Peach breeding at the University of Arkansas

M. Worthington, J.R. Clark
The University of Arkansas peach breeding program was established by Dr. James N. Moore in 1964 and continued by Dr. John R. Clark, who assumed program leadership in 1997. The initial objective of the breeding program was the development of processing cling cultivars for the baby food industry. However, the program focus shifted to fresh-market peaches and nectarines for local markets in the mid to late 1990s. To date, the University of Arkansas has released 11 peach and five nectarine cultivars, which comprise a broad range of flesh types, colors, flavors, and acidity levels intended to provide expanded options for growers beyond standard yellow, melting-flesh peaches. The incorporation of non-melting, slow-softening, and non-softening flesh types into the fresh-market breeding program has yielded cultivars with improved postharvest storage potential. Bacterial spot resistance is another important target of the breeding program and no bactericides have been applied during the 50-year history of the program. Furthermore, the program location at the University of Arkansas Fruit Research Station is in a humid climate with 1100 mm of rainfall annually. This provides for consistently high disease pressure each year, making it an excellent selection environment for identifying bacterial spot resistance. The program has also began incorporating molecular marker-assisted selection for attributes including flesh type, acidity, bacterial spot resistance, and other important traits in coordination with the Specialty Crops Research Initiative RosBREED program. As we look toward the second 50 years of the program, we intend to use high-throughput phenotyping and novel molecular breeding strategies to continue developing diverse peach and nectarine cultivars that combine great flavor, superior postharvest handling potential, and bacterial spot resistance for fresh-market producers in humid climates.
Worthington, M. and Clark, J.R. (2021). Peach breeding at the University of Arkansas. Acta Hortic. 1304, 21-28
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1304.3
Prunus persica L. Batsch, bacterial spot, Xanthomonas arboricola pv. pruni, flesh texture, slow-softening flesh, marker assisted selection

Acta Horticulturae