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We think of peaches as coming from Georgia. Well, they do, but not exclusively. ARS researchers at Kearneysville, West Virginia, have released varieties that reliably produce sunny, juicy peaches in northerly climes. Look for them to do well despite the harsh winters of, say, central Pennsylvania.

A laboratory technique called embryo culture has proven especially helpful in creating new peach varieties. When carefully nurtured in petri dishes, tiny embryos that could not survive in nature are cultivated into plantlets. Tended carefully in the greenhouse, the plantlets can eventually be planted outdoors in the research orchard.

With regard to the many insect and disease problems that afflict orchard crops, ARS scientists look for nonchemical, environmentally friendly solutions whenever possible. for example, they've developed breeding lines that are resistant to Peach Tree Short Life, and a bacterial biocontrol that prevents brown rot on fruit.

Pear research has also borne fruit. Thanks to years of pest control studies, the fire blight and pear psylla problems that long ago wiped out the U.S. East Coast pear industry have yielded to a variety of new controls. We've even come up with computer programs to help growers predict when fire blight will strike, so they can be ready for it. The program, which has been tested in over 20 locations throughout the United States and Canada, has resulted in better fire blight control and has reduced the number of sprayings that orchards receive.

Photo by Scott Bauer.

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