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Fresh Offerings from ARS Peach Breeders

By Sharon Durham
February 15, 2007

Growers may soon have more options for meeting marketplace demand, thanks to two new freestone peaches developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). By planting varieties that ripen at different times, growers are able to extend their harvest season and provide a steady supply of fruit to consumers.

Horticulturist W.R. Okie, at the ARS Southeastern Tree Nut and Fruit Laboratory, Byron, Ga., developed the new varieties, Early Augustprince and Augustprince. Because the fruit of both new peaches is very firm and softens slowly while on the tree, both can be picked over a longer period than comparable southeastern varieties.

Early Augustprince, first planted at Byron in 1996, ripens in mid-to-late July, at about the same time as one of its parents, Sunprince, which was also developed at Byron by Okie and his predecessor, V.E. Prince. The other parent was from a cross involving Byron varieties Flameprince and Blazeprince. Augustprince ripens in late July to early August at Byron, about three to seven days after its earlier sibling.

Both new varieties yield large, round fruit that's nearly three inches in diameter. At maturity, the peaches are 70 to 80 percent bright-red, with an attractive yellow background. Their flesh is yellow, with some red coloring if allowed to mature on the tree. The fruit has excellent texture and very good flavor.

After 10 years in test orchards at Byron, and in trials conducted in South Carolina in cooperation with Clemson University, Early Augustprince and Augustprince appear to be superior to currently planted varieties in that season. Since the vigorous trees are relatively tolerant of the southeastern climate and diseases, they are recommended for trial in the Southeast.

Small quantities of budwood of Early Augustprince and Augustprince will be available from the NRSP5/IR-2 Fruit Tree Collection at Washington State University in Prosser. Trees are available from Tennessee nurseries supplying the commercial southeastern peach industry.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.