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The New Jersey Peach Festival has been held in July for the past 25 years, at which peach varieties can be tasted and discussed. “We usually have about 20,000 to 30,000 people attend,” said Jerry Frecon, showing the variety display.

The New Jersey Peach Festival has been held in July for the past 25 years, at which peach varieties can be tasted and discussed. “We usually have about 20,000 to 30,000 people attend,” said Jerry Frecon, showing the variety display.

COURTESY OF JERRY FRECON

Jerry Frecon takes pride in the things he has done that changed the peach industry. Encore and Saturn, which he introduced, are now big peach varieties, but he also puts Laurol, John Boy, Lady Nancy, and many others on his résumé.

Frecon, whose formal first name is Jerome, has been the Rutgers University agricultural agent serving stone fruit growers since 1982, and for a decade before that, he worked for Stark Bro’s Nurseries.

He found the Laurol peach in a grower’s orchard in Richwood. “After testing and further evaluation, I purchased the variety for the New Jersey Peach Council and wrote the patent assigned to the council,” he said. “It has provided significant and in some years the only revenue to the New Jersey Peach Council that funds my research on variety development.”

Similarly, he evaluated and tested the variety John Boy, which he found in a grower’s orchard, and wrote the patent for Adams County Nursery. It is an important variety in the Mid-Atlantic states and is the replacement for Redhaven, he said.

“I evaluated and tested Lady Nancy peach and wrote the patent on the variety. This was a white-fleshed peach cultivar in the Middle Atlantic states,” he recalled.

From a long relationship with Zaiger Genetics and Dave Wilson Nursery in California, he tested their low-acid white-fleshed varieties. White Lady, tested by Frecon as Zaiger 47GA850, became the number-one white-fleshed peach throughout the eastern and midwestern areas of the United States.

“I have also tested Lady Kim and Sugar Lady, and both have been named and planted. Other varieties from my testing program are Snobrite, Snow Giant, Sugar Giant, and Klondike, now being planted by Middle Atlantic ­growers as the white-fleshed peach industry grows.

“Many of the large attractive yellow-fleshed varieties from the Paul Friday Flamin’ Fury program have been tested by us. Varieties like Flamin’ Fury PF 24-007 are some of the most important in the state.”

Nectarine production has also increased in the Mid-Atlantic area. The area planted in New Jersey has increased from 50 to 700 acres.  “The variety Easternglo from Zaiger Genetics was named after we tested it in my blocks in New Jersey,” he said.

In addition to evaluating varieties, Frecon developed and refined a program to root and grow finished trees from softwood cuttings.
“My research on time of pruning has reduced fall and winter peach tree pruning, resulting in increased cropping and reduced peach tree short life in New Jersey, although in recent years, with global warming, we no longer get the cold winter temperatures we used to get prior to 1994,” he said. “This has enabled us to grow more varieties ­developed in California and the Southeast.

“There is a lot to get excited about in the evaluation and development of new varieties,” he added.