Origin and Dissemination of Prunus Crops: Peach, Cherry, Apricot, Plum and Almond

Scripta Horticulturae Number 11
Publication date: 
December, 2011
Page count: 
€ 30 not including shipping & handling, 20% discount for ISHS members

Species of Prunus that include peach, cherry, apricot, plum, and almond, the most important nut worldwide, have long been considered as gifts of summer. Their exquisite flavors and gorgeous appearance have made them much admired throughout the centuries and they have been lauded in poetry, song, and art (Palter 2002). In addition stone fruits represent important and valuable fruit crops throughout the temperate and subtropical world, for fresh and processed products. These tree crops originated in Europe, Central Asia, and China (Janick 2005) and were disseminated worldwide to become universally admired to become part of the cultures of the lands that adopted them. The history of their origins and migrations has become part of the romance of horticulture. This complex and wonderful saga led the great pomologist Miklos Faust (1927–1998) to initiate a series of individual articles published in Horticultural Reviews on the origin and dissemination of peach (1995), cherry (1997), apricot (1998), and plum (1999). Recently, Thomas M. Gradziel (2011) completed the series with the treatment of almond.
These five reviews are here reunited in one volume of Scripta Horticulturae, under the joint sponsorship of the International Society for Horticultural Science, the American Pomological Society, and the Fruit Breeding Working Group of the American Society for Horticultural Science. These groups have shared the cost of publication. The articles have been reformatted but are essentially the same as first published. We believe they will form a historic resource for pomologists and others interested in the history of stone fruits and the history of horticulture. However this volume also serves another function, to honor the celebrated career of Miklos Faust, a true giant of a man, who inspired the admiration of so many scientists and students around the world. His memory is also enshrined in a travel award that was endowed by his wonderful wife Maria that has supported young pomologists to attend meetings of the three societies. The following tribute to Miklos draws heavily on a dedicatory essay written by Richard H. Zimmerman (1983) for volume 5 of Horticultural Reviews. Miklos Faust was born on December 25, 1927, in Hungary. He left Hungary after the revolution there and arrived in the U.S. in 1957 with academic training, work, and managerial experience in horticulture but with little knowledge of English. He soon began work at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, earning his M.S. degree while at the same time he was fast learning English. Following several years in research with the United Fruit Company, part of which was in Central America, he completed his Ph.D. at Cornell University, in Ithaca New York. In 1966, he began work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Beltsville, Maryland, where he became an ebullient spokesman for the Department's research programs and progress and became Head of the Fruit Laboratory.
Miklos Faust's contributions to fruit research soon established him as an international leader in pomology. His research interests were diverse, ranging from packaging bananas for long distance shipment to the role of calcium in tree fruit nutrition and fruit disorders, from the biochemistry of anthocyanin development in apple skin to improve apple color, the production of dwarf fruit trees by breeding and selection for highly productive orchards, from the role of cyanide-resistant respiration in early flowering fruit tree species to the effect of drought stress on nutrient uptake by apple trees and the methods to alleviate the stress through nutrient foliar sprays, as well as alleviating it through controlling stomata movements and plant water use-efficiency. Also, he made significant contributions into our understanding of dormancy and bud break in fruit trees by examining changes in lipids in membranes, water status of dormant and breaking buds as well as the role of antioxidants in breaking dormancy. He was one of the first to realize the implication of polyamines in horticulture. His thorough understanding of commercial production practices and needs provided a solid base from which he explored these diverse problems in his research. He was a prolific author on a wide range of topics and contributed nine articles to Horticultural Reviews.
Miklos Faust was a man of wide ranging interests but above all he was creative, unorthodox, and open minded, and had courage to explore the unknown and challenge current dogma. He was a continual source of ideas on all manner of topics relating to his own research, that of his Fruit Laboratory colleagues, and the many scientists with whom he collaborated here and abroad. He loved working with his many students. The depth of his knowledge on a wide range of subjects made his ideas and suggestions always stimulating and interesting. Life with Miklos was never dull! The result was that he motivated others to investigate many new lines of research.
One of Miklos Faust's major contributions was to foster the exchange of ideas by prompting foreign scientists to visit and work at laboratories in the United States. They came to his laboratory from many countries such as Hungary, The People's Republic of China, Poland, Italy, Israel, Romania, South Africa and many others. He carried out extensive travels to foreign laboratories, and encouraged scientists with whom he worked to do the same, thus greatly facilitating international cooperation and understanding. He was influential in organizing conferences, and motivated others as well. These exchanges provided valuable opportunities for dialog on scientific subjects that led to long-term continuing cooperative efforts among the scientists involved. He was incredibly generous with sharing his ideas, time, and even private resources to facilitate the progress of science, better understanding among people and to get things done. He once mentioned that there are too many ideas to waste and because it was impossible for him to follow them all he was happy to share them freely. His co-workers, collaborators and students never returned from discussions with Miklos empty-handed. They were charged with new ideas, energy, and enthusiasm to pursue new lines of research.
Miklos has always been a man of direct action who accomplished a prodigious amount of work in a surprisingly short time, whether it be writing a review or organizing a conference. He proved to be brilliant at finding innovative ways to get things done and "cut red tape," yet he knew how to work within the system using the necessary formalized procedures to accomplish worthwhile goals. Miklos Faust published the results of his scientific studies in 159 technical papers, monographs, reviews and book chapters. He singly-authored the book Physiology of Temperate-Zone Fruit Trees, which remains a classic in its category.
The result of Miklos' professional endeavors brought him recognitions that are too numerous to mention so only selected examples follow: Fellow of ASHS; twice recognized for the excellence in research by ASHS; Special Recognition from the Minister of Agriculture of Hungary for his contributions to revitalize Hungarian Agriculture; an Honorary Doctor of Sciences Degree from the Horticulture and Food Science University of Budapest, Hungary; Commandant-Cross of the Hungarian Republic's Order of Merit, the highest honor for scientific achievements in Hungary, bestowed on him by the President of Hungary; Friendship Award from the People's Republic of China for his work as a consultant of the World Bank and the FAO. Miklos Faust also was very active in scientific professional organizations, serving among others as President, International Horticultural Society for Plant Nutrition and Plant Nutrition Colloquium, Vice President for the International Division and President for the North Eastern Division of ASHS.
When not engaged in the many facets of his research career and administrative duties, Miklos enjoyed a relaxing sail on the Chesapeake Bay, cooking a Hungarian specialty such as palacsinta, attending the opera or symphony, studying history, or working in his garden. He was a truly Renaissance man. His four articles in this volume demonstrate his wide interests in history, humanity, and horticulture. He passed away too early on June 6, 1998. Miklos is still missed and will never be forgotten by his many friends, students, colleagues, and admirers.
Jules Janick, Purdue University, Dariusz Swietlik, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wyndmoore, Pennsylvania and Richard H. Zimmerman, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Retired.

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