National news release
Story about Okie's
peach breeding research
In addition to peaches, Okie also bred Spring Satin, the
first plumcot (cross between plum and apricot) cultivar that is well adapted to
medium-high chill areas of the South. More
Peach Breeder Wins Technology Transfer
Award By Jim
February 13, 2002
BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 13William R. Okie, a research
horticulturist with the Agricultural
Research Service in Byron, Ga., has won a technology transfer award from
the agency for the development of peach varieties and rootstocks that have been
vital to the survival of the peach industry in the Southeast. ARS is the chief
scientific research agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Peach growers in southeastern states have struggled in recent
years with problems of obsolete varieties and reduced orchard life due to Peach
Tree Short Life (PTSL) disease. Producers must grow many different varieties to
maintain a supply of peaches from May to September and to adapt to the
different climate zones, from the coastal plains to the mountains.
Guardian rootstock, developed
by Okie and other ARS scientists in cooperation with
Clemson University in Clemson, S.C., has
resistance to root-knot nematode and greatly enhanced survival against PTSL.
Okie, based at the ARS
Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory at Byron, will be honored today
during a 1 p.m. ceremony at the agencys
Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.)
Agricultural Research Center.
Since 1980, Dr. Okie has released 11 yellow-fleshed peach
varieties for commercial production in the Southeast. Most of the older
varieties are now the predominant varieties in their respective season, and the
newer varieties are being planted in higher numbers, said Edward B.
Knipling, ARS acting administrator. In 1982, Dr. Okie started a rootstock
breeding and development program and selected the material that was later
released as Guardian peach rootstock. It has since become the primary peach
rootstock for the Southeast, with more than six million seeds sold.
The extended orchard life conferred by Guardian rootstock
results in savings of an estimated $4-5 million a year for peach tree growers.
Okie produced the USDA Handbook of Peach and Nectarine
Varieties in 1998. The agricultural handbook describes more than
6,000 varieties and has been distributed all over the United States and to most
peach-growing countries worldwide.
Okie grew up in Hendersonville, N.C. He received his B.S. in
horticulture from Oregon State University,
his M.S. in plant protection from Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University and his Ph.D. in horticulture
and genetics from North Carolina State