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Rich Joy peaches ripening on the tree
Rich Joy peaches ripening on the tree in a Byron, GA., orchard.

 Crimson Joy peach tree
Crimson Joy peach tree flowering in a Byron, GA., orchard

Three Joy Peaches Released

By Kim Kaplan
May 14, 2020

BYRON, GEORGIA, May 14, 2020—The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has released a trio of Joy peaches—Rich Joy, Liberty Joy and Crimson Joy—to enhance the southeastern fresh peach market.

Rich Joy is named for its fruit's rich flavor and as a way to honor ARS peach breeder William Richardson Okie, who retired in 2014. Okie is known for having developed the series of "prince" peach varieties, which are still in commercial use.

Crimson Joy is named for its almost fully red-blushed skin. Liberty Joy is so called because it ripens near Fourth of July, Independence Day.

The three Joy peaches are not genetically related. They are all yellow-fleshed, soften slowly to a smooth buttery texture (a trait called melting), with balanced sugar/acid ratios and pleasant eating quality. But they differ in pedigree parentage, ripening time and chilling requirement (the minimum time a fruit-bearing tree must be exposed to temperatures below 45 degrees F before it will blossom).

Breeders tend to choose a single "base" name for the varieties they develop to make their origins recognizable, explained research horticulturist Chunxian Chen, with the ARS Fruit and Tree Nut Research Unit in Byron, Georgia and developer of the Joy trio of peaches.

"Joy is a wonderful word that expresses how people feel about enjoying a good peach," Chen said. "It is one syllable, can be easily phrased with other words for naming of future releases and it fits well with some "unofficial" cultivar naming conventions."

Chen explained that new varieties continue to be needed because the southeastern peach industry is facing multiple challenges, including more incidences of warm winters and spring freezes, which can change chilling requirements. Other industry needs include improved fruit quality, competition from other fruits and imports, and demand for varieties with improved resistance to pests/diseases and reduced need for pesticides. There also is a need for varieties to fill certain harvest windows.

"So we must continue to breed new peach varieties to meet growers' needs, elevate overall production efficiency and market share and keep the industry sustainable and profitable," Chen added.

The value of fresh and processed peaches was estimated at $511 million for 2018, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Liberty Joy has the shortest chilling requirement of the three new varieties, about 650 chill hours. It ripens in late June to early July. It will be a good alternative to current commercial varieties in this harvest window such as Fireprince, Blazeprince, Scarletprince and Redglobe, all of which require about 850 chill hours and do not produce well when winter chill has been insufficient for flower bud maturation. Liberty Joy also appears to be less vulnerable to spring freezes, compared to other varieties with the same short chill requirement.

Crimson Joy, which requires about 700 chill hours, has redder skin color, firmer fruit and improved fruiting reliability, compared to Harvester and Redhaven, which ripen at about the same time. In addition, Crimson Joy appears less vulnerable to some chill inadequacy and spring freeze.

Rich Joy requires about 850 chill hours and ripens between Julyprince and Flameprince in mid-August. At maturity, about 90 percent of the fruit is bright red with an attractive yellow ground color on the fruit. This makes it preferable to older, less-blushed Cresthaven and Early Augustprince for the similar harvest window. As a late-season variety, Rich Joy fruits reliably with attractive, large, firm, premium fruit that appear to soften slowly on the tree, allowing it to be picked over a relatively longer period compared to other varieties.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.