Solutions to our long term food security will require a deeper understanding of fruit tree biology. Our newer peach varieties such as ‘Sweet-N-UP’, ‘Crimson Rocket’ and ‘SummerFest’ combine fruit quality with a more upright tree structure that allows higher fruit yields in the same amount of orchard space. These novel “pillar” or “upright” shaped trees are being evaluated by growers for their ability to increase yields and reduce labor costs associated with tree management (top).
In general, improving tree shapes so that they can be planted closer together and/or can be adapted to mechanization, would increase productivity and be more environmentally friendly. We have identified several genes that control branch growth and tree size (bottom). The knowledge gained from this work is providing us with new tools for improving agricultural productivity and sustainability, not only trees but potentially a wide variety of different crops.