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Bluebyrd plum.

Senator Byrd Plants Bluebyrd Plum Celebrating 20 Years of ARS Research Station

By Judy McBride
August 10, 1999

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va., Aug. 10--U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia today planted a plum tree named in his honor at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station here in celebration of the station's 20th anniversary.

In 1979, Senator Byrd dedicated the 500-acre research facility operated by the Agricultural Research Service, the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Senator Byrd has been a staunch supporter of the research conducted at Kearneysville," ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn said at the planting ceremony. "It was with this in mind that Ralph Scorza, the ARS horticulturist who released the new plum, named it Bluebyrd."

"Scientists at this laboratory strive to develop the science, technology and genetic base that will produce more and better fruit crops while minimizing disruptions of the ecosystem," Horn continued. "With this new plum tree, we're giving consumers a new, sweet-tasting plum. We're also giving growers a high-quality, consistently high-producing European-type plum for the mid-Atlantic and other fruit growing regions of the United States." Bluebyrd is available in nurseries for the first time this year.

Released in 1998, Bluebyrd has been successfully tested under cold winter conditions in Kearneysville and in Geneva, N.Y. First selected and tested in 1968 at ARS' Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center, Bluebyrd ripens during the first week of September at Kearneysville. With deep purple skin and amber colored fruit, this plum consistently produces heavy crops when cross-pollinated. The plums are sweet and flavorful, and the hardy trees resist diseases.

Other fruits developed by the Kearneysville researchers include two peaches, two pears and a nectarine, station director Dariusz Swietlik said.

Kearneysville researchers also developed particle film technology, a non-toxic alternative to pesticides, which protects apples, pears and peaches from some insects and diseases while improving fruit yield and quality.

In addition, discoveries of station researchers have been turned into two commercial products to control diseases naturally on fruit after harvest: Aspire, a yeast-based product, and Biosave 110, a bacteria-based product.

The researchers have found other alternatives for protecting fruit trees from pest insects and mites, including non-toxic sugar esters, beneficial insects and flowering cover crops to attract beneficial insects to the orchard. They also developed a mathematical model to predict the occurrence and appropriate control measures for fire blight, a devastating disease of apple and pear trees worldwide.

Engineering research at Kearneysville has produced a prototype for an automatic apple inspection system and mechanical harvesters for blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and oranges. The scientists also developed new culture systems for growing strawberries in a soil-less medium or in hydroponics for higher economic return.

Other developments at Kearneysville include a hydroponic system to produce lettuce, basil and other horticultural crops in aquaculture waste water. This not only provides nutrients for the plants, but also removes pollutants from the waste water, which can be safely returned to the environment.

Scientific contact: Ralph Scorza or Dariusz Swietlik, ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, WVa.; phone (304) 725-3451 X-322 (Scorza), X-326 (Swietlik); fax (304) 728-2340;,