Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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PEACHES N Breeding ew peach varieties can be expected in the next few years from the Michigan State University breeding program and Dr. Bill Shane. He has more than 80 elite lines waiting in the wings. Shane doesn't expect his program to become as famous as that of the late Stanley Johnston, who put Michigan on the peach-breeding map. But it represents, he says, a continuation of the Michigan peach-breeding tradition. Johnston bred the Haven peach series, including the Redhaven. From Bill Shane is revitalizing the Michigan program made famous by 1924 to 1963, he released eight yellow-fleshed freestone varieties from crosses he had made: Halehaven, Kalhaven, Redhaven, Fairhaven, Sunhaven, Richhaven, Glohaven, and Cresthaven. Redhaven was the first red-skinned commer- cial peach variety and became the most widely planted freestone peach variety in the world, the variety that displaced the yellow-skinned Elberta. After Johnston died in 1969, the MSU program entered Stanley Johnston. by Richard Lehnert a quieter period, during which two additional Johnston- bred Haven varieties were evaluated and released by Dr. Bob Andersen, MSU's stone fruit breeder in the 1970s. He focused mostly on cherries and left MSU in 1980, later to became known for his cherry breeding work at Cornell University, New York. As Shane tells the story, Andersen and others at MSU— with support from Michigan peach growers—helped keep Michigan in the peach-breeding loop in a somewhat different way. They assisted two peach growers—cousins Jim and Paul Friday, who owned neighboring farms in southwest Michigan—to breed and select peach varieties on their own. IN SUPPORT OF peach breeding O ver the last 20 years, Michigan Peach Sponsors has provided more than $100,000 in support of Dr. Bill Shane's peach-breeding program. It was an important contributor in the effort to save his elite breeding lines when they were otherwise doomed by discovery of plum pox at his breeding site in 2006. Michigan Peach Sponsors is a true grassroots organization—as evidenced by the fact that nobody remembers its roots. Kurt Weber, who grows about 40 acres of peaches at Weber Orchards near Benton Harbor and is currently the Michigan Peach Sponsors president, said it started 60 or 70 years ago when Michigan peach growers would get together at a restaurant in South Haven and talk about peaches. It evolved from there. Now, it has 57 members, two-thirds are growers, the rest chemical company representatives, nurserymen, and others with similar interests. "Peach growers are always looking for something better," Weber said. "They want a steady stream of peaches they can sell from mid-July to mid-September. It's hard to compete unless you have peaches with better size, color, and flavor. The old varieties have just too many faults." Matt Moser, who runs Moser's Fruit Tree Sales, a member since the 1970s, has held office several times and is currently secretary-treasurer. He recalls that after the era of Stanley Johnston, who developed the Haven peach series, Peach breeder Bill Shane (left) and Michigan Peach Sponsors President Kurt Weber enjoyed the annual educational meeting they jointly prepared. Michigan's breeding efforts shifted toward cherries and away from peaches. When Bill Shane came aboard in 1992, Michigan Peach Sponsors became enthusiastic supporters of his program. Weber describes the relationship with Michigan State University, and especially with Extension, as "close and good." Bill Shane does more than just breed peaches, Weber said. He provides a lot of the glue that holds the Michigan peach industry together. —R. Lehnert 38 MAY 15, 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Photo courtesy of Michigan state university

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