Evaluating Commercial Standard, Newly Released and Pending North Carolina Peach Cultivars for Commercial Use in Western NC
PROJECT LEADER(S): Dr. Michael L. Parker
LOCATION: Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, Fletcher, NC
Although very early in the life of this peach planting, the potential for peaches as a commercial crop in western NC is being demonstrated with proper cultivar selection. The 2004 was the second cropping season for many of the cultivars and the first cropping year for others, with a full commercial crop on all cultivars in this project. Grower gross returns of $6-8,000/acre are very real and may increase based upon grower commitment and targeted markets.
Locating and purchasing high-quality tree-ripened peaches has become very difficult. The lack of availability of high-quality peaches for the consumer has resulted in a decrease in the consumption of fresh peaches to approximately 4.5 lb. per person. Peaches being sold at the large retail chain outlets are primarily from the west coast or the Southern hemisphere that have been picked immature and shipped long distances taking up to three weeks. This inferior quality fruit, although very pleasing in appearance, is then sold to the consumer who will not buy another peach. Therefore, producing high-quality peaches to be sold in local retail outlets and roadside stands in NC provides the potential for large returns to the growers as well as increasing the per capita consumption of peaches. In addition, there is a demand for unique peach characteristics such as low acidity, white flesh, and/or doughnut shaped peaches. Historically, a limited quantity of peaches have been grown in western NC but in many years there is a high probability for significant crop loss from frost/freeze spring conditions. North Carolina State University has released several cultivars over the past decade that are high chilling and have the potential to crop in years when other cultivars are eliminated by frost/freeze. There are also promising selections of peaches that will be released in the near future that have white flesh, are high chilling, low acid or are doughnut-shaped that should be evaluated in western NC.
In 2001, 15 cultivars and selections of peaches were planted at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, primarily NC developed cultivars with both white and yellow fleshed cultivars. Seven additional selections were planted in 2002 with superior traits such as cold hardiness, white flesh, low acidity, late ripening or doughnut shaped (peento-type). Trees are grown under commercial conditions and not irrigated for frost protection to evaluate the cropping consistency of these cultivars. In addition, we are having the peach varieties evaluated by individuals for fruit quality during the season with a limited effort at evaluating the canning/processing quality of peaches in a home setting.
In 2004 there was a crop on all of the 21 cultivars and selections that were planted (Table 1). The season was a very good season for growing peaches and there was not any crop loss due to frost/freeze events during the Spring. The harvest season was somewhat compressed this year with many selections maturing at the same time. Although it is too early to make any recommendations from what is occurring in this plot, we are encouraged with the performance of many of the cultivars (Table 2). Carolina Belle cropped well in 2004 and was rated as excellent in quality. Two promising NC selections rated with excellent fruit quality were NCC5S-30 and NCC5S-73 which both cropped well within the trees planted the same year. Tree growth and survival has been exceptional and the flower bud set for 2005 looks very promising.
No research-based conclusions can be made at this time given the time required to get peach trees into production. However, initial results indicate that NC developed peaches can provide a profitable opportunity for small and/or diversified farmers in western NC. In 2004 a presentation was made to the Henderson County Apple growers and a pruning demonstration was held in March and in July peaches were a part of the Tree Fruit Field Day held at the MHCRS.
TABLES & PHOTOS
Table 1: Characteristics of the peach cultivars and advanced selections planted at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, Fletcher, NC.
|Variety||Chilling Requirement (hrs)||
Harvest Date –
|Candor||950||6/26-7/9||Semi-cling, medium sized fruit|
|Derby||750||6/26-7/2||Cling medium sized fruit|
|Challenger||950||7/25-7/31||Freestone medium sized fruit|
|Norman||850||7/25-7/31||Freestone medium to large sized fruit|
|Carolina Belle||750||7/25-7/31||Freestone, white flesh, large sized fruit|
|Intrepid||1,000||7/29-7/31||Freestone, medium sized fruit|
|Winblo||850||7/25-8/4||Freestone, medium to large sized high quality fruit|
|NC98-36||7/25-7/29||White fleshed peento peach|
|7/26-8/6||High quality, large fruit peento peach, white flesh, semi-acid|
|NC97-25||750||7/31-8/4||Freestone, white flesh low acid|
|NCC5S-73||8/2-8/16||Very cold hardy, yellow peach|
|NCC5S-30||1,050||8/8-8/12||Freestone, large sized fruit, cold hardy|
|Contender||1,050||8/12||Freestone, large sized high quality fruit and very cold hardy|
|Biscoe||900||8/15-8/25||Freestone, large sized high quality fruit|
|NC98-72||8/16-8/23||High quality yellow peach|
|China Pearl||1,100||8/18-8/28||Freestone, white fleshed, large sized fruit|
|1,000||8/30||Large, high quality peach|
|NC98-71||8/30-9/3||High quality yellow peach|
|Legend||850||9/5-9/8||Freestone, large sized fruit with varied quality|
|NC98-67||9/13||Late Ripening, high quality yellow peach|
|750||/15||Freestone, large sized fruit|
Table 2: Harvest date, yield per tree and overall quality rating of the 2004 peach harvest at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station. The year of tree planting is indicated in parenthesis after the cultivar name.
|Cultivar||2004 Harvest Date||Yield (lbs/tree)||
Overall Quality Rating
|Carolina Belle (2001)||7/29-8/6||174||1|
|China Pearl (2001)||8/16-8/23||94||2.1|
|Big Red (2001)||9/13-9/20||102||1|
|Carolina Gold (NC 98-83) (2002)||