days after its sibling, Early Augustprince. This fruit is large when it is adequately thinned (2.75 inches to 3 inches), round, and redder and firmer than Jefferson. At maturity, this melting, yellow-flesh freestone will have 70% to 80% bright-red blush with an attractive yellow background color and minimal pubescence. It has an excellent melting texture and very good flavor. It is moderately resistant to bacterial leaf spot. Blossoms are showy and self-fertile, and trees require 850 chill hours to overcome dormancy.
It is always exciting when new germplasm becomes available for commercial producers. These four new peach cultivars are well-suited for the southeastern U.S. Performance in other geographic locations and climates should be evaluated over several years prior to any large-scale planting. Clonal material of these releases has been deposited in the NRSP5/ IR-2 Fruit Tree Collection at Prosser, WA, where it will be available as virus-free budwood.
This column by Dr. Desmond R. Layne, “New Peach Releases for July and August”, appeared in the November/December 2006 issue of The American Fruit Grower magazine on pages 70-71.