Michigan State University Peach Breeding Program

Peach Tree

Michigan State University Peach Breeding Program

The lifeblood of a peach industry are the peach varieties. Michigan State University in partnership with the Michigan Peach Sponsors initiated a co-sponsored peach breeding program. The goal is to develop high quality varieties suitable for the Michigan fresh market peach industry.

The breeding program, under the direction of Dr. Bill Shane, continues and expands work initiated by Dr. Amy Iezzoni. Since 1989, over 9000 unique seedlings have resulted from controlled crosses, with more being produced each year. These seedlings are close-planted in nurseries and evaluated for their characteristics. Promising seedlings are propagated for further evaluation. It takes a minimum of 10 years from the time of crossing until a prospective seedling is adequately tested.

In the early 1990s Dr. Iezzoni, Dr. Gerard Adams (Botany and Plant Pathology) and graduate student Wedong Chen initiated a long-term project to develop Leucostoma-tolerant peach varieties. Leucostoma canker, also called cytospora or valsa canker, is a serious fungal disease that causes limb decline in temperate climates. They identified peach selections with resistance to canker and crossed these with commercial varieties in order to obtain high-quality peach varieties with improved canker resistance. Dr. Shane and Dr. Iezzoni are continuing this work.

The Michigan State University peach breeding program is a return to a old tradition. Michigan is known for the Haven series of varieties, so-named because the breeding program was centered at South Haven, Michigan. This breeding program, under the direction of Dr. Stanley Jonston, released 10 peach varieties in the 1940s through the 70s. The most famous variety is Redhaven, the most widely planted peach variety in the world.