Dec 27, 2019
Michigan peach group gets grant to help boost state’s selections

Michigan Peach Sponsors has received a $55,940 Michigan Department of Agriculture Rural Development Specialty Crop Block Grant.

According to a news release, the grant will accelerate the evaluation and release of Michigan State University  peach varieties bred by William Shane at the MSU Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor.

Elite cultivars will be propagated onto several rootstocks to be planted by grower cooperators. Gathered data will be used to evaluate the cultivars as well as new rootstocks. The goal is to help revitalize the Michigan fresh and processing peach industry.

Michigan Peach Sponsors has long teamed up with Michigan State University (MSU) to support peach breeding. Stanley Johnston, while at MSU during the 1940’s, released the famous Redhaven cultivar and many other “Haven” cultivars that transformed peach production and markets worldwide.

More recently, the Michigan-based private Fruit Acres and Paul Friday breeding programs provided many useful varieties for the fresh market.

Looking to the future, Michigan continues to need ever better cultivars to remain competitive in the peach market, a news release stated. Shane’s program has been breeding hardier and more disease resistant varieties targeted to the Michigan peach industry.

The apple and cherry industries have moved into intense higher density systems. The Michigan peach industry must follow suit to maintain viability, according to the news release.

Five elite fresh market cultivars from the MSU program and three numbered Ontario processing peach cultivars will be propagated onto the industry standards, Bailey and Lovell roots, as well as newer rootstocks such as MP29, Krymsk 86 and other new selections. These have had little testing in Michigan, but potentially have superior characteristics leading to hardier, more intense production systems in the future. Grower cooperators will plant limited blocks of the trees and work with researchers to help collect data evaluating both the new cultivar and the new rootstock combination.

The grant will also help fund development of certified budwood sources and data required to protect and commercialize the cultivars. Commercial nurseries require certified budwood and proven grower demand before they will invest in new variety production.

For over 50 years, Michigan Peach Sponsors has supported research, promotion and education in the Michigan peach industry through its volunteer members.

This is the first Specialty Crop Block Grant it has received.

The evaluation and release of Michigan State University peach varieties bred by MSU’s William Shane will benefit from a new grant. Photo: Gary Pullano

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