More peaches—about 17,000 acres— are grown in South Carolina than any other state east of California, and Clemson University, the land-grant university of South Carolina, provides a robust staff of academic professionals who serve the growers.
Dr. Ksenija Gasic, the peach breeder on the team, holds the newest position. There had been no peach breeder at Clemson for 25 years before she started the program in 2008.
Many others on the team have national and international reputations.
Dr. Desmond Layne evaluates peach varieties. His Web site helps growers know the characteristics of varieties they might choose to plant. He maintains varieties at the Musser Farm, which is near Seneca, ten miles from the campus in the city of Clemson, and in the orchards of cooperating growers in the primary peach-producing regions of the state southeast and northeast of Clemson.
Dr. Greg Reighard, the horticulturist on the team, is an international expert on peach rootstocks and chair of the International Society for Horticultural Science’s peach section. He developed and released the Guardian rootstock to ameliorate peach tree short life syndrome. Clemson is still the sole source of Guardian peach pits from which this rootstock is grown. Reighard is working to develop cost-effective methods for thinning using mechanization.
Dr. Guido Schnabel, the pathologist on the team, targets most of his efforts at brown rot, a devastating disease in stone fruits and one that quickly develops resistance to fungicides. He’s developed a test kit growers can use to determine whether the dominant pathogen in a grower’s orchard will respond to a fungicide or is resistant to it. He is also working on solutions to Armillaria root rot.
Dr. Simon Scott, virologist, works within the Clean Plant Network to help growers protect their orchards from infected budwood that might carry the many viruses, viroids, and mycoplasmas peaches and other stone fruits harbor.
Dr. Douglas Bielenberg is the plant physiologist in the group. His chief concern is with chill hours and dormancy. From South Carolina south and west, many of the varieties easily adapted to northern climates do not get enough hours of winter cold to flower and fruit normally.
Dr. Bert Abbott, though recently retired, still maintains his lab and works on molecular genetics in peach. He is a world authority in Prunus genomics.
Dr. Dan Horton is a regional fruit entomologist and a University of Georgia faculty member, who is responsible for insect problems on peach in South Carolina.
Wayne Mitchem is the regional weed specialist and, although with North Carolina State University, he also has a responsibility for weed control recommendations and herbicide testing in South Carolina peach orchards.
Two area (Clemson University) extension agents Greg Henderson and Andy Rollins work primarily with peach growers.